Credentialism is a term used to describe a primary reliance on credentials for purposes of conferring jobs or social status. In some jobs, employers require a diploma
A diploma is a certificate or deed issued by an educational institution, such as a university, that testifies that the recipient has successfully completed a particular course of study or confers an academic degree. In countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, the word diploma refers to...

, academic degree
Academic degree
An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree...

, security clearance
Security clearance
A security clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information, i.e., state secrets, or to restricted areas after completion of a thorough background check. The term "security clearance" is also sometimes used in private organizations that have a formal...

, or professional license
Licensure refers to the granting of a license, which gives a "permission to practice." Such licenses are usually issued in order to regulate some activity that is deemed to be dangerous or a threat to the person or the public or which involves a high level of specialized skill...

 for a job which does not require the specific training that is part of these credentials or for which the skills can be obtained by other means, such as experience and informal study. This is more common in white collar
White-collar worker
The term white-collar worker refers to a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work, in contrast with a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor...

 jobs as most blue collar
Blue collar
Blue collar can refer to:*Blue-collar worker, a traditional designation of the working class*Blue-collar crime, the types of crimes typically associated with the working class*A census designation...

 jobs have traditionally used an apprentice system.

In some cases, the legal or "de facto" requirement for a credential helps to protect society, as in the case of the requirement for an M.D. degree to practise medicine or a B.Eng. degree to become a civil engineer and build bridges and dams. However, a number of white collar jobs require degrees that are not explicitly connected to the job requirements. Some banks require applicants for their financial advisor positions to have a degree in economics, even though the job, based around selling stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, does not require training in economics. Similarly, many state and federal governments in North America require policy analysts to have a university degree in any field to be hired, even though the writing and research skills needed to be a policy analyst could be gained by experience.

Employers that require credentials that are not explicitly related to the work tasks may be using the possession of the university degree as a screening mechanism, as the completion of a degree may serve as a proxy
Proxy (statistics)
In statistics, a proxy variable is something that is probably not in itself of any great interest, but from which a variable of interest can be obtained...

 for measuring personal traits that are desirable in the workplace (e.g., finishing tasks, learning new skills, following instructions). They may also be using these requirements as a social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 screen, to ensure that the candidates selected for a job are bona fide members of the middle class. By requiring a university degree for entry level office jobs, employers are in effect screening out candidates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as these individuals are much less likely to attend and complete a degree due to the many barriers that university attendance poses for them (financial, social, etc.). This screening approach may be unfair for competent, experienced people without university degrees; a skilled writer and editor with decades of experience may be unable to even get an interview as an entry-level policy analyst in the federal government.

Some professions rely to higher degree on credentials. In many cases, the granting of professional licenses has been institutionalized, with the power to grant licenses given to self-regulatory bodies, such as medical associations or law societies. Laws may dictate the need for a credential by a requirement that is set at the state, provincial, or federal level (e.g., the requirement that a civil engineer possess a B.Eng. degree). Credentials acquired in one country or region by a worker are often not fully recognized in other countries or even in other states or provinces. In Canada, a teaching certificate or bar membership (for a lawyer) is only valid in the province in which it is granted; a worker who moves to another province has to write the certification exams in the new province, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Immigrants with foreign credentials often find that their degrees are not recognized in their new country. In Canada and the US, immigrants with credentials from non-Western countries may have to complete a number of additional courses or follow a costly or lengthy re-certification process. Foreign medical doctors, even those with decades of experience, may have to enrol in a North American medical school and re-do their internship. Foreign tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers may have to start again in the apprenticing system. Faced with these hurdles, many immigrants find that they have to work in a field other than the one that they are trained in, a situation called underemployment
Underemployment refers to an employment situation that is insufficient in some important way for the worker, relative to a standard. Examples include holding a part-time job despite desiring full-time work, and overqualification, where the employee has education, experience, or skills beyond the...


Opposition to credentialism is a tenet of the unschooling
Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum....


There is also negative credentialism, in which an arrest
An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation and prevention of crime and presenting into the criminal justice system or harm to oneself or others...

 record, restraining order
Restraining order
A restraining order or order of protection is a form of legal injunction that requires a party to do, or to refrain from doing, certain acts. A party that refuses to comply with an order faces criminal or civil penalties and may have to pay damages or accept sanctions...

, dishonorable military discharge
Military discharge
A military discharge is given when a member of the armed forces is released from their obligation to serve.-United States:Discharge or separation should not be confused with retirement; career U.S...

, bad credit rating
Credit rating
A credit rating evaluates the credit worthiness of an issuer of specific types of debt, specifically, debt issued by a business enterprise such as a corporation or a government. It is an evaluation made by a credit rating agency of the debt issuers likelihood of default. Credit ratings are...

, medical diagnosis, foreign birth, or other formal negative credential is used to discriminate against a person, even if the negative credential is mistaken, obsolete, irrelevant, or actually belongs to someone else with a similar name.
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