The Covid-19 pandemic reverberated throughout the labor market. Businesses lost revenue or closed their doors altogether, layoffs followed, and unemployment rose. Yet despite high unemployment, the labor market somehow remained tight for professional jobs.
A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, in fact, found that 42% of business owners in 2021 had job openings they couldn’t fill (a record high). Furthermore, over 90% of those owners reported listing few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.
With a tight labor market, we often see a relaxing of stringent or preferred qualifications in job posts, particularly for in-demand jobs. On the whole, that held true in 2021, although we also found a few examples that ran counter to the general trend.
For this report, we collected hiring data directly from over 10,000 employers for the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. Looking solely at technology jobs, we analyzed the data for trends. We found a shift towards fewer degree and professional certification requirements for tech jobs, in general.
→ Over the last few years, there has been substantial debate about whether education requirements are really needed in tech jobs. A few large companies have stated publicly that they will no longer require degrees for programming jobs. As the tech hiring market tightened in 2021, degree and certification requirements fell substantially across most job types.
→ Fewer tech jobs overall required a college degree in 2021, a trend we saw across nearly every job type. The proportion of tech jobs that explicitly required a college degree fell 24%. In fact, the general trend was towards less stringent degree requirements overall.
→ Fewer jobs required a Master’s Degree, while fewer Product Management and Project Management jobs required an MBA. However, the FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) sought out more MBAs than ever before.
→ The demand for Professional Certifications decreased overall, with PMP (Project Management Professional) and Six Sigma certifications falling out of favor in 2021. One significant exception to this trend was massive growth in demand for cloud certifications across Infrastructure Engineering jobs. Amazon Web Services (AWS) certifications led the pack but only slightly, as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud certifications grew as well.
One remarkable trend we found has to do with Undergraduate Degrees. Our analysis showed that companies advertised proportionately fewer Entry-level jobs (not typically requiring prior work experience) and more Mid-level jobs (typically requiring between four and 10 years of experience). Given that, we expected to see more job posts with degree requirements. Yet we saw the opposite.
The proportion of tech jobs without an explicit degree requirement actually increased. (A good thing considering that only a third of Americans had a Bachelor’s Degree in 2019, according to an American Community Survey report).
The proportional increase in job postings that did not require a degree was widespread across different types of jobs. We found that 12 out of 16 job types showed an increase in the proportion of job postings that did not require a degree. The exceptions to this were in Information Technology (IT) Support, Information Security (InfoSec), Hardware, and Quality Assurance (QA), which showed no significant changes to degree requirements.
On the macro level, we saw an increase in the number of job postings whose highest degree required was lower than a Bachelor’s (i.e., Associate’s Degree, high school GED). While these represented a small number of overall tech jobs, their numbers increased significantly. We attribute this, at least in part, to an increase in IT Support jobs and QA Engineering jobs.
Another trend we found was in the percentage of job postings that listed a Graduate Degree as a requirement.
We saw a decrease in the number of jobs requiring either a Master’s Degree or MBA specifically. We attribute that drop to a rise in the number of Product Management and Project Management jobs advertised.
In the past, Product Management and Project Management jobs accounted for most of the MBA requirements among tech jobs. The reduction in MBA requirements for these job types were the primary driver of the reduction in MBA requirements for tech jobs overall.
We also saw a widespread reduction in Master’s Degree requirements in a variety of different tech job types.
The strongest trend we found was a significant reduction in Master’s Degree requirements for tech jobs at Non-big Tech companies (non-tech companies hiring for tech jobs). Traditional Big Tech companies like Dell and Intel (well-established large companies) saw no significant change. In fact, some of these companies took advantage of the pandemic to hire more employees with MBAs. Meanwhile, newer tech companies like Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google saw a slight increase in Master’s Degree preferences or requirements.
We saw no significant changes to most jobs with respect to Bachelor’s Degree requirements. However, a few job types did see a proportional increase in preferences or requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree (e.g., Data, Project Management, InfoSec).
Similar to education requirements, professional certification requirements dropped from 2019 to 2021.
Proportionately fewer jobs listed professional certifications as either required or preferred.
Although the overall trend was for fewer professional certification requirements, Cloud certifications were a significant outlier.
Every major Cloud provider offers a certification program. And while Cloud certification requirements are not frequently listed in Infrastructure Engineering jobs, the data showed that they’re on the rise.
For this, we ignored requirements that asked merely for ‘experience with’ or ‘proficiency in’ a certain Cloud provider. We instead counted only the job postings that asked for a formal certification. The data revealed a significant proportional increase in the number of jobs requiring a formal Cloud certification.
Certifications for InfoSec jobs were another outlier, with requirements for both CISSP and CISM certifications increasing between 2019 and 2021. However, we didn’t see a reduction in the number of jobs requiring a degree, which is significant given the overall trend of fewer tech jobs requiring a degree.
Meanwhile, certification requirements in listings for Project Management and QA jobs either held steady (PMP) or declined (Six Sigma). This is significant given the decrease in certification requirements for tech jobs overall.
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