A Congressional Research Service report raises several potential concerns regarding the recent executive order downplaying the role of educational credentials in the federal hiring process, including that it might make the process more subjective.

The order tells agencies to review job classification and qualification standards for competitive service positions to ensure that they include minimum education requirements only when “legally required to perform the duties of the position”—as is often the case with scientific, technical and certain other occupations. If there is no legal requirement, education may considered only if it “directly reflects the competencies necessary to satisfy that qualification and perform the duties of the position.”


The report said that “implementation of the E.O. may bring risks if agencies do not implement the E.O. carefully. One concern is that removing minimum education requirements may allow for more subjectivity in the assessment of candidates, which could lead to perverse outcomes, such as a risk of favoritism in the hiring process.”

Further, agencies “need to routinely evaluate whether a minimum education requirement is necessary, and if not, what knowledge and skills are necessary. While the E.O. may help align the federal hiring process with hiring trends in the broader job market, there may be questions about the feasibility of the E.O.’s proposed timeline,” it said.

That timeline calls for any changes to job classification and qualification requirements to be made public by late October and to become effective within two months afterward.

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