Updated Oct 5, 2023 - Technology

AI threatens to dethrone the 4-year college degree

Illustration: Allie Carl / Axios

AI is transforming job hunting and skill development — threatening to relegate four-year college degrees to the category of merely nice-to-have on your CV.

The big picture: In AI-driven workplaces, employers will need to treat up-skilling investments as a "critical priority" rather than a perk, per a pitch LinkedIn executives made to 2,000 of the nation's top recruiters this week in New York City.

Why it matters: Less than 4 in 10 Americans hold a bachelor's degree — but this group dominates America's decision-making class.

  • Recruiters depend on LinkedIn to do their jobs, and the company's wake-up call on degrees is based on data from workers at 63 million organizations.

Driving the news: LinkedIn released a slew of new AI product features this week, including:

Be smart: Even if you're not changing jobs often, whatever job you're in will likely be changing around you, impacting the value of your degree.

  • Those evolving jobs will come to be seen as a collection of skills and tasks, with more focus on "human and people-oriented skills" as drudge work and certain knowledge tasks get automated, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky told the Talent Connect Summit.
  • 72% of American executives surveyed by LinkedIn said soft skills are more valuable to their organization than AI skills.

What they're saying: "AI's going to make it virtually impossible for a one-off moment of learning [like a degree] to last an entire career," Roslansky said.

  • Campaigners against elitism in workplaces see opportunity in AI: "Over credentialing a job that doesn't need a four-year degree is a mistake. You pay a degree premium and miss out on good candidates," Gerald Chertavian, founder and CEO of YearUp, a non-profit, said.
  • Why would you ignore "more than half the population's skill set?" when recruiting, asked Byron Auguste, CEO and co-founder of Opportunity @ Work.

Yes, but: As of 2021, there was a growing earnings gap between those with a four-year degree and those without and the unemployment rate for college graduates was still lower than that of Americans without degrees, per Pew Research.

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