Impact of No College Degree

I have over 20 years of professional work experience, but no college degree. How do I get past this requirement and will I have to take a pay cut with my next job?


Dear Amanda,
While some hiring managers might use college education as a screening variable and rule out candidates without the preferred education, there will be other hiring managers who will focus more on your work experience than on your educational background. The latter group will be larger if your work experience is particularly good and your job-related skills are up-to-date.

You don’t say what career field you are in, but if you are in a highly competitive field where a lot of layoffs have happened, you may find it more challenging than if you are in a career field doing a lot of hiring. One way to optimize your chances of success in landing a new job is to invest more time connecting face-to-face with potential employers and less time applying to advertised positions. This is because once a prospective employer meets you and is impressed, they may care less about education than if they were looking at your resume alone.

To connect with prospective employers, get involved in your local professional organization for your career field. Attend conferences. Network with colleagues in your field who are employed.

If your job search drags on longer than you want and you think the lack of a college degree is negatively affecting your competitiveness, consider enrolling in an educational program and adding it to your resume. You can then put an “Expected Graduation” date and some employers will view you in a more positive light than if you didn’t have that section on your resume. Sometimes all it takes is taking one more class to get a job offer, and then that one class is well worth it.

Regarding the potential pay cut, it will depend on the supply and demand in your career field. Some employers are taking advantage of the recession to pay new employees less than the job offers from a few years ago. Also, if you were at the top of the market rate in your last job, it may be more difficult to equal the same salary than if you were in the low to middle range of the market rate for your career expertise. Professional associations are the single best source for local and current salary data.

Hope this helps!

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