The Hiring Challenge

Over one-third of American companies have eliminated college degree requirements and the reason they did is simple, to increase the number of applicants.

Here’s the reality, there are 1.9 jobs available for every unemployed worker.

Last year I wrote about how the radio industry needs to remove the college degree requirement from their Help Wanted Ads, and since that time, the ability to attract the best talent has become even more challenging.

The Latest Survey of Hiring Mangers

The website, surveyed 1,000 hiring managers at the beginning of 2023 and released these key findings:

  • 53% of hiring managers say their companies eliminated the requirement for a bachelor’s degree for roles where a bachelor’s degree in not essential
    • 60% eliminated the college degree requirement for entry-level roles
    • 57%  eliminated the requirement for mid-level positions
    • 33% eliminated it for senior level jobs
  • 64% say the reason for removing the requirement was to increase the number of applicants
  • 76% say they are likely to favor experience over education
  • The majority of hiring managers say their company doesn’t see value in certificate programs, associate degrees, online degrees, or boot camps
  • 77% of companies are currently offering apprenticeships, or plan to, by the end of the year
  • 46% say attrition is a problem

Famous Radio Broadcasters Without A College Degree

Oprah Winfrey didn’t need to have a college degree to become one of the most successful women in broadcasting. She dropped out of college after only one semester to pursue a career in broadcasting.

In 2015, Forbes published the salaries of the top five radio broadcasters in America.

  • Glenn Beck earned $16.5 Million in 2015. Not bad for a Sehome High School graduate with no college experience.
  • Sean Hannity earned $29 Million, and never obtained a college degree, even though he attended four different colleges.
  • Ryan Seacrest earned $65 Million. He started his radio career at 16 while still in high school and would drop out of college to devote all of his energies to broadcasting.
  • Rush Limbaugh earned $77 Million and dropped out of college after only two semesters. His mother said at the time that Rush “flunked everything…he just didn’t seem interested in anything except radio.”

The BIG Exception

The top earning radio personality is Howard Stern. Howard graduated with a 3.8 Grade Point Average (GPA) from Boston University. In fact, Stern was named by Forbes as the world’s highest-paid media personality and the fifth highest-earning worldwide. As of February 2023, Howard Stern’s net worth is $650 Million.

I Love College

Please don’t think I’m dissing the college experience, I’m not. What I am taking issue with is the hiring practices of the radio industry that make having a college degree preferred. Radio is better positioned as a trade, one best learned by doing.

The radio industry should be presenting a broadcast career as an opportunity for students graduating from high school.

I treasure my five decade radio broadcasting career, but having my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science college degrees never played a role.

It wasn’t until I pursued my second career in life, that of a college broadcast professor, that I would need those two pieces of paper to be hired at The School of Broadcasting and Journalism at Western Kentucky University.

Colleges sell pieces of paper representing knowledge learned. You can’t be part of the faculty unless you have also earned these benchmarks in higher education.

Finally, I am adamant about the radio industry starting its outreach at the high school level.

Radio Talent Institute

When I was at Western Kentucky University, I worked with Dan Vallie and his Radio Talent Institute. It’s an excellent program, now owned and operated by the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB). Sadly, it’s offered as a summer program to students in a handful of colleges across America. I contend that the RAB should be offering this program in the high schools, especially those schools that have vibrant student run radio stations.

The Radio Talent Institute puts professional broadcasters into a mentorship role with the radio’s industry’s future leaders and we can’t start the recruitment effort early enough.

“A mentor is someone who

allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”

— Oprah Winfrey


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

22 responses to “The Hiring Challenge

  1. Good stuff, Dick. I, too, have a college degree, but never did anyone (of my employers) ever asked about my formal education. I started in radio when I was 16 years old in high school, part time, of course and worked my way up the ladder with experience and a lot of great mentors. The career spanned five decades.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many broadcasters our age, came up through the ranks that way Art.

      Asking for a college degree was a way to reduce the number of applicants to a manageable number to interview. That’s no longer the case in 2023.

      Plus, radio is more dependent on EQ than IQ.

      Thanks for sharing your story.


  2. Mike Buxser

    A college degree or lack of one never came up at any job interview in my 50 year career. Even after moving from on air and PD roles into sales, general management, regional manager and eventually COO no one ever asked. I attended a tech school for 6 months, took a few college courses at a local community college and that was it. I’d apply for or get offered positions that listed a college degree as a priority, but it never came up in any interview. One of the many things I loved about radio was that you were judged on your skills, attitude, potential, and experience versus a degree. College is not for everyone and that’s never been more clearer than it is today. At 18 I would have flunked out because all I wanted to do was play the hits, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You for adding your story to this subject Mike.

      I worry that the radio industry has missed some top talent by making college a requirement. Also, making the Radio Talent Institute something only offered at colleges, for college students.

      Radio broadcasting should, as you stated so well, judge candidates on their “skills, attitude, potential, and experience.”


  3. On one hand a college degree means to an employer that you were able to finish something you started and that you will most likely show up at work every day. On the other hand, it does not mean to an employer that you know anything “real world” about what your degree is in…ie Broadcasting!

    IMHO an “earn while you learn” situation would be much more beneficial to both the employer and employee, and would teach the real world reality of the industry. I know that my son learned much more about the day to day workings of the news business via his two internships at Fox News than he did from his very expensive degree program at the Park School of Communicarions at Ithaca College!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You Frank.

      The Park School of Communications at Ithaca College is renowed. Two of its graduates are Disney CEO Bob Iger and ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir.

      I’m all for “just in time learning.” Where you go to school for things you need to know, when you need to know them.

      Radio is so much more than book learning and its best have shown that to be true.

      Internships, are like apprenticeships. Broadcasting should cut-to-the-chase and offer them industry-wide to students in high school.

      I got my foot in the radio door through Junior Achievement when I started high school in the 10th grade and landed both my FCC license and first radio job before I moved on to the 11th grade.


  4. Steve Biro

    What you write is true, Dick. But we need to think about the jobs Radio be offering high schoolers and recent grads, Both the number of jobs available and the pay scales involved remain in free fall. Many involve poverty-level wages. I’ve been in broadcasting 50 years and I do not see Radio as an attractive career option for young people.


    • I completely understand where you’re coming from Steve.

      The radio industry needs to address the very things you brought up and I’m not hearing any of the industry’s leaders addressing them.

      What I do know is that no one can afford to pay for a college degree and start in radio for the money it pays, but without that heavy debt burden a high school student going directly into radio can.

      I hope the issues you brought up start being addressed.

      Thank You Steve for weighing in on this subject.


  5. Bob Hoenig

    Dick This is one time I won’t disagree with you I had a very successful 44 year career in radio (and a little tv) and I’m a college dropout I’ve worked with many people (most of my contemporaries were kids of the 60s and 70s) who got into radio while in high school, or who left or skipped college to pursue a radio career. You can’t teach talent. And it’s talent and innate ability that make you a good broadcaster. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t get something out of the college courses I bothered to show up for between radio gigs — but I have often said that my real education was in the newsroom. Best. Bob Hoenig

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bob we are in complete agreement.

      Another famous radio broadcaster I neglected to mention in this week’s article is Steve Harvey.

      Harvey never graduated from college and readily admits to “flunking out” of Kent State University after two years as an advertising major in the ’70s. Look at him now, five TV shows and a syndicate radio morning show.


  6. As a retired “radio personality” as the NAB wants us former DJs to be called today, I am concerned about education in the schools. Here in Kentucky, the State Board of Education took History out of the Middle School (Jr High School) curriculum. As a volunteer at the local history museum, I feel high school is too old to introduce stories of Paul Revere’s Ride, and other history topics. Your comment about “schools that have vibrant student run radio stations” brings up a point. As I understand it the FCC is not, and has not for some time taken applications for low power publicly operated FM stations. These would be the perfect training ground for future broadcasters. Likewise, instead of turning in AM licenses maybe local broadcasters ready to throw in the towel should offer these stations to local school boards. These days with automation in radio, there is not the part-time weekend jobs available like back in the day when I got into the biz. Even though we probably have a lot of broadcasters out of jobs these days, we still need to bake more pie for future generations. I just don’t know how.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your opening comment about the things schools have removed from the curriculum is concerning, Paul.

      With respect to radio and school boards, many are now selling off their radio stations and the student operation is now entirely streamed online.

      AM stations are especially expensive to operate and maintain. The future for radio is not on the AM band. Broadcasters around the world are sunseting their AM stations. Some countries are sunseting analog FM stations and going all digital.

      The future will be on the “infinite dial” accessed via the internet. However, it will still require talented individuals to make the magic happen.

      Thank you for stopping by the blog and sharing your perspective.


  7. Victor Escalante

    Dick, I was invited to be on an advisory board for a local community college to come up with a curriculum for degrees in media circa 2009. My input having worked in all legacy media, was train in all aspects of content creation. Even if you don’t go into a media position, you go into corporate content creation. Gary Vee says companies need to think of being a media company first and a provider of products and services second. The guy has a staff of 300 employees cranking out content for big brands. Media companies were too arrogant and greedy to prepare for our current new normal. They still are. As I’ve before radio will continue to exist in some form but the glory days of radio are gone and never coming back. Rush is dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gary Vee (Vaynerchuk) is certainly at the cutting edge of media communications and marketing. I’ve used his book in my university classes.

      I concur with your assessment about radio’s future and how it will continue but evolve into something different than the “glory days” that we enjoyed when we were growing up.


  8. Walter Luffman

    Dick, I have always believed that what you know counts for much more than where you learned it; but actual jobs (especially entry-level jobs) in radio are disappearing. For many aspiring broadcasters, college and community nonprofit stations are the only way to get actual experience and learn what really matters. For others, the path begins with internships at commercial stations, most of which are available through (and advertised to) colleges and universities.

    I absolutely love paulurbahns’ idea of offering struggling AM stations to interested local schools rather than just turning in the licenses and going dark. Increasing the availability of LPFM licenses for schools is another good idea. And don’t limit these opportunities to four-year institutions; include community colleges, high schools, maybe middle schools. Even students who don’t go on to pursue broadcast careers will benefit from their experiences … and they will have a lot of fun, which may encourage more interest in everything else they learn in school.


    • Learning to do radio broadcasting, provides a student with so many skills, which will benefit them in any career they pursue.

      Much like the theater program teaches life-long skills. Both of my sons were in theater in high school and college. Their grades were incredible as a result what the program taught them and now are excellent presenters in their lines of work.

      A lot of schools are now turning in their broadcast licenses and opting for streaming only operations.

      AM is toast (as I wrote back to Paul Urbans).

      But the radio industry needs to go back to recruiting talent at the high school level. College degrees are too expensive and really not necessary for most broadcast jobs. Learning by doing is best for broadcasting.

      I’m also an advocate of “just in time learning,” where you go to learn, what you need to know, when you need to know it.


  9. Victor Escalante

    Gary Vee is a hustler (creative hard working entrepreneur) who was trying to market wine and spirits. It was that trial and error that launched his media empire. Compared to rigid top down management of media companies, they are on a sinking ship telling the creative front line people to row faster. After the 2008 media crash, I saw the collapse of all media. Just a year prior to that a Vice President of one of the nation’s biggest paper told a group of about 200 advertising executives that the best years of print media were yet to come. His evidence was that billionaire Sam Snell had bought the Chicago Tribune. I was there. I looked around as the troops all clapped. I thought holy crap, this is Kool-Aide drinking. Mind you, I was reading daily company generated forecasts of print’s demise.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dick, You know how supportive I am of the Radio Talent Institute. I’ve always been bothered that it’s, first of all, just a summer offering. Secondly, I agree – why not it to high schools. Aside from this college degree issue, I think we continue to limit ourselves in every way of creating interest in our profession let alone have ample training and coaching available.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Let’s hope Erica Farber is listening!

      The Radio Talent Institute really is a great concept that needs to be expanded from an introductory program to one that provides a paid apprenticeship in radio broadcasting.

      Thank You John for adding your thoughts to this discussion.


  11. Over many years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many HR departments. And after an interview where all we discussed was what I did in college – 40+ years ago now – I always had one question: “what does what I did in college 40 years ago have to do with what I can bring to your company TODAY”? And that question was always met with silence.

    You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to sweep a floor. And yes, I have seen ads listing that as a requirement for a floor sweeper’s job.

    I’m not disparaging college. Not at all. But it’s not for everyone. I am appalled at how many people in the workforce can’t do simple tasks – like make change, or think on their feet. But if you’re going to sweep a floor for a living, why do you need to go into debt to earn $25K/year? My daughter has a Doctorate – she is a Veterinarian. She has $350K in student loans hanging over her head. That was her choice and yes, she will make that back in time. But….that is the equivalent of a high end mortgage. That amount of debt at that age is simply disgusting.

    As an undergrad, she minored in math, was teaching a course (!), and was a paid tutor for the college in nearly every subject the school taught. She was appalled at the lack of knowledge of the people she was tutoring (apparently, we had a good school system). That was also about the time common core math was introduced to schools. She took one look at it and said “no way”. She refused to tutor incoming freshmen in common core methods and, thanks to her, many students lost their confusion about math when she tutored in the conventional method. It’s funny how schools in the US can come up with time and resources to teach everything EXCEPT basic, core subjects – a problem other countries don’t seem to have.

    It’s about time these companies got the hint – that there are good, smart workers out there that, for a number of reasons, don’t have a college history, but can still do a great job for them. This is a good start to the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom, I completely, totally, agree with all you wrote.

      I’m a life-long learner. The more I learn, the more I realize how I don’t know. Many of the best skills for life I learned from helping my father do projects around our family home. Things that serve me well in the house we just purchased and are re-habing.

      Becoming a college professor – my second career – was a dream come true and a real eye-opener about how unprepared so many students were to be in college. Moreover, college may have been a choice their parents made for them, and not the career path they were best suited for.

      Thank You for sharing your story. I’m sure many others will benefit from your words of wisdom.


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