The need for a specialized workforce has increased exponentially over the decades. Today, Americans live in a credential society
— one that depends upon degrees and diplomas to determine eligibility for work.
Employers, predominantly in urban areas, who must draw from a pool of anonymous applicants, need a mechanism to sort out who is capable of work and who is not. Those who have completed a college degree have demonstrated responsibility, consistency, and presumably, basic skills. Some professions require highly specialized training that employers cannot accommodate.
The demand for credentials has become so great that it is changing the face of higher education. Many students who attend college for a year or two (or even complete a two-year Associate's Degree), and then enter the workforce in an entry-level job, may find themselves needing a four-year degree. Oftentimes, regardless of their years of experience or competence on the job, employees who have the appropriate credentials receive advancement.