Instead of requiring a meaningless bachelor’s degree, employers should ask job applicants for a certificate of their skills, writes Charles Murray in the Wall Street Journal.
The model is the CPA exam that qualifies certified public accountants. The same test is used nationwide. It is thorough — four sections, timed, totaling 14 hours. A passing score indicates authentic competence (the pass rate is below 50%). Actual scores are reported in addition to pass/fail, so that employers can assess where the applicant falls in the distribution of accounting competence. You may have learned accounting at an anonymous online university, but your CPA score gives you a way to show employers you’re a stronger applicant than someone from an Ivy League school.
The merits of a CPA-like certification exam apply to any college major for which the BA is now used as a job qualification. To name just some of them: criminal justice, social work, public administration and the many separate majors under the headings of business, computer science and education. Such majors accounted for almost two-thirds of the bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2005. For that matter, certification tests can be used for purely academic disciplines. Why not present graduate schools with certifications in microbiology or economics — and who cares if the applicants passed the exam after studying in the local public library?
What you know, not where you paid tuition or for how long, should make the difference, Murray argues.
Is it possible to write tests for a variety of disciplines that prove competence in the way the CPA exam does?