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Bachelor's Degree Replaces High School Diploma as New Baseline Employment Credential

February 22, 2013

At the Atlanta, Ga., law firm, Slipakoff & Schuh, all 45 employees, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants, file clerks and even the courier who earns $10 an hour, hold college degrees. Like Slipakoff & Schuh, more and more companies are requiring applicants to have a bachelor's for jobs that never required one before, positions like receptionists, dental hygienists, clerks, cargo agents and claims adjusters, The New York Times reported.

This so-called degree or credentials inflation is making it harder for less-educated individuals, even those with some college credits, to land work. This is evidenced by the January 2013 jobless rate for workers with no more than a high school diploma, which is 8.1 percent. In comparison, for those with a bachelor's degree, it's 3.7 percent.

Economist Bryan Caplan told The Daily Beast a bachelor's degree is evolving into what a high school diploma became before it: an indication for employers that a person has the smarts, ambition and wherewithal to finish their education.

With so many people going to college today, it's assumed those who aren't attending or haven't attended are inadequate in some way, MSNBC noted.

As for Slipakoff & Schuh, the executives believe college graduates are more career oriented, Adam Slipakoff, the firm's managing partner, told The New York Times.

"Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures," he added. "They're not just looking for a paycheck."

Companies can be choosy and demand more from applicants because job seekers outnumber available positions today in the U.S., The Daily Beast explained. Employers likely aren't doing it because they truly believe their entry-level jobs require the skills learned in college.

"When you get 800 resumés for every job ad, you need to weed them out somehow," Suzanne Manzagol, executive recruiter at Cardinal Recruiting Group, told The New York Times. Her company does headhunting for administrative positions at Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh and several other Atlanta-based firms.

The practice of hiring overqualified people may backfire for companies, however, in the form of greater turnover, as these employees may quit when a better job offer comes their way.

Slipakoff said few employees have left his firm, in part due to its expansion, growing to 30 from 5 attorneys since 2008. The company encourages its workers to grow professionally and actively promotes them. Slipakoff also said he believes an office filled with college graduates creates more workplace camaraderie due to what they all have in common -- the college experience.

With the tight employment market, job seekers with a bachelor's degree seem to be happy with any position, even one for which they're overqualified.

"It sure beats washing cars," said Landon Crider, 24, Slipakoff & Schuh's courier.


Compiled by Doresa Banning

Sources:

"College degrees are becoming the new high school diploma," tv.msnbc.com, February 21, 2013, John Wilson

"It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk," nytimes.com, February 19, 2013, Catherine Rampell

"Sorry, Kids, No High School Diplomas Need Apply," thedailybeast.com, February 20, 2013, Megan McArdle

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