Credentialism and educational inflationWikipedia open wikipedia design.
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (November 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Credentialism and educational inflation are any of a number of related processes involving increased demands for formal educational qualifications, and the devaluation of these qualifications. In Western society, there has been increasing reliance on formal qualifications or certification for jobs. This process has, in turn, led to credential inflation (also known as credential creep, academic inflation or degree inflation), the process of inflation of the minimum credentials required for a given job and the simultaneous devaluation of the value of diplomas and degrees. These trends are also associated with grade inflation, a tendency to award progressively higher academic grades for work that would have received lower grades in the past.
There are some occupations which used to require a high school diploma, such as construction supervisors, loans officers, insurance clerks and executive assistants, that are increasingly requiring a bachelor's degree. Some jobs that formerly required candidates to have a bachelor's degree, such as becoming a director in the federal government, tutoring students, or being a history tour guide in a historic site, now require a master's degree. Some jobs that used to require a master's degree, such as junior scientific researcher positions and sessional lecturer jobs, now require a PhD. Also, some jobs that formerly required only a PhD, such as university professor positions, are increasingly requiring one or more postdoctoral fellowship appointments. Often increased requirements are simply a way to reduce the number of applicants to a position. The increasingly global nature of competitions for high-level positions may also be another cause of credential creep.
Credentialism and professionalization
Credentialism is a reliance on formal qualifications or certifications to determine whether someone is permitted to undertake a task, speak as an expert or work in a certain field. It has also been defined as "excessive reliance on credentials, especially academic degrees, in determining hiring or promotion policies." Credentialism occurs where the credentials for a job or a position are upgraded, even though there is no skill change that makes this increase necessary.
Professionalization is the social process by which any trade or occupation is transformed into a true "profession of the highest integrity and competence." This process tends to involve establishing acceptable qualifications, a professional body or association to oversee the conduct of members of the profession and some degree of demarcation of the qualified from unqualified amateurs. This creates "a hierarchical divide between the knowledge-authorities in the professions and a deferential citizenry." This demarcation is often termed "occupational closure", as it means that the profession then becomes closed to entry from outsiders, amateurs and the unqualified: a stratified occupation "defined by professional demarcation and grade."
The developed world has transitioned from an agricultural economy (pre-1760s) to an industrial economy (1760s - 1900s) to a knowledge economy (late 1900s - present) due to increases in innovation. This latest stage is marked by technological advancement and global competition to produce new products and research. The shift to a knowledge economy, a term coined by Peter Drucker, has led to a decrease in the demand for physical labor (such as that seen during the Industrial Age) and an increase in the demand for intellect. This has caused a multitude of problems to arise. Economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who categorized jobs as being either routine cognitive, routine manual, nonroutine cognitive or nonroutine manual, have examined a 30 million increase in the number of nonroutine cognitive jobs over the past 30 years, making it the most common job type. These nonroutine cognitive jobs, according to researchers, require "high intellectual skill." This can be rather difficult to measure in potential employees. Additionally, production outputs differ amongst labor types. The results of manual labor are tangible, whereas the results of knowledge labor are not. Management consultant Fred Nickols identifies an issue with this:
The working behaviors of the manual worker are public and those of the knowledge worker are private. From the perspective of a supervisor or an industrial engineer, this means the visibility of working is high for a manual worker and low for a knowledge worker.
Decreased visibility in the workplace correlates with a greater risk of employees underperforming in cognitive tasks. This, along with the previously mentioned issue of measuring cognitive skill, has resulted in employers requiring credentials, such as college degrees. Matt Sigelman, CEO of a labor market analysis firm, elaborates on why employers such as himself value degrees:
Many employers are using the bachelor’s degree as a proxy for quality employees—a rough, rule-of-thumb screening mechanism to sort through the resume pile. Employers believe in the college experience, not just as an incubator for job-specific skills but particularly for the so-called soft skills, such as writing, analytical thinking and even maturity.
Western culture, specifically that in the United States, has experienced a rise in the attractiveness of professions and a decline in the attractiveness of manufacturing and independent business. This shift could be attributed to the class stratification that occurred during the Gilded Age.
The Gilded Age was period of time marked by a rise in big businesses and globalization, particularly within the construction and oil industries. The popularity of farming declined as individuals took jobs working on large projects such as the Transcontinental Railroad. Rapid advancements such as railroad developments and increased use of steamboats to import/export goods made cities such as New York and Chicago convenient places to operate a business, and therefore ideal places to find work. Local business owners had a difficult time competing with the large companies such as such as Standard Oil and Armour operating out of cities. The popularity of entrepreneurship declined, and people began taking underpaying jobs at these companies. This fueled a class divide between the working class and industrialists (also called "robber barons") such as Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller.
Attempting to increase the prestige of one's occupation became standard among working class individuals trying to recover from the financial hardships of this time. Unqualified individuals turned to professions such as medicine and law, which had low barriers to entry. Referring to this phenomenon, historian Robert Huddleston Wiebe once commented:
The concept of a middle class crumbled to a touch. Small businesses appeared and disappeared at a frightening rate. The so-called professions meant little as long as anyone with a bag of pills and a bottle of syrup could pass for a doctor, a few books and a corrupt judge made a man a lawyer, and an unemployed literate qualified as a teacher. Nor did the growing number of clerks, salesman, and secretaries of the city share much more than a common sense of drift as they fell into jobs that attached them to nothing in particular, beyond a salary, a set of clean clothes, and a hope that they would somehow rise in the world.
The establishment of legitimized professional certifications began after the turn of the twentieth century when the Carnegie Foundation published reports on medical and law education. One example of such reports is the Flexner Report, written by educator Abraham Flexner. This research led to the closing of low-quality medical and law schools. The impact of the many unqualified workers of the Gilded age also increased motivation to weed out unqualified workers in other professions. Professionalization increased, and the number of professions and professionals multiplied. There were economic benefits to this because it lowered the competition for jobs by weeding out unqualified candidates, driving up salaries.
The alliance of employers with educational institutions progressed throughout the twentieth century as businesses and technological advancements progressed. Businessmen were unable to keep schedules or accounts in their heads like the small-town merchant had once done. New systems of accounting, organization, and business management were developed. In his book The Visible Hand, Alfred Chandler of Harvard Business School explained that the increase in large corporations with multiple divisions killed off the hybrid owner/managers of simpler times and created a demand for salaried, “scientific” management. The development of professional management societies, research groups, and university business programs began in the early 1900s. By 1910, Harvard and Dartmouth offered graduate business programs and NYU, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania offered undergraduate business programs. By the 1960s, nearly half of all managerial jobs formally required either an undergraduate or graduate degree.
Academic inflation is the contention that an excess of college-educated individuals with lower degrees (associate and bachelor's degrees) and even higher qualifications (master's or doctorate degrees) compete for too few jobs that require these degrees.
Academic inflation occurs when university graduates take up work that was not formerly done by graduates of a certain level, and higher-degree holders continue to migrate to this particular occupation until it eventually becomes a field known as a "graduate profession" and the minimum job requirements have been inflated academically for low-level job tasks.
The institutionalizing of professional education has resulted in fewer and fewer opportunities for young people to work their way up from by "learning on the job." Academic inflation leads employers to put more faith into certificates and diplomas awarded on the basis of other people's assessments.
Academic inflation has been analogized to the inflation of paper currencies where too much currency chases too few commodities.
Credential inflation or degree inflation
Credential inflation refers to the devaluation of educational or academic credentials over time and a corresponding decrease in the expected advantage given a degree holder in the job market. Credential inflation is thus similar to price inflation, and describes the declining value of earned certificates and degrees. Credential inflation has been recognized as an enduring trend over the past century in Western higher education, and is also known to have occurred in ancient China and Japan, and at Spanish universities of the 17th century.
For instance, in the late 1980s, a bachelor's degree was the standard qualification to enter the profession of physical therapy. By the 1990s, a master's degree was expected. Today, a doctorate is becoming the norm.
A good example of credential inflation is the decline in the value of the US high school diploma since the beginning of the 20th century, when it was held by less than 10 percent of the population. At the time, high school diplomas attested to middle-class respectability and for many years even provided access to managerial level jobs. More recently, however, a high school diploma barely qualifies the graduate for menial service work.
One indicator of credential inflation is the relative decline in the wage differential between those with college degrees and those with only high school diplomas. An additional indicator is the gap between the credentials requested by employers in job postings and the qualifications of those already in those occupations. A 2014 study in the United States found, for example, that 65% of job postings for executive secretaries and executive assistants now call for a bachelor's degree, but only 19% of those currently employed in these roles have a degree. Jobs that were open to high school graduates decades ago now routinely require higher education as well—without an appreciable change in required skills. In some cases, such as IT help desk roles, a study found there was little difference in advertised skill requirements between jobs requiring a college degree and those that do not.
The causes of credential inflation are controversial, but it is generally thought to be the result of increased access to higher education. This has resulted in entry level jobs requesting a bachelor's (or higher) degree when they were once open to high school graduates. Potential sources of credential inflation include: degree requirements by employers, self-interest of individuals and families, increased standards of living which allow for additional years of education, cultural pushes for being educated, and the availability of federal student loans which allow many more individuals to obtain credentials than could otherwise afford to do so.
In particular, the internal dynamics of credential inflation threaten higher education initiatives around the world because credential inflation appears to operate independently of market demand for credentials.
The push for more Americans to get a higher education rests on the well-evidenced idea that those without a college degree are less employable. Many critics of higher education, in turn, complain that a surplus of college graduates has produced an "employer's market."
Credential inflation is a controversial topic. There is very little consensus on how, or if, this type of inflation impacts higher education, the job market, and salaries. Some common concerns discussed in this topic are:
- College tuition and fee increases have been blamed on degree inflation, though the current data do not generally support this assertion
- Credential-driven students may be less engaged than those who are attending college for personal enrichment
- Devaluation of high school diplomas
- Opportunity costs of attending graduate school, which can include delayed savings, less years in work force (and less earnings), and postponement of starting families
- Lack of adequately trained faculty and rises in the number of adjunct professors which can adversely impact quality of education
- Grade inflation has been correlated to degree inflation by some academics, though the causal direction is debated
- Some have accused degree inflation of devaluating job and employment experience, though most data show that degrees are not as highly sought after as relevant experience, which is the cited reason for student loan debt that cannot be paid back.
Grade inflation is the tendency to award progressively higher academic grades for work that would have received lower grades in the past. It is frequently discussed in relation to education in the United States, and to GCSEs and A levels in England and Wales. It is also discussed as an issue in Canada and many other nations, especially Australia and New Zealand.
- Academic inflation
- Degree inflation
- "The Curse of Credentialism". The NYU Dispatch. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
Credentialism, or degree inflation, as it is sometimes referred to, has been a growing problem globally for the better part of the last decade.
- "The college degree has become the new high school degree". Washington Post.
- Some positions of Director in the Canadian federal government, an entry-level Executive position, which formerly required a bachelor's degree began requiring a master's degree as the minimum credential in the 2000s
- Pappano, Laura (22 July 2011). "The Master's as the New Bachelor's". The New York Times.
- Somasundaram, Narayanan (2017). "The Job Creation Report" (PDF). Business Insider Australia: 17.
- "Credentialism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2014 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045300482.html
- "the definition of credentialism". Dictionary.com.
- Tony Buon - The Leadership Coach: Teach Yourself - Hodder & Stoughton.
- Nilsson, Henrik (n.d.). "Professionalism, Lecture 5, What is a Profession?" (PDF). University of Nottingham. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2007.
- Agre, Philip E. (August 2004). "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?". Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Weeden, Kim A. (2002). "Why do Some Occupations Pay More than Others? Social Closure and Earnings Inequality in the United States". American Journal of Sociology. 108: 55–101. doi:10.1086/344121.
- Witz, Anne (1990). "Patriarchy and Professions: The Gendered Politics of Occupational Closure". Sociology. 24 (4): 675–690. doi:10.1177/0038038590024004007.
- Cavanagh, Sheila. L. (2003). "The Gender of Professionalism and Occupational Closure: The management of tenure-related disputes by the 'Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario' 1918-1949". Gender and Education. 15: 39–57. doi:10.1080/0954025032000042130.
- Mahony, Karen; Van Toen, Brett (30 November 1989). "Karen Mahony & Brett Van Toen, "Mathematical Formalism as a Means of Occupational Closure in Computing—Why 'Hard' Computing Tends to Exclude Women," Gender and Education, 2.3, 1990, pp. 319–31". Gender and Education. 2 (3): 319–31. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- MacDonald, R. (2004). "The Hospital at Night". BMJ. 328 (7431): 19s–19. doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7431.s19.
- Powell, Walter; Snellman, Kaisa (2004). "The Knowledge Economy". Annual Review of Sociology. 30: 199–220. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.100037.
- Dvorkin, Maximiliano. "Jobs Involving Routine Tasks Aren't Growing". stlouisfed.org.
- Weber, Alan (2011). "The role of education in knowledge economies in developing countries". Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences. 15: 2589–2594. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.04.151.
- Nickols. "The Shift from Manual Work to Knowledge Work". nickols.us.
- Richardson, Joanne (2010). AN INVESTIGATION OF THE PREVALENCE AND MEASUREMENT OF TEAMS IN ORGANISATIONS: THE DEVELOPMENT AND VALIDATION OF THE REAL TEAM SCALE (PDF) (PhD thesis). Aston University. p. 2.
- Sigelman. "Do Employers Value the Bachelor's Degree Too Much?". nebhe.org.
- Larson, Magali (1979). "Review: The Matrix of Professionalization: Three Recent Interpretations". Michigan Law Review. 77 (3): 641–654. doi:10.2307/1288142.
- Smith, Jusith (2008). "The Class Divide in American Culture in the Early Twentieth Century". American Studies. 49 (3/4): 255–267. doi:10.1353/ams.2010.0024.
- Tan, Chay-Hoon; Macneill, Paul (2015). "Globalisation, economics and professionalism". Medical Teacher. 37 (9): 850–855. doi:10.3109/0142159X.2015.1045856.
- Wiebe, Robert (1967). The Search for Order, 1877-1920. New York: Hill and Wang. pp. 13–14. ISBN 9780809001040.
- Flexner, Abraham (1910). Medical Education in the United States and Canada. New York: Carnegie Foundation.
- Khurana, Rakesh (2007). From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 66–70. ISBN 9780691120201.
- Chandler, Alfred (1977). The Visible Hand. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674--94052-0.
- Emerson, David J.; Smith, Kenneth J. (September 2018). "The Value of Certification and Professional Experience". The CPA Journal.
- Vedder, R. The Great College-Degree Scam, The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2010
- Rowntree, 'Assessing Students: How Shall We Know Them?', Routledge Grading 1987, page 19, ISBN 1-85091-300-5
- Rispin, Kenith (4 May 2011). "Academic Inflation – Disaster in the Work Place". Archived from the original on 31 July 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- Robinson, Ken. "Schools Kill Creativity".
- Day et al., Issues in Educational Drama, Taylor & Francis, 1983, page 12, ISBN 0-905273-66-4
- Randall Collins, 2000. "Comparative and Historical Patterns of Education," in Maureen T. Hallinan (ed.), Handbook of the Sociology of Education. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Pp. 213 - 239
- Randall Collins, 1998, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Pp. 580 - 582.
- Van De Werfhorst, Herman G.; Andersen, Robert (2005). "Social Background, Credential Inflation and Educational Strategies". Acta Sociologica. 48 (4): 321–340. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.199.1569. doi:10.1177/0001699305059945.
- Ronald P. Dore, 1976. The Diploma Disease: Education, Qualification, and Development. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Randall Collins, 1981. "Crises and Declines in Credential Systems," in Randall Collins, Sociology since Mid-century: Essays in Theory Cumulation. New York: Academic Press. Pp. 191—215
- John W. Chaffee, 1985. The Thorny Gates of Learning in Sung China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- "Credential Creep". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 22 June 2007.
- Randall Collins, "Credential Inflation and the Future of Universities," Chapter One of The Future of the City of Intellect: The Changing American University, edited by Steven Brint (Stanford University Press, 2002), pages 23-46.
- Wessel, David (19 October 2006). "Why It Takes a Doctorate To Beat Inflation". Wall Street Journal. p. A2.
- Burning Glass Technologies, "Moving the Goalposts: How Demand for a Bachelor’s Degree Is Reshaping the Workforce," Sept. 2014, accessed 2016-06-12
- Educational Testing Service, "What Jobs Require: Literacy, Education, and Training 1940-2006", published January 2000, accessed 2016-06-12
- Furlong, Andy (2013). Youth Studies: An Introduction. New York: Routledge. p. 73. ISBN 9780415564762.
- Randall Collins, 1979. The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York: Academic Press.  Archived 23 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- David K. Brown, "The Social Sources of Educational Credentialism: Status Cultures, Labor Markets, and Organizations," Sociology of Education, Extra Issue (2001): 19-34.
- David F. Labaree, How to Succeed in School without Really Learning: The Credentials Race in American Education, Yale University Press (1997).
- Singletary, Michelle (11 January 2020). "Is college still worth it? Read this study". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
- Eichler, Alexander (30 August 2011). "Hiring Is Up For The Class Of 2011, But Previous Classes Still Struggle". Huffington Post.
- Lederman, Doug (9 September 2014). "Credential Creep Confirmed". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
Many employers are seeking workers with B.A.s even for jobs that haven't historically required the degree. That may be good news for colleges -- but warning signs are on the horizon.
- "New Report on the Harmful Effects of Degree Inflation". Grads of Life. 2 November 2017. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
By requesting that applicants have four-year degrees for positions that didn’t previously require them, businesses are making it harder for themselves to find talent for middle skills jobs and, in the process, hampering the ability of middle-class Americans to find jobs.
- Clark, Kim (15 January 2009). "The Surprising Causes of Those College Tuition Hikes". usnews.com.
- Presentation of Chris Rasmussen, Director of Policy Research, Midwestern Higher Education Compact, at Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, before the US Department of Education, on 5 October 2006. Transcript page 174. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2007/transcript-il.doc Archived 29 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine
- David F. Labaree, How to Succeed in School without Really Learning: The Credentials Race in American Education, Yale University Press (1997), pages 32, 50, 259.
- "Do the Math: How Opportunity Costs Multiply Tuition". Forbes.com. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
- "When a college contracts 'adjunctivitis,' it's the students who lose". PBS NewsHour. 25 July 2014.
- "The College Degree and Academic Inflation". 3 September 2012.
- Berg, I. (1970). Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery. Praeger: New York
- Brown, D. (2001) "The Social Sources of Educational Credentialism: Status Cultures, Labour Markets and Organisations". Sociology of Education Extra Issue 2001; 19–34.
- Tony Buon & Compton, R. (1990). "Credentials, Credentialism and Employee Selection". Asia Pacific Human Resource Management. 28, 126–132.
- Tony Buon (1994). "The Recruitment of Training Professionals". Training & Development in Australia. 21, (5), 17-22
- Caplan, B. (2018). The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. Princeton University Press.
- Randall Collins, The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification, Academic Press, 1979/2019.
- Ronald Dore (1976) "The Diploma Disease: Education, Qualification, and Development"
- Charles D. Hayes, Proving You're Qualified: Strategies for Competent People without College Degrees, Autodidactic Press, 1995.
- Charles Derber, William A. Schwartz, Yale Magrass, Power in the Highest Degree: Professionals and the Rise of a New Mandarin Order, Oxford University Press, 1990.
- John McKnight, The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits, New York, BasicBooks, 1995.
- Meehl, P.E. (1997). "Credentialed persons, credentialed knowledge" (PDF). Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. 4 (2): 91–98. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2850.1997.tb00103.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 February 2012.
- Robert S. Mendelsohn, Confessions of a Medical Heretic, Chicago: Contemporary books, 1979.
- Ivan Illich, Irving K. Zola, John McKnight, Disabling Professions, 1977.
- Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, 1971.
- Woodward, Orrin & Oliver DeMille LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up & Lead Grand Central Publishing 2013
- Sarah Kendzior (2014), "College is a promise the economy does not keep" (Al Jazeera)
|Look up credentialism and educational inflation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Noel Weyrich, Failing Grades, The Pennsylvania Gazette, March/April 2006 .
- Gary North, The Ph.D. Glut Revisited, 24 January 2006 
- Randall Collins, The Dirty Little Secret of Credential Inflation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 27 September 2002, Volume 49, Issue 5, Page B20 
- Randall Collins, The Credential Society. New York: Academic Press, 1979, pp. 191–204. 
- George Leef, The Overselling of Higher Education, 5 September 2006 
- Lowell Gallaway, The Supreme Court and the Inflation of Educational Credentials: Impact of Griggs examined. Clarion Call, 9 November 2006 
- Laura Pappano "The Masters as the New Bachelor's" (New York Times, 22 July 2011), link
- Joseph B. Fuller & Manjari Raman et al. (October 2017). "Dismissed by Degrees: How degree inflation is undermining U.S. competitiveness and hurting America’s middle class". Accenture, Grads of Life & Harvard Business School.
- The Master's as the New Bachelor's
- Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
- How To Stand Out from the Herd, 2007
- Grade Inflation At American Colleges and Universities
- Alfie Kohn: The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation
- Steven Landsburg: Grade Expectations: Why grade inflation is bad for schools--and what to do about it.
- Grade Inflation Sources
- Grade Inflation, Ethics and Engineering Education
- So that is why they are leaving (the sciences) from Inside Higher Ed
- A's for Everyone! (The Washington Post article written by Alicia Shepard)
- Nominal GPA and Real GPA: A Simple Adjustment that Compensates for Grade Inflation
- Real GPA and Real SET: Two Antidotes to Greed, Sloth, and Cowardice in the College Classroom