No Degree? That's No Problem for These Government Jobs

A bipartisan solution to degree inflation


After Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro was sworn into office on January 17, his first official act was to make it easier for residents without college degrees to get jobs in state government.

"Effective immediately, 92% of all Commonwealth jobs do not require a four-year degree, roughly equivalent to 65,000 jobs," Shapiro, a Democrat, wrote in an executive order. "Consistent with this Administration's commitment to emphasizing skills and experience, job postings will begin with equivalent experience needed in lieu of a college degree whenever possible." For the remaining 8 percent of jobs, Shapiro ordered Pennsylvania Secretary of Administration Neil Weaver to determine whether requirements can be revised to allow for practical experience instead of a college degree.

"Every Pennsylvanian should have the freedom to chart their own course and have a real opportunity to succeed," Shapiro said when he announced the order. "They should get to decide what's best for them—whether they want to go to college or straight into the work force—not have that decided for them."

Shapiro's order resembles reforms initiated by former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and current Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, both Republicans. The Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority leader, Joe Pittman, welcomed "Shapiro's executive order to expand employment opportunities for positions throughout state government," calling it "a step in the right direction."

A 2017 Harvard Business School study found that both government and private employers demand college degrees even when they are not necessary to perform the work. For one mid-level supervisory position, the researchers found that 67 percent of open job listings required that applicants have a college degree but that only 16 percent of people who were already working in the same position had one.

Progressives tend to respond to this "degree inflation" by advocating expanded access to college and training, often funded by government subsidies. Shapiro smartly realized that it is cheaper and easier simply to delete a few lines in the job description.