When It Comes to Women in the Workplace, There is No Such Thing as Overqualified

What does it mean to be overqualified? It is a strange word when you stop and think about it.

Let’s start with what it means to be qualified. According to the dictionary, being qualified is to be: “officially recognized as being trained to perform a particular job; certified.” But that is a qualitative definition.

Overqualified suggests quantity is also to be taken into account. If we assume that the definition refers to the bare minimum necessary for certification: How much more than that does one need to be considered “really” qualified? Is it really necessary or possible for a person to achieve just the right amount of qualification without going over? Why is it so bad to go over the minimum amount?

If a person with an advanced degree applies for a job as a fry-cook at a fast food chain. The manager would look upon that application with suspicion and not excitement. Clearly, the degree holder did not get that degree to become a lowly fry-cook. They would be more knowledgable about more things than the person tasked to manage them. And they would be out the door the moment something better opens up. The manager would also wonder what was wrong with the overqualified person that they would seek a job so much lower than they should be able to get.


There is clearly a such thing as being overqualified. But outside of extreme examples, it is difficult to know exactly where that line is. Wherever it is for men, it is different for women. Here are a few reasons why women should just stop caring about that line:

It takes more to be equal

Regardless of how much qualification is needed for men, it takes more for women because of inequality in our society. As with people of color and people with disabilities, the world requires more than the bare minimum standard of training and skill. In some cases, it requires a lot more for a person in a minority group to be considered equally qualified as a person in the majority. It is not right; it just is. That is the world in which we live and work.

Women often cannot compete on the basis of experience alone. That is why they have to compete on the merits of their education. That means staying in school longer, getting better grades, and pursuing a higher degree than male counterparts.

Going back to school may be difficult or impossible for women already in the workforce, but professionals can pick up the extra management skills and certifications while remaining on the job. Programs like Arden Coaching help managers and even senior level executives develop new interpersonal and communication skills through leadership training.

It helps you get into the door of male-dominated fields

While women are well represented in many fields, they are not well represented in the upper echelon of those fields. These include:

  • Medical
  • Education
  • Science
  • Engineering & Technology

To break into the upper levels of these industries, women have to have an educational pedigree that cannot be legally ignored. Having the same qualifications as a male candidate means that the male can be chosen without any evidence of bias. Being more qualified than the male counterpart makes it a lot harder for you to be overlooked.

It prepares you for the next opportunity

Finally, being overqualified for your current job prepares you for your next opportunity. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the small promotion you think you’ve earned at your current job. That promotion is not the one that matters. It is the next job that will move you from a Toyota to a Lexus. The promotion that everyone is fighting for at work just gets you a better Toyota, not a better parking spot. Gain all the experience and education you can at your current position. Make yourself overqualified for your boss’s job. That is when advancement can no longer be denied–if not at your current job, then the next.

To paraphrase an old adage: Your current job is not the one you want. The next one is the one you want. You current job is the one that is standing in the way of the job you want. Train for the next job, and you stand a much better chance of getting it when it is time

It may not be fair to have to train more and be more qualified just to compete. But in the grand scheme of things, no one was ever harmed from too much education and training. That can always be used to advantage.