These States Don’t Require a Degree for a Government Job

Four-year degrees are becoming increasingly unnecessary for most government jobs in a few states.
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Updated on November 1, 2023
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  • Maryland became the first state to drop degree requirements for most government jobs.
  • A few other governors have adopted a similar practice since, making it a bipartisan initiative.
  • Minnesota was the latest state to adopt this policy.
  • The move helps state governments hire at a time of low unemployment rates.

A growing number of governors eliminated degree requirements for state jobs over the past year.

The bipartisan trend comes at a time when states are struggling to hire alongside a low unemployment rate. The hope is that by rolling back the requirement for four-year degrees to instead focus on skills and experience, departments can once again fill vacant government jobs with a larger pool of workers to draw from.

Still, only a dozen states have adopted this policy.

Across most of the U.S., state government jobs typically still require a bachelor's degree.

Those degrees are not necessary for most government jobs in the following states:

  • Maryland
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Pennsylvania
  • Alaska
  • North Carolina
  • New Jersey
  • Virginia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland started a movement in early 2022 when he became the first governor to eliminate the four-year degree requirements for many government jobs.

"More than half" of Maryland's 38,000 jobs can substitute a four-year degree requirement for skills or community college experience, Hogan said during a March 2022 press conference.

"Through these efforts that we're launching today, we are ensuring that qualified nondegree candidates are regularly being considered for these career-changing opportunities," Hogan said.

Colorado wasn't far behind Maryland: In April 2022, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis directed state agencies to consider "skills and experiences as substitutions for educational degrees and certifications" in hiring decisions.

Republican Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah instituted a similar change in December.

"Degrees have become a blanketed barrier-to-entry in too many jobs," Cox said in a statement. "Instead of focusing on demonstrated competence, the focus too often has been on a piece of paper. We are changing that."

He added that the state executive branch had 1,080 classified jobs at the time. Of those, 98% no longer require a bachelor's degree.

Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro eliminated the bachelor's degree requirement for 65,000 state jobs through executive order on Jan. 30. It was his first full day in office.

Alaska was the next to adopt the no-degree-required policy.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed an administrative order in February that eliminated a degree requirement for most government jobs, a move he said was necessary because of a labor shortage in the state.

Instead, he emphasized "minimum competency requirements" that "allow for the broadest use of education, training, and experience" when seeking new state employees.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, signed an executive order on March 13 eliminating a degree for approximately 75% of state jobs. While many job listings may still have a recommended degree, those listings must also show that “directly related experience” can substitute a college education.

On April 10, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an order directing the state’s Civil Service Commission to analyze which jobs may no longer require a four-year degree. The Democratic governor’s order gives the commission six months to identify those roles and remove degree requirements.

“Our recruitment efforts must not only reflect the realities of this market, but also serve as an acknowledgment of the importance of practical work experience and skills training without unduly restricting qualified candidates from competing for these opportunities,” Murphy’s order stated.

Virginia joined in on the trend in late May.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that the state will drop degree requirements for approximately 90% of state positions starting July 1, 2023. On average, state agencies advertise over 20,000 job opportunities each year, according to a statement from Youngkin.

“On day one we went to work reimagining workforce solutions in government and this key reform will expand opportunities for qualified applicants who are ready to serve Virginians,” he said in a statement.

Florida and Georgia joined in on the trend in June and April, respectively.

Georgia's act directs government agencies to reassess educational and training requirements for positions and to reduce the number of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree. It also includes a requirement that agencies and departments regularly audit requirements to ensure that degree requirements remain limited.

Florida’s new policy is more encompassing, as it includes a calculation agencies must use to adjust job listings. For example, two years of work experience equals an associate degree requirement, while nine years of experience is equivalent to a doctoral degree, the law states.

Michigan’s policy is unique among the states that have dropped a degree requirement.

The state dropped the requirement for “thousands” of government jobs, but only for military veterans. Those with at least two years of active duty experience at the rank of E-6 (staff sergeant) or better will not have to meet educational requirements for most government positions within the state, according to the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order on Oct. 30 that removed the four-year degree requirement for 75% of state jobs.

The order removes the four-year degree requirement to instead focus on work experience for most state jobs. Positions that require a professional license or training would still require a degree.