A growing trend among states has been to remove four-year college degree requirements from state job postings. While the requirement for a college degree has long been a standard prerequisite for many government positions, some states now prioritize skills and experience over educational credentials. These policy shifts aim to expand and diversify the state workforce, opening state jobs up to those who may not have had the opportunity or means to pursue a four-year degree. Many governors nationwide have taken executive action, while some state lawmakers are exploring legislative paths.
Alaska Governor Removes Four-Year College Degree Requirement
On February 14, 2023, Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) signed Administrative Order 343, removing the four-year college degree requirement for most state jobs. Dunleavy’s office noted that the state faces an unprecedented workforce shortage impacting essential services. The state employed 21,900 people in December 2022, a decline from 27,300 in 2014.
Dunleavy’s order specifically directed the Personnel & Labor Relations Director to review the state’s job descriptions that currently require applicants to have a four-year college degree and determine which jobs can substitute practical experience in place of or in addition to a four-year degree requirement.
Georgia Lawmakers Pass Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act
In March 2023, Georgia state lawmakers passed SB 3 and sent the bill to the desk of Governor Brian Kemp (R). The bill, which Kemp had not acted on as of April 28, is titled the “Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023.” The bill would require state departments, agencies, boards, bureaus, offices, commissions, public corporations, and authorities to examine job requirements and identify which educational, experiential, and training requirements can be reduced. The bill’s goal is to specifically reduce the number of jobs that require a four-year college degree as an employment condition.
New Jersey Governor Signs Executive Order on College Degree Requirements for State Jobs
On April 10, 2023, Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order prioritizing skills and work experience over college degree requirements for state jobs. The order requires the State Civil Service Commission, within six months, to identify which state jobs have a four-year college degree requirement for employment and determine which jobs can substitute practical experience in place of the degree requirement.
Pennsylvania Governor Signs First Executive Order, Up 92% of State Jobs No Longer Require College Degrees
On his first day as Governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro (D) signed an executive order that eliminated college degree requirements for state jobs. Shapiro’s first executive order effectively nixed the college degree requirement for 92% of state jobs, approximately 65,000 positions. The executive order instructed the Office of Administration to emphasize skills and experience in job postings. Shapiro’s office also launched a new website that allows applicants to specifically search for open positions that do not require a four-year college degree requirement.
South Dakota Governor Signs Executive Order Eliminating College Degree Requirement for State Jobs
Governor Kristi Noem (R) signed Executive Order 2023-05 in late April 2023 to address college degree requirements for state jobs. Noem’s order requires the Human Resources Bureau Commissioner to evaluate any current and future job posting for a position in the executive branch. The Commissioner must determine if a college degree is necessary to perform a job’s duties; if not, the job posting must expressly state that a college degree is not required.
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