What is Academic Inflation?

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  • Written By: M. Walker
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Academic inflation refers to the increasing requirement of higher degrees for certain jobs, even when a higher degree is not necessary to perform those jobs. For example, many jobs that would have traditionally only required an associate’s degree in the past are now requiring a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. This phenomenon is reducing the ability of those just entering the workforce to learn through work experience, and instead they are encouraged to remain in school to get certificates and degrees for longer periods of time.

Having a college degree no longer implies that an employee is qualified. The job market is witnessing an increasing number of college graduates whose academic training would not have been strong enough to earn them a college degree in previous years. Thus, this trend is both a result of academic inflation, and as a result employers now require even higher degrees to screen against under qualified job applicants.

One response to academic inflation is the widening range of college curriculum difficulties. Now that many employers are requiring a bachelor’s degree, newer colleges are opening with easier programs and less strict admissions. Even current colleges are lowering the difficulty of their academic programs and their admissions requirements. This not only increases the number of individuals who are able to receive a bachelor’s degree, but it also lessens the value of that degree to other individuals.


Grade inflation is also increasingly prevalent, and it contributes to the rise in academic inflation. It is becoming easier for students to earn good grades, and more graduates are reporting higher grade point averages (GPAs) on their resumes. This makes it harder for employers to differentiate between applicants, and they are consequently relying more on certificates and higher degrees to judge an applicant's potential.

There are also several economic effects tied in with academic inflation, such as the rise in the cost of higher education. The cost of tuition for college and professional schools is increasing much faster than the rate of inflation. This increase in cost may deter some students from pursuing higher degrees, counteracting the effects of academic inflation. During times of economic recession, however, the need for a job often trumps the need to avoid student loans. Students now are in a difficult bind, as the cost of education is high, necessitating higher loans, while the number of available jobs is low, necessitating higher degrees.


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Post 5

Nothing more than a "money-making" scheme perpetrated by educational institutions. It's a crying shame!

Post 4

@miriam98 - Let me weigh in on student loans. They’re absolutely astronomical in my opinion, and if I may go further, somewhat exploitive. The colleges are banking on the fact that these loans exist and so they raise their tuitions accordingly.

Call it money supply inflation or whatever. My daughter is going to a school and she got a partial scholarship but still she will be carrying $20,000 in debt upon graduation.

There’s simply no need to enter the workforce with that kind of a debt load – and I don’t think she should have to pursue a master’s degree just to prove herself further or make herself stand out from the pack. If employers want a way to thin out the competition, then I think the answer is quality internships.

Post 3

@David09 - There is a brain drain of talent as we hire people from overseas, too, especially in Information Technology. These professionals aren’t looking for easy degrees and they’re not avoiding the path of sacrifice.

I know of one Indian programmer who took a week off for “vacation.” He spent the week going to a technology boot camp to learn the latest computer technology! That’s the kind of commitment these guys are bringing to the tables and I think that’s one of the reasons employers are being pickier.

Post 2

@SkyWhisperer - I happen to think that recessions create a large pool of overqualified workers. What I mean is there are unemployed people who have master’s degrees and even PhD’s.

These folks flood the market, and soon employers are demanding that level of academic attainment as requirements for the jobs they’re advertising.

It’s good old supply and demand. I don’t think there is anything fair about it because personally I think most of the jobs haven’t gotten harder. It’s just that employers need some way of winnowing the field and this is the best method they’ve got.

Post 1

This is a very disappointing trend. I have a B.A. in English Literature, and with that, I was able to transition into IT and become a computer programmer. There is a low barrier to entry for programmers (no insult intended to computer science majors).

Basically as long as you have one programming language under your belt you can get a programming job. However, to hear that employers have now raised the bar for academic requirements across the board is a little disheartening.

Whatever happened to the school of hard knocks? I happen to believe that’s the best school there is. It’s like old fashioned apprenticeship. Solve problems in the real world, and you will become more valuable as a result.

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