Philadelphia mayor drops degree requirements for some city jobs hours after inauguration

Dive Brief:

  • Newly inaugurated Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle L. Parker signed an executive order on Jan. 2 that removes college degree requirements for certain city jobs. She signed the order hours after her inauguration.
  • Per Parker’s 100-Day Action Plan, the mayor’s office “will continue to remove college degree requirements for many City of Philadelphia jobs where it is unnecessary and spread the word about current job opportunities in city government — opening the door for more Philadelphians to access good-paying jobs.”
  • Only about a third of Philadelphia residents aged 25 years or older have a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Dive Insight:

Philadelphia’s move joins a trend in local and state governments. The state of Maryland eliminated four-year degree requirements for thousands of state jobs in March 2022, for example, centering talent that are STARs or “skilled through alternative routes.”

Public sector employers aren’t the only ones shifting their candidate requirements. Walmart, for example, announced last fall that it would drop degree requirements for some corporate roles.

Companies are embracing the change across a range of titles and levels: 55% of employers in an Intelligent.com survey said they had dropped degree requirements for entry-level and mid-level positions.

In sharing this data, higher education expert Diane Gayeski observed that the sheer expense of attending college has made attaining a bachelor’s degree “generally more difficult for people from traditionally marginalized groups and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.”

Gayeski added, “If a student’s parents didn’t attend college or if they are from outside the U.S., it can be much more difficult to know how to navigate applying to colleges and finding scholarships and other resources.” In the report, 70% of employers said they eliminated bachelor’s degree requirements to create a more diverse talent pipeline.

A majority of employers said they value experience over education in potential hires; in order to properly vet talent, roughly two-thirds of employers told Intelligent.com they require candidates to complete skill assessments.

Looking ahead, 45% of employers said they planned to remove degree requirements for some positions in 2024.