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.
First, Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity mandates/concepts require us to maintain access for underrepresented groups. Creating unnecessary minimum requirements limits access and reduces the possibility that an otherwise able and qualified candidate would have access to the position through a competitive search process. The words “unnecessary/necessary” used here refer to whether the level of education is truly needed to perform the work of the position. It is also important to note that when a bachelor’s degree is required, it is an acceptable practice to allow for significant experience related to the position in lieu of the degree. Again, the requirement of “significant experience” could also limit access to underrepresented groups.
Second, it is important to maintain integrity with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). To be exempt one must pass one of three duties tests: executive, administrative, or professional.
- The executive test does not have a degree minimum; however, in the higher education industry, it is commonplace for presidents, VPs, deans, etc. to have degree minimums as low as a bachelor’s degree and up to a Ph.D. or other terminal degree.
- The administrative test does not have a degree minimum. However, the types of positions given as examples of administrative such as lawyers, accountants and marketing would ordinarily have degree minimums of at least a bachelor’s degree related to the occupation. While significant experience might be used in lieu of a degree, we would ordinarily require the degree.
- The professional test does require “advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.” Later it is clarified by the statement, “Advanced knowledge cannot be attained at the high school level.” Therefore, the professional test does require a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement.
From these three tests we can arrive at a reasonable conclusion that non-exempt positions should not normally require a bachelor’s degree. Ordinarily exempt means “degree required” and non-exempt means “degree not required.”
Third, we must be consistent within our market-based compensation system. Our positions that are non-exempt include technical, clerical and paraprofessionals. Market rates for these positions will not ordinarily require a bachelor’s degree. There would be, then, a lack of connection between the market rate and the requirement of a bachelor’s degree.
Lastly, we must maintain campus equity. We must avoid having two employees in the same job with the same FLSA status and market rate having different sets of minimum requirements.
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.