The Potluck

75% of state jobs no longer require college degree under Walz executive order

By: - October 30, 2023 4:04 pm

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order eliminating 4-year degree requirements for most state jobs. Courtesy photo.

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday signed an executive order eliminating the four-year degree requirement from over 75% of state government jobs.

Walz said erasing the four-year degree requirement for about 25,000 government jobs will open the professions to a wider pool of applicants, including people of color who historically have faced barriers in obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s an incredible way to start thinking about what the future of work looks like and making sure that everyone has an opportunity to thrive,” Walz said at a Capitol press conference.

State government is one of Minnesota’s largest employers, with about 38,000 workers. For many of these positions, Walz said, a bachelor’s degree isn’t needed to succeed on the job.

Like many employers, state government is struggling to fill openings, even as a big portion of state workers nears retirement age. Among fields with workers aged 55 and older, “public administration” is near the top, with nearly 27% approaching retirement, according to a state researcher

Earlier this year, Gov. Phil Murphy, a New Jersey Democrat, and Gov. Spencer Cox, a Utah Republican, urged other governors in a letter to consider eliminating degree requirements for state positions to help with the national workforce shortage.

“We encourage our fellow governors to consider reevaluating degree requirements for government jobs in your state,” wrote Murphy and Cox, who serve as chair and vice chair respectively of the National Governors Association. “It’s a simple step that strengthens the talent pipeline into state government, sets an example for private sector employers, and opens opportunity to so many.”

At least 16 states no longer require a four-year degree for most state jobs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The cohort of states that have eliminated the requirement include Republican- and Democratic-led states.

Jobs that require a license or certification according to the law, like nurses, civil engineers or psychologists, will still require a degree.

He also said he hopes the state’s actions will influence Minnesota’s private sector companies to consider eliminating degree requirements for their jobs.

A person’s starting salary for a state government job is based on their skills and experience.  People with a degree won’t automatically earn more, state officials said. 

“The idea is… you complete a four year degree, you show you can get things done, you show you can accomplish a goal,” Walz said. “Well you can do that in your job. You can do that by passing Army training. You can do that in a lot of ways.” 

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.