American businesses are increasingly eliminating college degrees as part of their requirements for corporate roles, which is part of a wider trend in the U.S. job market that is de-emphasizing the value of a four-year diploma, according to experts.
American companies like Walmart, IBM, Accenture, Bank of America and Google have announced plans to reduce the number of jobs that require college degrees.
Michael Gibson, venture capitalist and author of the book, Paper Belt on Fire, is a proponent of alternatives to the higher education system in the United States and described the trend as promising, especially given the $1.6 trillion in U.S. student debt.
"I think that has hobbled the passions and dreams of a lot of people," he said. "I think that's why we see this political struggle to cancel the debt. But, the most aggravating part is that everyone's paying attention to the poor students who are billed, but no one is blaming the universities themselves for teaching worthless things or not providing the sort of career advice that they should."
He added, "The more we see people foregoing that system to start a career, the better."
Walmart, for example, has eliminated college degrees as a requirement for hundreds of its corporate roles, vowing to remove "unnecessary barriers" that prevent career advancement. The company also announced it would waive the university degree as a necessity if candidates can show they have gained the necessary skills based on different, prior experience.
Between 2017 and 2019, 46% of "middle-skill occupations" and 31% of "high-skill occupations" saw a drop in college degree requirements which "could have major implications for how employers find talent and open up opportunities for the two-thirds of Americans without a college education," according to a report from the Burning Glass Institute. In line with the trend, the report projected the move could open up 1.4 million jobs for American workers without college degrees over the next five years.
At the governmental level, states across the country have removed degree requirements for government jobs, according to the Brookings Institution. Virginia became the 13th state to remove such requirements in June.
Apple TV’s "2 Minute Drill" co-host and National Business Capital CEO and founder Joe Camberato told Fox News Digital that he was "not surprised" to see big name companies drop degree requirements.
He suggested that a large demand for employees combined with different views on college requirements by newer generations has likely contributed to the shift.
"I have done this in my business and have been very successful by focusing on the individual and these three simple things: Do they Get it, want it and are they capable? If they nail those and are a culture fit, they are hired," he said.
Still, Camberato said certain skilled positions in medical, accounting and law need to hire people with appropriate degrees. Outside those professions, he does not believe degrees should be the core focus of recruiters and corporations.
In his book, "Paper Belt on Fire," Gibson challenges the education establishment, promoting stories that support his belief that a college degree is not necessary for a fulfilling and successful career.
"There are lots of things you can do without a college degree," he explained. "Starting companies is easy because you are your own boss, so you don't need to prove your skill set, you just need to make something people want."
"We're starting to see more and more companies, Google and others, who are now questioning the worth of a college degree," he added.
The cost of a college degree has skyrocketed in recent years in conjunction with the millions of Americans who are burdened by thousands of dollars of debt, which has prompted corporations to switch to so-called "skills based hiring" methods.
Entrepreneur Ted Jenkin told Fox News Digital that a proven track record of success and real-world experience is becoming more of a focal point in today’s business society. Jenkin, the CEO and founder of Exit Stage Left Advisors and Oxygen Financial, said that while many people strive for a college degree, he would rather hire someone that can prove they are dependable, reliable and can successfully complete the job.
"If you are going to work for a tech company, what's more important? A college degree or practical experience that you can code," Jenkin added. "It's becoming clear with the out-of-control cost of college education that the very word 'degree' is getting watered down and companies want to hire people who can prove they can get things done."
Gibson attributes the trend to the fact that employers are able to more easily measure the skill of potential hires. He said this trend is especially prevalent in tech roles like computer engineering where a prospective employee is able to showcase their coding skills on a repository called GitHub, which acts as a portfolio that coders can shop it around, helping them get hired independently of their credentials.
Even though value of the college degree is decreasingly rapidly because companies can so easily verify a prospective employees skills in less traditional ways, Gibson admitted that there are some jobs and career tracks that still find a four-year career valuable.
"In areas where there are intangibles or where a company, they're looking for people who are conformist, willing to finish a long four-year project and take assignments and get them done, show up on time and all that, that's what college does for the labor market, is it filters out people who can't do those things and people who can," Gibson explained.
Marva Bailer, a technology executive with 20 years of experience leading billion-dollar teams for global businesses, said that companies are now investing in talent by embracing bootcamps, apprentice and skill-based learning programs to attract unemployed and underemployed adults.
Although several high-profile companies are removing degree-based barriers to entry, Bailer noted that 50% of all jobs require some level of technology and digital skill.
She also highlighted programs like Guild Education, which is used by Walmart and other Fortune 100 companies, which allows businesses to engage upfront with potential employees. Bailer revealed that such measures are "re-writing antiquated job descriptions" and salary bands, a move that has contributed to a 60% increase in salaries and first time jobs up to $85,000 per year.
People who apply for jobs without having chosen to attend college should be prepared to explain how they spend their time, according to San Diego State University Fowler College of Business lecturer Wendy L. Patrick.
To some employers, real-life work experience, including both technical and managerial skills, are more valuable than a degree in a subject area in which they have no work experience," she said. "Many young college graduates are not able to produce both a rich resume of job experience and a degree simply because there might not have been time to do both."
She noted that one of the primary consideration’s employers have is why a candidate chose to go straight into the workforce "without passing go." Some young people, Patrick said, dive directly into the workforce because of opportunities too good to pass up. This often encompasses athletes and entrepreneurs.
"A prospective job candidate who values hard work and has the ability to recognize and seize opportunities when they materialize may be highly marketable due to proactivity and initiative—two very important qualities," she added.
Gibson emphasized the importance of learning "cheaply" on the job as an important form of education and while many experts have warned that skilled workers like doctors, lawyers, accountants and bankers could be at risk of losing their jobs to artificial intelligence (AI), Gibson sees AI as a cheaper, alternative tool to a traditional college education.
"I'm actually more inspired by the potential for AI to act as a lifelong tutor than I am worried about the potential job loss," he said. "Could you push people every day to keep learning and understand their needs? It has infinite patience, infinite kindness, and it might be better than any teacher in any classroom."
Gibson said the Burden of student debt can stop many Americans from pursuing their dreams and instead prompt them to take the job that they think will pay their bills, limiting innovation and creativity.
"If you have a plan to study a specific subject, and you take loans out to do it, and you have a career that follows from that, OK, great," he said. "But a lot of people enter college in an exploration phase, they accumulate debt and when they graduate, now they can pursue aims or take a risk and do something fun or different."
"What that could be is starting a business, writing a novel, going out to Hollywood, who knows what, but you can't do that if you have loan payments to make," he added. "So naturally, what we're seeing is people just falling into safe, but perhaps well-paying jobs that they don't really like and then serving as debt serfs in the cubicles just paying off their debts as they can. Financially that doesn't sound all that bad, but in terms of the lives people live, I think it's a sad story because people do have aspirations and dreams and debt is squashing that."
Some critics have indicated that those without a four-year degree could face bias in the workplace, but Gibson wrote that sentiment off as "snobbery," which he said he doesn't want to be a part of.
"I think where the class snobbery is strongest is in Washington, New York, maybe L.A., cities where they are the establishment… But I think, we're starting to see that change," he said. "I think we'll start to see the culture change as more and more people find success outside the current system."