MB Connection

Why Nonprofits Should Rethink Degree Requirements

April 2023

Are you setting requirements for a position that may lead you to miss out on well-qualified candidates? In the past, a college degree was considered essential to a successful career. However, in today’s competitive job market, employers are starting to recognize that a degree does not automatically translate into the right skillset, particularly for nonprofits, and they may be missing out on well-qualified applicants. In fact, there are often requirements for an advanced degree where an undergraduate degree alone or perhaps no degree at all might be all the person needs. So why not consider dropping degree requirements for certain positions?

Here are some reasons why employers should look beyond a candidate’s educational background:

          1. Experience over Education

Many positions in the nonprofit sector require a unique set of skills, lived experiences and perspectives that cannot always be taught in a classroom. For example, team leadership and decision-making abilities are often gained through hands-on experience. Additionally, for certain nonprofit roles, knowledge gained through working directly within the communities being served may be more valuable than years spent in school.

          2. Wider Talent Pool

By removing degree requirements, employers can attract a wider pool of talent, including those who may not have had the opportunity or financial means to obtain a degree or who may have been forced to drop out due to life circumstances. This can help to promote a more diverse workplace, made up of individuals with varying levels of experiences and backgrounds, which has been shown to have a positive impact on team performance, innovation, and creativity.

          3. Committed Candidates

Passion for the mission and a commitment to making a difference are key factors to success when working for a nonprofit. By removing degree requirements, nonprofit employers can attract candidates who may not have a degree, but who bring demonstrated interest and investment in the cause, perhaps through previous volunteer work or a personal connection to the mission, which can prove to be invaluable. 

          4. Diverse Skillsets

With college degrees being prohibitively expensive for many people, and many alternative education paths available, it is time for employers to recognize that a traditional four-year college degree is not the only way to develop the skills needed for certain positions. For example, executive education programs and community college courses can provide individuals with the necessary skills to succeed in certain roles. By recognizing these alternatives, employers can tap into a wider talent pool to fill skill gaps in their organization.

          5. Increased Flexibility

By dropping degree requirements, employers can increase flexibility in their recruitment process. This will allow them to focus on finding candidates with the right skills and experience, regardless of their educational background, to better ensure that the right people are being hired for the job.

While a college degree offers a myriad of benefits, for certain positions, it is not the most important indicator of qualification. Nonprofit employers should focus on finding candidates with transferable skills and a demonstrated commitment to their mission, rather than setting an arbitrary degree requirement. By doing so, they can attract a wider pool of talent, promote diversity and inclusion, and increase flexibility in their recruitment process. So, the next time you are crafting a job description, really consider if that degree is a “must-have” or a “nice-to-have” requirement.  This may just get you closer to finding the perfect candidate!