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Today there are a record number of individuals who hold college degrees.  In fact, according to the most recent census 30% of American adults hold a bachelor’s degree or higher – the most ever in U.S. history. Although that statistic is one that should be celebrated, many job-seekers who do not hold a college degree say it is the main reason they are unable to obtain work.


Degree inflation, also known as credential creep, is an epidemic that has hit U.S. businesses hard.  In short, degree inflation is a term that describes how employers place degree and credential requirements on jobs that do not necessarily require them. This phenomenon occurs because when employers place above average requirements on jobs they are able to be more particular about who they hire for the position.  


Due to the fact that degree inflation is particularly difficult to measure, it has gone undetected and unaddressed for some time. Recently, however, employees and employers alike have begun to realize that it has the potential to cause some real issues.  According to a recent article published on, experts studied degree inflation by measuring the job posting requirements against the credentials of individuals currently holding said positions.  One example of data found in the study was that 16% of current supervisors hold a bachelor’s degree while 67% of current supervisor job postings stated a bachelor’s degree as a required credential.


With the aforementioned type of data in mind, many college-educated professionals have started to ask “What’s the big deal?” And, many current job-seekers and industry professionals are answering. An article published by the Wall Street Journal stated that older, white-collar workers believe that if the requirements were the same when they applied for their positions as they are today, they would not have been hired. In fact, many believe they wouldn’t have even had a chance.


Although the current economy and job market seem to be on the rise, degree inflation still causes a large gap in employment opportunities.  Right now, because of the low unemployment rate, college-educated individuals are able to exercise more choice in the jobs they apply for and accept.  That doesn’t mean, however, that individuals without college degrees get the jobs that are leftover – because employers still require inflated credentials. Harvard Business Review stated that the jobs taking the biggest hit because of degree inflation are supervisors, support specialists, sales representatives, and secretaries/administrative assistants. Why? Because individuals who have relevant experience and quality skills are failing to apply because they do not have a college degree.


So, what are those in charge of hiring and creating job postings supposed to do when, of course, they want the most qualified candidates for a job? Realistic expectations of credentials is a good first step.  Just because a job doesn’t require a specific credential, doesn’t mean individuals with that credential won’t apply. If a job posting has realistic credentials listed, however, an employer might just be able to find the dream employee they’ve been waiting for.