Many Health-Related Government Jobs Can’t Waive a Degree Requirement to Bolster Applications

Removing high school and college degree requirements for some government jobs has helped mitigate equity barriers and drive applications, but some positions that require college-level science credits don’t have the same option.

Workforce shortages and labor market trends have created a volatile work environment in a number of sectors. Wage increases, signing bonuses, flexibility on work locations, and eliminating degree requirements are recent methods employed by organizations to make their open positions more accessible for a larger pool of applicants. This has also helped eliminate some inequities that candidates might be experiencing when a 4-year college degree requirement is in place even if the individual has comparable work experience and transferable skills.

For a handful of positions, particularly private sector jobs, adjustments like these can be made quickly, especially relative to government positions. A number of states though have already begun to make an effort particularly around degree requirements. An article in Illinois highlighted positions with the state government that can now earn $90,000 a year without a degree. Other pieces from Kentucky and New Jersey discussed efforts being made along the same lines. However, the majority of these positions discussed in the articles do not have any major, college-level science requirements, whereas many health department and environmental health professions do not have the flexibility to waive them, and probably wouldn’t do so under good advice.

Strategies for bolstering candidate recruitment and retention in these science-heavy areas need to take a different approach, especially when trying to attract applicants away from the private sector. In Maryland for example, a coalition of stakeholders have been working towards establishing a viable pipeline of applicants for environmental health positions at the local and state level. Representatives from the Maryland Department of Health and Morgan State University are getting close to establishing an apprenticeship program for environmental health specialists who can work at the state and local level. Additional efforts are being made to found a new work-study program as part of the Morgan State offering to get these candidates the kind of on-job training that will help them hit the ground running on a new career in government service.

This topic and the new programs will be discussed at the MACo Winter Conference this December, during the panel, “Hit the Ground Plumbin’: Getting Apprentices to Work in Waste, Water, and Septic.”