Maryland will end four-year degree requirements for thousands of state jobs, Gov. Larry Hogan announced this week.
The move comes as the state, like other public sector employers, struggles with workforce shortages across its agencies. Hogan’s office described dropping the degree requirements as a “first-in-the-nation workforce development initiative” and said there are more than 300 job postings now open that would no longer require four-year diplomas.
“Through these efforts we are launching today, we are ensuring that qualified, non-degree candidates are regularly being considered for these career-changing opportunities,” Hogan said in a statement.
The governor added during a press conference that the change would not require legislative approval and that salaries for the jobs affected would not be lowered.
Maryland has upwards of 38,000 state employees. Officials there estimate that, for about half of those jobs, qualifications like prior work experience, a community college education, or time spent in the military could serve as a substitute to having a four-year degree.
Tiffany Robinson, the state’s labor secretary, pointed out during the press conference that the change was significant not just for prospective state employees, but also for those who are already part of the workforce and looking to advance or switch positions.
“There will now be scores of highly talented and experienced state workers being considered for positions and promotions that in the past required a four-year degree,” she said.
In January, there were more vacancies at Maryland’s executive branch agencies than at any time since at least 2008 and “likely ever,” according to an analysis of the governor’s 2023 operating budget from the state’s Department of Legislative Services. Including higher education jobs, these openings totaled 8,689, the report noted.
It went on to add that all six of the state’s major departments had vacancy rates of 10% or higher at the start of this year, with rates over 14% in public safety and corrections and health agencies.
Hogan’s office said that the state’s labor department and Department of Budget and Management would lead the initiative focused on opening jobs to people without four-year degrees and that a nonprofit, Opportunity@Work, will specifically assist in identifying job candidates for IT, administrative and customer service positions.
Among the roughly 2.8 million workers in Maryland, the governor’s office says that more than 1.3 million have career skills and experience that could substitute for a four-year degree.
While Maryland touted its program as unique among states, there has been at least some similar action at the local level in recent years. In 2019, Boulder County, Colorado eliminated higher education degree requirements for about 80 different types of local government positions there.