Is a Bachelor’s Degree the New High School Diploma?

Is the college degree becoming the new high school diploma – the new minimum requirement for getting even the lowest-level job? In this buyer’s job market for employers, the trend seems to be heading that way, at least in some industries.

“When you get 800 resumes for every job ad, you need to weed them out somehow,” said Suzanne Manzagol, executive recruiter at Cardinal Recruiting Group in Atlanta, and one screening criteria method in this job market seems to be separating those with at least a four-year degree and those without.

For example, take the law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh in Atlanta. They, like some other employers across the country, hire only people with a bachelor’s degree, even for jobs that do not require a four-year degree.

In their 45-person firm, the four-year degree requirement applies to everyone:

  • receptionist
  • paralegals
  • administrative assistants
  • file clerks
  • the in-house courier who shuttles documents for $10 per hour.

College graduates are just more career-oriented,” said Adam Slipakoff, the firm’s managing partner. “Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They’re not just looking for a paycheck.”

Do you need more proof a college degree is worth getting? According to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads from over 20,000 online sources, many jobs that did not require a diploma in the past — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — increasingly are requiring one. For example, last year, 39 percent of the secretary and administrative assistant job postings in the Atlanta metro area requested a bachelor’s degree, up from 28 percent in 2007.

This up-credentialing, known by economists as “degree inflation”, could help explain why the unemployment rate for workers with just a high school diploma has widened to over twice that for workers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.1 percent versus 3.7 percent.

So as it looks like this trend will continue, it is even more important now than it was in the past to use your GI Bill benefits and get at least a four-year bachelor’s degree. It is also a proven fact that over the course of a career, a college graduate makes over twice as much money as a non-college graduate.

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