Benefits of Hiring Candidates Without a College Diploma

Candidates who have not completed higher education but have the proper skills are a good bet for businesses, individuals, and the U.S. workforce.

The practice of hiring job candidates only if they have a college degree is shifting. Many large businesses, like Google, Costco Wholesale, and Hilton, for example, have already found it to be valuable, according to Glassdoor.

In fact, according to The Emerging Degree Reset, the 2022 Harvard Business School and Esmi Burning Glass report, considering job opportunities for individuals who do not hold a four-year college degree “could…open up opportunities for the two-thirds of Americans without a college education. Based on these trends, we project an additional 1.4 million jobs could open to workers without college degrees over the next five years.”

In addition, The Great Resignation and the resulting shift in our economy have opened up more than 11 million jobs across the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To be competitive and adapt to our changing environment, businesses that might not have previously considered hiring someone without a college degree should consider doing so.

Boosts equity

Regardless of educational background or pedigree, job applicants do not start on an even playing field. A variety of circumstances and environmental factors may limit access to role models or mentors for guidance and support in navigating the higher education landscape. For those without the means to pay for a college education, a lack of role models further exacerbates the inability to pay for higher ed. It also forces individuals to put off considering the possibility of attending college.

Hiring people without college degrees leads to greater equity as it increases those individuals’ potential for success.

Rounds out diversity of knowledge and experience

In addition to creating a more diverse workforce, candidates without college degrees can also contribute to increasing innovation, further amplifying creativity within their teams. Four years of college does not guarantee that one will exit with “real world” experience that is often a prerequisite for many places of employment.

New ideas and seeing perspectives through a different lens come from those who are diverse not only in race, age or gender, for example, but who are also diverse in their educational and experiential backgrounds.

Improves loyalty

Investing in younger employees who don’t have a four-year degree may also lead to increased loyalty to your company and to their team. Giving employees opportunities to innovate and own projects empowers them.

When team members (of any education level) have agency, they’re going to want to hold onto that feeling, further increasing commitment and reducing turnover.

Saves money for employers

As business owners build their companies, the bottom line is always top of mind. However, employees without college degrees do not command salaries as high as those with a formal, four-year post-high school education.

Starting an employee off on a lower salary commensurate with their experience enables business owners to increase pay as employee experience broadens and responsibilities increase.

Makes positions more accessible for job candidates

We know that the price tag for a four-year college education is hefty, to say the least, and creates student debt for decades post-graduation. If a candidate prefers not to go the traditional route of high school to college – thereby forgoing related debt – they can enjoy their professional life without the burden of that debt. They can provide for their families, enjoy their work, and grow professionally.

Provides on-the-job training

Employers who hire individuals without college degrees have a unique opportunity to recruit and train a workforce aligned with the company’s values. Hiring with a greater focus on skills than education can help build a strong, effective team. This assures business leaders that their employees are succeeding at their job objectives, as they were hired and trained to meet them.

Helps to mitigate the labor shortage

The unemployment rate in February 2022 was 3.8 percent, with a total of 6.3 million unemployed individuals, according to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While today’s labor shortage can be attributed to various factors like Covid and the Great Resignation, businesses can fill roles with people who welcome on-the-job training. In addition to investing in future employees, businesses can also do their part to support their communities.

Hiring for the win

Any new hire is a gamble for a business. But candidates with the proper skills, even if they have not completed higher education, are a good bet for businesses, individuals and their families, and the U.S. workforce.

Dr. Lakeya Cherry
Dr. Lakeya Cherry, DSW, MSSW, ACC, Partner at Evolution, an executive leadership coaching and development firm, has dedicated her career to the growth and development of individuals and the organizations they are a part of. She is an ICF Certified Coach, a StartingBloc Fellow, a Google #IamRemarkable Facilitator and a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator.