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How to Get Hired without a Degree

by THEA kelley | February 18, 2022

If you’re a job seeker who is long on ability but short on academic credentials, take hope! “Since 2019, there’s been a 20% increase in managers hired who don’t have a traditional four-year degree,” according to LinkedIn Talent Blog in December 2021. The trend seems likely to continue. In this post I’ll offer effective tips on how to get hired without a degree–even if the job market becomes less favorable.

Cultivate referrals.

If you have anything at all counting against you in your job search–and who doesn’t?–you’re much more likely to get hired through a referral than by simply applying online. Managers are more open to taking a chance on someone who has some connection to them, even if it’s just the fact that someone within the company forwarded your resume.

Seek out career research conversations (a.k.a. informational interviews) with employees and managers connected to companies you’re interested in. You’ll gain useful “insider intelligence” as well as introductions. This approach has been shown to be faster than just applying online. Yes, job search is a “numbers game,” but the relevant number isn’t how many resumes you’ve sent out, it’s how many people you’ve been talking to.

Give your resume a savvy “Education” section. You may have more to put there than you think.

Have you completed training courses, whether on the job, online or in the community? Earned a certification? If you haven’t, it’s not too late. SkillShare, LinkedIn Learning,  MasterClass, Udemy, edX, Coursera,  FutureLearn and Udacity are some of your options online, as well as free online courses from big-name universities.

Don’t rule out apprenticeships or independent study, either. I’ve you’ve learned from these, the next step is to think is to show what you learned. On LinkedIn you can add a “Project” section to your profile and post the details there, and post a video or other media in the “About” section. And of course, add this training to your resume. If you haven’t completed it yet, include the date you expect to finish.

If you completed a substantial number of college units (say, 20+), include that in your resume—in the right way.

If you don’t have immediate plans to finish the degree, write it like this:

Bachelor of Arts Degree Program in Communications (24 units completed)

Why? By using the words “Bachelor of Arts” or such, you may enable your resume to get past applicant tracking systems that would otherwise eliminate you from consideration. Meanwhile, a human resources rep or hiring manager can see that you don’t have the degree, so although you may be gaming the software, you’re being honest with the people.

If you expect to graduate within a year or two, all the better. You might write it like this:

Bachelor of Arts in Communications (2025)

Do include any honors or relevant extracurriculars. You may want to specify your GPA if (a) the GPA is at least 3.5 out of 4, and (b) the education took place within the last few years.

Finally, know that there are many occupations where a degree is optional.

There are many jobs for which it’s common to get hired without a degree. Medical Assistant, Ophthalmic Medical Technician, Licensed Practical Nurse, Wind Turbine Technician, Solar Photovoltaic Installer, Firefighter, Accounting Clerk, Client Services Manager, Project Manager, Tech Support Specialist, Mortgage Underwriter and Sales Associate are just a few of the possibilities.

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