Is not having a college degree is a valid reason to not hire someone?

I used to get a little irritated when I saw the words “College degree required” or “Bachelor’s degree required” while applying for jobs.

How stupid, I thought. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers, inventors, statesman, and so on weren’t college graduates. Heck, many of them were high school dropouts.

In fact, I said as much in my speech at my high school graduation ceremony. Einstein was a high school dropout. Thomas Edison didn’t complete high school. Richard Branson dropped out at 15.

Why should a stupid piece of paper determine whether I get a job or not – or even an interview?

I always believed that I could solve any problem I put my mind to. And I’ve had a lot of success. I taught myself to play piano and guitar, I taught myself to code and build websites, I’ve studied communication, psychology, logic, etc.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to think that these employers are actually onto something.

As an employer, you need employees. And the cost and time involved with hiring and training new employees can be extremely expensive. So when you hire someone, you’d like for it to be a long term relationship.

When you hire a college graduate, you are both decreasing your risk that the person you’re hiring is flaky (it takes fortitude to stick out a four or five year degree) and increasing the chances this person is good at following directions (you have to adhere to standards–APA, MLA, etc.).

Additionally, many of the college dropouts who might actually be good at the job dropped out because they had their own vision for their future that didn’t involve working for someone else – they were entrepreneurs like myself. Entrepreneurs can be great at a lot of things, but being an employee is seldom one of them.

My conclusion? While I used to think requiring a college degree was some type of judgement against my intelligence or ability, now I see it more as a sensible barrier to entry for screening good employees. Although I don’t think a degree says much about a person’s higher order thinking ability, there definitely is some objective value in that little piece of paper.

What do you think? Should employers screen employees who didn’t graduate from college?

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