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Why not having a college degree is a bigger barrier than it used to be

Sep. 11, 2014 Washington Post

Jeanne Marrin, 48, comes from what she calls an “HR family.” She runs a human resources consulting company out of Manhattan, pinch hitting for big nonprofits when they need help hiring and setting up procedures. One of her sisters helps with that business, and another sister runs her own workplace culture consultancy in Washington. Marrin’s father has managed HR departments as a vice president of finance, and her mother is an assistant vice president of employee relations at a large non-profit hospital in the Bronx. Her brother is the black sheep, running a moving company in Raleigh, N.C. “Jill and I do his HR when he lets us,” she joked in an email. As it happens, Marrin’s HR family is also a signifier of a big shift in the HR world. She and her sisters all went to college and got advanced degrees, almost as the price of entry. Her mother, however, never even graduated from college. Instead, she started working for a college in administrative support, before following a boss to the hospital and moving up the ranks. “I think somebody brought her there and believed in her,” Marrin says. “She has maybe one college class and in my opinion can do the job better than me.” 

Today, that might never have happened. More and more employers are requiring bachelors degrees for positions that years ago wouldn’t have needed them, shutting off access for the unmatriculated. Forget the “skills gap.” According to a new report from the career data analytics service Burning Glass, there’s actually a  “credentials gap” for training and development specialists: While only half the people currently in that role have undergraduate degrees, 75 percent of online job postings list a BA as a requirement, leaving a gap of 25 percent.

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