Minimum Education Standards for Staff Positions
With limited exceptions, approved by Human Resources, the highest allowable required education is a high school degree or GED and not all positions require a high school degree or GED. A supervisor may be interested in a higher level of education. However, for classified positions this will need to be contained in the preferred qualifications section of the job description.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires that we consider disparate impact on underrepresented groups in the recruitment process, and that all eligibility requirements represent absolute minimum qualifications needed for entry into, and the opportunity to learn, a position. While requiring a degree may seem like an unbiased/neutral requirement, it can have a disparate impact on underrepresented groups with historically low post-secondary degree attainment rates. Creating unnecessary minimum requirements limits access and reduces the possibility that an otherwise qualified candidate would have the opportunity to compete for a position. The words “unnecessary/necessary” used here refer to whether the level of education is truly needed to perform the work of the position.
Historically it was an acceptable practice to allow for “significant experience related to the position” or “a combination of education and experience in lieu of a completed degree”. Equivalencies require the hiring authority to make very subjective determinations about whether an individual’s experience is equivalent to the knowledge acquired through completing a degree – and that an individual’s unique combination of some higher-education coursework and some work experience is the same as another applicant’s. Federal mandates indicate that all required qualifications be interpreted and applied consistently. This is very hard to do when analyzing a single applicants unique work history comparable to the body of knowledge acquired through a degree.
Instead, supervisors are encouraged to focus on the business needs of the position, and the specific experience that is needed for entry into the position. Well worded required experience statements can articulate experience gained on the job or through formal coursework. For assistance drafting effective required experience statements, supervisors are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Required education is the minimum level of education an applicant must have for entry into a position. Any education required beyond a high school degree or GED must be for specialized knowledge in a specific discipline that is necessary for entry into the position. Education requirements should be considered carefully. If work experience is the more common way expertise is gained, then a degree is most likely a preferred qualification and not a required qualification.
Exempt positions may list a degree as a required qualification but, if included, must list the disciplines that provide the specialized knowledge needed for the position. If there is not a clear understanding of what disciplines provide specialized knowledge required, then it is difficult to justify requiring the degree. In instances where a degree is desirable for the intrinsic values (critical thinking, broad education, etc.), it is a preferred qualification.
In limited instances, Human Resources may approve a degree requirement for exempt positions without listing disciplines. For assistance with these rare exceptions, contact the Human Resources Classification and Compensation Specialist.