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Employers Want Applicants With Advanced Degrees

For many companies, an associate's or bachelor’s degree is increasingly becoming the new high school diploma. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 27 percent of employers say their educational requirements for employment have increased over the last five years, and 30 percent are hiring more college-educated workers for positions that were previously held by high school graduates.

Looking only at a subset of companies hiring STEM workers in 2014, those figures rise to 46 and 43 percent, respectively.

The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 6 to December 2, 2013, and included a representative sample of 2,201 hiring managers and human resources professionals across industries and company sizes.

The rising bar is even extending beyond the bachelor’s degree in some cases. One in five employers (20 percent) are now targeting master’s degree holders for positions primarily held by those with four-year degrees. A third (33 percent) of employers are sending current employees back to school for an advanced degree, and a majority of that group (81 percent) are at least offering partial funding.

“The economic value of a college education for workers has long been known, but as occupations evolve and as companies rely more heavily on professionals with strong interpersonal and technical skill sets, workers can’t afford to stop their education at high-school,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. 

Ferguson notes, however, that higher-education institutions and policy makers must do more to control and bring down the costs of attaining a degree. Businesses, on the other hand, should continue to invest in training and development, he says. 


Value of hiring college-educated labor

A large majority of employers hiring college-educated workers for occupations previously held by high-school graduates are seeing positive results. Eighty-six percent cite at least one positive impact, including revenue:

  • Higher-quality work: 56 percent
  • Productivity: 45 percent
  • Innovation/Idea generation: 41 percent
  • Communication: 41 percent
  • Employee retention: 27 percent
  • Revenue: 19 percent
  • Customer loyalty/retention: 17 percent

Accordingly, research published in The Talent Equation by Ferguson and co-authors Lorin Hitt (professor, Wharton School, UPenn) and Prasanna Tambe (assistant professor, Stern School, NYU) suggests that for some occupations, rising education requirements pays off for businesses. For example, a company that increases by 10 percent its number of customer service workers with bachelor’s degrees experiences about $26,000 of added value per employee.
 

Reasons for hiring more degree holders

Employers are essentially split on the reasons for why they are hiring more college-educated workers for traditionally high-school level work:

  • 58 percent said they’re able to get degree holders “because of the tight labor market.”
  • 55 percent said “skills for my positions have evolved, requiring higher-educated labor.”

 


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