Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s recent executive order to remove the college degree requirement for most state jobs comes at a time when recruitment for some state offices is desperately low. 

“You don’t necessarily need to have a degree to be great at your job and North Carolina is in need of talented people who can get things done,” he said Monday. “This order makes it clear that we recognize the value of work experience and don’t want the lack of higher education to be a barrier to starting or advancing in a state career.”

The order directs the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR), in coordination with cabinet agencies, to take steps to help more people with relevant work experience and skills get state jobs without an academic degree. 

Approximately 75% of state job classifications either do not require a higher education degree or allow experience to be substituted for education.

A statement will be added to state job postings clarifying that directly related experience can serve as a substitute for education for most state jobs. OSHR and cabinet agencies will review job classifications that do not currently allow experience to substitute for education to determine whether a degree is actually required to do the work. State HR experts will also work directly with cabinet agencies to eliminate unnecessary management preferences for degrees in the hiring process that can add higher education requirements for jobs that do not otherwise need them.

One such state agency in dire need of applicants is the Department of Agriculture. The office currently has 278 vacancies and a turnover rate of 19%.

Department of Ag Secretary Steve Troxler told lawmakers last week that interest in open positions has also dropped steadily, from 22,338 applications in 2019 to 13,574 in 2022.

Cooper’s order follows in the footsteps of similar actions of other states, including Alaska, Maryland, Utah, and most recently, Pennsylvania

Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order on his first day in office in January that will eliminate the college degree requirement for 92% or 65% of all government jobs in the Keystone State.

Scaling back education requirements has also become a trend with private companies. Harvard Business School economics professor Joseph Fuller told that it would make sense for states to take the same type of action. 

“It is increasingly difficult for state governments to attract certain kinds of talent,” Fuller said. “Especially those where salary and benefits are, or are perceived, not to compete with the private sector. There are 35 million Americans with some college but no degree. These are not high schoolers; these are people with 25 years of experience, like coders or programmers who don’t have degrees.”