State Policy Action
Through a mix of executive and legislative actions, at least 16 states no longer require a four-year degree for most state jobs. In March 2022, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state would become the first state in the country to remove the requirements. According to estimates released at the time of the announcement, more than half of the state's 38,000 positions could substitute relevant experience for a four-year degree. In early 2022, state employment data showed that there were more vacant positions in state government than any time in the previous 14 years. A year later, the same report found a slight decrease in the number of vacant positions.
Governors in at least 10 states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, have followed Maryland and eliminated degree requirements for most state positions. In April, National Governor's Association (NGA) Chair Gov. Phil Murphy (N.J.) and Vice Chair Gov. Spencer Cox (Utah) circulated a letter encouraging governors to consider reevaluating degree requirements for government jobs.
In April 2022, Tennessee passed HB 1916 which prohibits state agencies from requiring a bachelor’s degree as a condition of employment, unless the position involves "knowledge, skills, or abilities that can only be reasonably obtained through" such a degree.
In April 2023, Georgia passed SB 3, the Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023. This law requires the Department of Administrative Services to regularly assess requirements for each job, identify jobs where requirements can be reduced, and reduce the number of jobs for which a four-year degree is required.
In June 2023, Florida passed SB 1310, the Expanding Public Sector Career Opportunities Act. The law provides that public employers may only include postsecondary degree requirements as an alternative to specified years of direct experience. Statute allows for two years of experience to substitute for an associate degree and four years for a bachelor's degree, with additional year requirements for graduate-level degrees.
In July 2023, Missouri passed HB 417, which includes provisions that state agencies cannot deny consideration to an applicant solely on the basis of lacking a postsecondary degree and allows applicants eliminated from hiring solely on the basis of a postsecondary degree to appeal the hiring decision.
In 2022, Arizona passed SB 1159, which removes bachelor’s degree requirements for public school teachers. Under the law, a teacher may be temporarily certified while enrolled in a bachelor’s program and become fully certified upon degree completion. In 2023, lawmakers passed a broader bill to eliminate degree requirements and create substitutes for work experience, however it was vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs citing "unnecessary and unworkable administrative burden." The state did enact HB 2225, which requires hiring authorities to evaluate state employee positions to determine which are suitable for skilled through alternative routes applicants.
In June 2023, Connecticut passed SB 1124, which requires the commissioner of administrative services to conduct a study evaluating the feasibility of eliminating requirements for college degrees for certain state employment positions.
In the 2023 legislative session, North Carolina considered, but did not pass, legislation to eliminate degree requirements in state hiring.