Gov. Cooper signs executive order to drop academic degree requirements for more state jobs

Gov. Cooper signs executive order to drop academic degree requirements for more state jobs

March 13th, 2023

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has issued an executive order designed to encourage more people to apply for state jobs and to help government agencies to recruit additional skilled workers.

“You don’t necessarily need to have a degree to be great at your job and North Carolina is in need of talented people who can get things done,” Cooper said. “This order makes it clear that we recognize the value of work experience and don’t want the lack of higher education to be a barrier to starting or advancing in a state career.”

Executive Order No. 278 directs the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) in coordination with cabinet agencies to take a series of steps to help more people with relevant work experience and skills to get state jobs without an academic degree.

The Executive Order comes at a time when many state agencies continue to face challenges recruiting and retaining the skilled workforce essential to ensuring North Carolinians have safe, effective, and efficient government programs and services, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Under the Executive Order, a statement will be added to state job postings clarifying that directly related experience can serve as a substitute to education for most state jobs.

OSHR and cabinet agencies will review job classifications that do not currently allow experience to substitute for education to determine whether a degree is actually required to do the work.

State human resources experts will also work directly with cabinet agencies to eliminate unnecessary management preferences for degrees in the hiring process that can add higher education requirements for jobs that do not otherwise need them. Currently, approximately 75% of state job classifications either do not require a higher education degree or allow experience to be substituted for education.

“We want more qualified candidates to apply for positions across state government,” said State Human Resources Director Barbara Gibson. “People who have been working in a similar role successfully for years should be on equal footing with applicants with academic degrees.”

Cooper encourages all state, county, and local government agencies as well as private employers to review their human resources policies to eliminate unnecessary barriers to employment.

Executive Order No. 278 also:

  • Directs OSHR to train Cabinet agency HR staff on how directly related experience helps an applicant meet minimum qualifications. Additional training will include support for hiring justice-involved individuals, individuals with disabilities, veterans and their families, and other priority populations.
  • Encourages state agencies to hire employees who can fill a job with appropriate training, including through trainee progression pathways and apprenticeships.
  • Directs the Department of Administration to review state internship programs to encourage more students from community and technical colleges to participate, and create new internship opportunities for people who aren’t pursuing higher education.
  • Encourages licensing boards to review their licensing requirements to determine whether there are any academic requirements that are unnecessary.

To find out about employment opportunities with state government, visit the State of North Carolina Careers portal at

Approximately 1,400 permanent and temporary jobs currently are posted in the portal. Interested candidates can create an online profile in the system and then apply directly for positions. Email alerts can be set for job categories, locations and other factors, including remote or hybrid work schedules.

Individuals seeking temporary work at state agencies may submit a resume to Temporary Solutions at to be considered in candidate pools for current and future employment opportunities.

Available positions range from file clerks to managers, healthcare professionals and a wide range of highly-skilled roles that provide flexibility as well as the ability to gain skills and experience for permanent state jobs.

In 2022, 537 workers hired through Temporary Solutions transitioned to permanent roles at state agencies, according to OSHR.

Cooper has signed previous orders “to remove barriers to state jobs so that state government better represents the people it serves.”

Executive Order No. 92 directed state agencies to implement best practices in recruiting workers with disabilities and create an inclusive job climate; Executive Order No. 93 eliminated from state job applications the salary history questions that created a barrier to equal pay for equal work; and Executive Order No. 158 removed criminal arrest or history questions from employment applications when those questions were unnecessary.

Read the full Executive Order to learn more about how the state of North Carolina is prioritizing related work experience in hiring as well as FAQs prepared by OSHR addressing potential questions about the order. 

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