Degree-free widening trend among U.S. employers


Walmart has eliminated college degrees as a requirement for hundreds of its corporate roles.

The retail giant said in September that it would get rid of “unnecessary barriers” that prevent career advancement and that job applicants would start seeing updated job descriptions next year.

Walmart said it will waive the need for a university degree if candidates can show they have gained the necessary skills through alternative prior experience.

“While degrees should be part of the equation and in some cases even required, there are many roles where a degree is simply unnecessary, including at corporate headquarters,” a Blok post from the retailer read.

The move is part of a wider trend in the U.S. jobs market. American companies like IBM, Acounter and Google have announced measures to reduce the number of jobs that require degrees.

“The fact that a company like Walmart is taking these steps really underscores the fact that this is a movement that has significant traction,” Maria Flynn, president of the Boston-based nonprofit Jobs for the Future, told Forbes.

Lorraine Stokvis, a SEP for associate learning and leadership at Walmart, said the transition was spurred by a changing job landscape and the rise of artificial intelligence.

She noted that historically Walmart “would create a job description based on what credentials were needed, which was a combination of some skills with a heavy emphasis on the credential needed.”

She gave the example of cyber security analyst as the type of role that would historically have required a degree.

Now she is seeing a shift in employees working on “majority college credentials to now more short-form stackable certificates for high-demand roles.”

Those certificates might take nine to 12 months to complete as opposed to the two to four years that college degrees usually require.

Industry certifications in subjects such as technical support, cloud technology and data analysis have become increasingly popular in recent years.

“We’ve used degrees as proxies for skills that have, frankly, been weak proxies,” Julie Gherkin, VP of philanthropy for said.

“Moving to a skills-based system is saying we actually need to be more granular than this. We need to recognize the specific pieces of skills people have. They need to be validated in some way.”

A report published by the Burning Glass Institute last year described the growing trend “an essential step in reducing inequity in the American labor market.”

It found that 46 percent of “middle-skill occupations” and 31 percent of “high-skill occupations” saw a reduction in degree requirements between 2017 and 2019.

It comes after a separate report found more than two thirds of jobs in the U.S. are vulnerable to AI—with white collar jobs likely to be most affected.

A study by job site Indeed examined 55 million postings and within them identified around 2,600 different skills.

Software engineers, lawyers, accountants, journalists, and bankers are facing the most immediate threat from artificial intelligence, while truck drivers, nurses, cooks, construction workers and cleaners were the most protected.

The report also suggested remote workers are the most likely to be replaced by AI, since the jobs that are irreplaceable require human interactions, such as empathy, intuition and manual dexterity.

Excerpt Neirin Gray Desai,