Academic inflation is the process of inflation of the minimum job requirement, resulting in an excess of college-educated individuals with lower degrees (associate and bachelor's degrees) competing for too few jobs that require these degrees and even higher, preferred qualifications (master's or doctorate degrees). This condition causes an intensified race for higher qualification and education in a society where a bachelor's degree today is no longer sufficient to gain employment in the same jobs that may have only required a two- or four-year degree in former years.  Inflation has occurred in the minimum degree requirements for jobs, to the level of master's degrees, Ph.D.s, and post-doctoral, even where advanced degree knowledge is not absolutely necessary to perform the required job.
Academic inflation is similar to inflation of paper currencies where too much currency chases too few commodities.
Academic inflation occurs when university graduates take up work that was not formerly done by graduates of a certain level, and higher-degree holders continue to migrate to this particular occupation until it eventually becomes a field known as a "graduate profession" and the minimum job requirements have been inflated academically for low-level job tasks.
The institutionalizing of professional education has resulted in fewer and fewer opportunities for young people to work their way up from artisan to professional status (e.g., as an engineer) by "learning on the job". Academic inflation leads employers to put more and more faith into certificates and diplomas awarded on the basis of other people's assessments.
The effect has a particular impact in arts and music fields. In 1950, not a single institution for example offered a doctorate in conducting. Nowadays, such degrees are routinely required for community chorus conductors working less than full time.
 See also
- Digital Taylorism
- Education economics
- Educational devaluation
- Grade inflation
- Open admissions
- Widening participation
- Vedder, R. The Great College-Degree Scam, The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2010
- Day et al., Issues in Educational Drama, Taylor & Francis, 1983, page 12, ISBN 0-905273-66-4
- Rispin, Kenith. "Academic Inflation – Disaster in the Work Place". Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- Robinson, Ken. "Schools Kill Creativity".
- Rowntree, 'Assessing Students: How Shall We Know Them?', Routledge Grading 1987, page 19, ISBN 1-85091-300-5