Do you need a college degree for that?

Mayor Steve Adler is looking for a new communications director. The job posting lists a number of “preferred qualifications”:

Preferred candidate will have strong, senior-level, corporate, non-profit, campaign, government or political experience in which writing skills and media relations were major components.

That makes sense to me. But before you even get to that part in the job posting, there are the “minimum requirements”:

Graduation from an accredited four (4) college or university with major coursework in a communications-related field.

Experience may substitute for education up to a maximum of four (4) years.

Work experience as a senior communications professional.

You don’t need a college degree to talk and write all purty. No doubt, college can help, but it’s not necessary. I’d also be interested to know what qualifies as a “communications-related field.” Does that include the classic humanities, such as history, philosophy and literature?

Granted, the second line indicates that a bachelor’s degree may not be necessary, since experience can substitute for “up to a maximum of four years” of education. So experience can make up for college, but not grad school? Do they really give a crap if their comms director has a master’s degree?

At first I assumed that this was just boilerplate language used on city job postings. But in fact, there are many city job postings that say the opposite: a degree can substitute for a certain number of years of work experience. For instance, a posting for a financial analyst job says that it expects a bachelors degree + four years of work experience or a master’s degree + two years of work experience.

Council Member Greg Casar had some thoughts on the matter:

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The student loan debt crisis that this country is facing is largely driven by the rapidly rising cost of higher education. But tuition hikes have not come just because of declining support from state governments, although that is a major problem. One of the reasons that colleges have so shamelessly increased tuition –– at rates far exceeding the rate of inflation –– is that our culture now tells young people that they will go nowhere and be doomed to lifelong poverty if they don’t get a college degree.

Credit: The Fuse.

Indeed, browsing the city job postings, it’s hard to conclude that there is a path to prosperity without a college degree.  I don’t think a public information specialist for the Austin Transportation Department needs a degree. Believe me, the difference between the good flacks and the bad flacks is not their level of education. City spokesman David Green knows this.

Mary Pustejovsky, who works for Salesforce, shed some light on how she approaches things in the tech sector:

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This City Council has recognized the important role that city government, as a major employer, can play in reducing economic inequality. That’s why, for instance, it has substantially raised the minimum wage for city employees and put in place policies aimed at reducing the gender wage gap. Similarly, rather than simply bet on Austin’s  booming tech economy boosting the fortunes of all its residents, Council has shifted its economic development focus to “middle-skill” jobs that don’t necessarily require higher education or advanced technical skills. The city should similarly lead by allowing those who have not purchased, excuse me, earned degrees to compete for good-paying jobs based on their skills and experience.

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