Degree Discrimination – Degree vs. Experience

I love to learn new things, and have a variety of interests across the board. I have a personal library in excess of 5,000 books, spanning almost every genre, style and type of writing in existence. Even better, I have incredible retention, and can remember most of what I read, see or hear. I learn extremely fast, and can master new concepts and skills in a fraction of the time it takes the average person to do the same. I’m a certified genius, and a member of Mensa.

You would think, with a basket of knowledge and skills like that, that finding a top paying job in a cutting edge field would be easy. Alas, it is not so.

You see, despite my knowledge, skills and experience, I’m missing one thing that businesses everywhere seem to think of as predominantly important. A little piece of paper certifying that I have spent 4 or more years of my life “learning”, and have likely accrued a massive amount of debt that will take years to pay off. I’ve attended some college, but I have no degree.

Now I realize that’s a bit of a dramatization, but in essence it is exactly right. We are taught, from a relatively early age, that education is vitally important. I believe that. Education IS important. But there is a vast difference between education and formal education. What we are taught is that formal education is the more important of the two, and that is absolutely false. Knowledge and skill are important, and are more readily gained through practical experience than from a classroom setting.

We are also taught that if we want to amount to anything in life, a college degree is a must, and a graduate degree is ideal. What you don’t hear is that getting a degree does not mean you will get a great paying job, or any job for that matter, especially in an economy like ours. The average college student who attains a 4-year degree will leave school with debt in the high five or low six figures. A graduate or doctoral degree could put that figure in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not the best way to start your professional life.

I’ve looked at hundreds of job postings over the past few years, both looking for jobs and learning to write postings, and one of the things I have seen most often is this: BA or BS Required, Graduate Degree Preferred. Many of those postings didn’t mention a specific degree, and if they did, it was usually a choice of 3-5 degree fields. On occasion I would see something to the effect of “Degree Required – Field of Study Unimportant”. They just wanted you to have a degree for the sake of having one.

Statistically speaking, by the time you graduate from college, you will retain only 10% of what you’ve learned (can’t remember the source for this one, but I’ve heard it more than once.) Neurologically speaking, you’ll retain information that you use on a regular basis, so practical experience in your chosen field would thus be more valuable than formal education in the same field. That doesn’t speak well of our education system.

As a business owner, I can tell you without hesitation that I would rather hire someone with no degree and 2 years of relevant experience than someone with a degree and no relevant experience. Now granted, having both would be nice, but a degree is not a reflection of knowledge or ability, whereas experience and success in a given field is a direct reflection of both.

I believe that passing over a potential job candidate simply because they have no degree is absolutely criminal, and should be considered a form of discrimination no different than race, age, sex, or any other factor that may be outside of the job applicants control. Not everyone can afford the time or the money for college. I certainly couldn’t! But that didn’t stop me from gaining both the knowledge and experience necessary to go head-to-head with college graduates and come out on top.

Now granted, there are certainly professions where formal education might be necessary, such as medicine, architecture, or perhaps law, but even then not always. There are numerous instances of individuals who have passed the bar exam without any formal legal education. The truth is that proficiency is more important than the amount of time spent studying, or the method by which that proficiency was gained (remember, college credit can be gained by testing out :) ).

The adage “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is a load of crap. Just because something works does not mean it is the best way of doing things. If that were the case all progress would have come to a sudden stop. The truth is that people stick to traditions because they are complacent, and afraid of change. We tend to like our comfort zones.

Our current educational system is at the heart of the problem. Far too often the professors are antiquated individuals teaching antiquated ideas simply because that is what they were taught, and that is how they did things.

A former co-worker of mine told me that he took an Internet marketing class last semester, and that the woman teaching it was teaching information 5 years out of date, focusing on blogging and email marketing instead of  Twitter, Yelp or Facebook.

For a company to choose someone with that quality of education over someone with practical, current experience is just plain wrong.

If your company is seeking an employee, I strongly encourage you to think outside the box. Companies spend so much time defining length of experience and type of education on their job postings, that they forget what they are really looking for. When a company asks for a degree and work experience, what they are really asking for is someone who can do the job well. I encourage companies to look at what a job candidate has achieved, and what they know, as opposed to where they went to school or for how long.

Try asking pointed questions. Present a job candidate with a problem that your company has faced, and see what they would recommend. You might be shocked to hear them come up with the very solution your team of well educated “experts” spent hours coming up with. Spend time exploring their Facebook page, their blog, their Twitter feed, and see just what they know and who they are.

Perhaps blind adherence to tradition is what is holding your company back. Remember, some of the wealthiest and most successful people in the business world never completed college (Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller Sr., Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, and more). Some never even finished high school!

Some say the act of getting a degree shows fortitude and persistence, and that that is the real value of a degree. Personally, I think someone who works two jobs to support their family shows far more fortitude and persistence than someone who can afford the time and money for a formal education.

To employers, I say this: Formal education is not a measure of knowledge, skill or ability, and should never be treated as such.

To employees: Stop being sheep! If you have a dream, make it a reality. If nobody seems to recognize your worth, start your own business and show it (I did :) )! Nothing is impossible.

45 thoughts on “Degree Discrimination – Degree vs. Experience”

      1. I see this post is from 2009, but someone just shared it on LinkedIn. Samantics, do you have a LinkedIn account? Would like to connect. I have some job openings that do not require a H.S. diploma or degree. The employer is unique, they are looking for Vulnerability Researchers and they only need the skills not what’s on paper. My email is vickiheck@kramersearchgroup.com

  1. True true. I started my own biz too. Voluntary work is also a useful stepping stone for those looking to edge into a regular job via the work experience route. Uni’ seemed like such a waste of time to me. So much book reading and dummy testing.

  2. I have had companies tell me they hired me for my experience over a degree toting green horn. Not all companies take that approach, but the ones that only hire degree holders are the ones who are anal thinkers who for the most part are in bed with local collages to support them. I have 20 years in manufacturing engineering ,and I would bet the farm I could run circles around a collage grade, and in fact have had to train them. So yes, it is total BS, and the business loses out on some of the best talent out there. Lets face it, if you learn it on our own ,and didn’t have to pay tens of thousands to learn it ,doesn’t that show them you are a cut above the rest? It should.

    1. Hi I would like to reply to this.
      Yeah I agree that not all skills can be taught in a classroom. I also do believe that people who learn by themselves are still learning knowledge of some kind that can be useful to a particular industry.

      I do also think that schools can teach outdated or irrelevant material for a degree that is suppose to be (in theory) related to a specific job?
      So in a way yes there is degree discrimination.

      Yet on the other hand what about all the people (like me) who did go to school and beyond (post graduate) after working in his field for a few years, and then come out and now are not being rewarded for the hard work they did while in school?

      This also seems unjust, because if your saying that work experience seems to be so much more important than experience you learn in school, your really saying there shouldn’t be a school system to exist at all past high school (except for a few positions) in this society; because basically everyone could just learn the ropes so to speak as they start out in the job.

      I think the real problem though is that we have a society that allowed way too many people to be born and didn’t take into the fact at all that people might live for a long time, and thus create enough opportunity for all people to be able to live.

      In any case though for all those people who did go to school and now are graduates they want what was heavily implied to them in school (which was that if I study x field) I will get x job.

      Yes this might seem like entitlement, but it is entitlement after accomplishing a educational hurdle, that society implied to almost everyone since almost birth that they had to do in order to reach x job.

      1. So, a few things. You’re absolutely right about overpopulation, and it’s a problem that is going to have vast long-term implications for humanity. Sadly, it’s a problem that probably won’t be fixed, as emotion tends to trump logic and there aren’t any emotionally acceptable solutions to overpopulation.

        That said, the expectation that getting a degree should then be automatically be rewarded…that IS entitlement. A piece of paper doesn’t entitle anyone to anything.

        A degree is neither good nor bad…it’s just a tool, and just one tool out of many needed at that. It’s a starting point, a way to get past the gatekeepers so you can convey your value to the company.

        That’s where most job seekers fail…not on credentials, but on their ability to convey (and perhaps even to deliver) real value. If you can effectively convey and deliver value, finding a job is rarely a challenge.

        Casting blame on society for pressuring you to pursue a certain path is folly. Never, EVER abdicate your free choice. If you elect to pursue a path, even under pressure, you have nobody to blame…you made the choice. If it doesn’t work out, find another path. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

        1. Hi Sam :
          I certainly agree with you. Obtaining a degree does not assure success, rather taking skills learned in school and applying them to challenges which create value for your employer is what can make the degree valuable. To be perfectly honest, I am sure there are many individuals who partied continuously and may not remember much at all.

          Lastly, I think school is the most valuable when one secures internships. If someone wants to further their career and they attend graduate school they at least have experience and may be better able to understand the concepts being taught.

          On the other hand, if someone is able to start their own business without a college degree; go for it. Most people do not become wealthy by working for others.

          Regards,
          Don

      2. College or University is not “hard work”, that is simply the words of a person who has an entitlement mentality. I have asked many recent college graduates what are their most memorable things about their time spent in college. I never hear “the hard work”, “the things I learned”, but rather I hear thing such as “the friends I made, “the good times”, “the fun”, “the parties”. That does not sound like hard work to me.

        I have many years of experience in my profession, which is international business and supply chain, and I have completed many college courses as well, but have not obtained a degree. I can honestly say I learned more from on the job – real world – experience than I did in any college classrooms. Many of the professors in the college classrooms never worked in the professions which they were teaching, they only taught from the book (professional teacher).

        In the past how did a person learn a trade or profession ? They apprenticed under a person who was proven successful in that trade or profession. Today people go in debt by tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to learn from someone who had never even worked in the trade or profession.

        Both you and Sam are totally incorrect in regards to overpopulation. The world is not overpopulated and there are many studies to prove the world has enough resources to support over three times today’s world population. The problem is the small amount of elites who control the world’s resources, but that is a whole other subject. In regards to population and employment, overpopulation is not the reason for high unemployment; the high unemployment is created by the banking system itself, which is better referred to as a credit system than it is a monetary or banking system. Those who control credit, and thus capital, control labor and production. If capital were issued into the economy based on the economic needs, not borrowed into existence through a credit system, as it is today, humanity would be the master of capital rather than its slave. How ironic the so called super intelligent college graduates, even economics and finance majors, don’t really understand how banking, currency and the economy actually work.

      3. Sooooooo…..What about someone who has years of experience in a certain industry? Degree or not, experience is the more valuable of the two, not to discredit someone who went to college, but it is just as possible to be as qualified with no degree. Classrooms teach “theoretical” scenarios, whereas “REAL LIFE” experience will gain you the more pertinent of the two.

        One other thing, it is very conceited to say you are entitled to a position over someone without a degree for no other fact than you are so self absorbed to think you’re better than someone who doesn’t.

  3. Hi Sam,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one. I even wrote essays for the job I am, designed a position (which they always say if you want a job, design one) so I did design a position, it was accepted and funded by the school district I work for. But since they are a bureaucracy and politically structured to they put my coworker in it and she has less experience and knowledge than I do. I was dumbfounded. Not to mention emotionally betrayed. The girl who got it played the political game by K.A.ing and it was sad because she really does not see the larger picture and it will be a sad road into mediocrity as this department is beginning to fail miserably under her direction whereas it used to be a dynamic showcase program. I have a wide variety of management experiences in various industries, even run my own business. But the sheep just protect themselves.

  4. Nice article. [sorry didn’t finish editing]
    In someways I am a bit similar to you. Years ago I found it just as easy to pickup and learn things [Not as much these days]. While I did complete some college, I soon decided to go ahead and work. One reason was that I exempted so many of my classes and then they said I didn’t earn credit hours for them. I took this as saying we have to keep you here x amount of time just for the heck of it. So even if you know the information you have to $$$ money. It was a nice place to meet people and learn from the teachers with real work experience.

    As adding proof to what you said above. I feel I was able to accomplish my “educational” accomplishments that even those with BA/BS could not. For example I was able to pass both my EIT (Engineer In Training) [Typical a test that Engineer BS student will take] at age 26 and then a year later pass my PE (Professional Engineer) exam. Most graduates are just beginning work at that point. The failure rate for those with BS is usually above 50% with most too scared to try a second time.

    I recall a bit later wanting to work networking and studied and passed up to the written CCIE exam with virtually two weeks of study each (and a little lab setup myself). If I had decided to the final part I would been one of only 20,000+ Cisco qualified engineers in the world. I also passed the various Microsoft and Sun (now oracle) certifications.

    I finally stopped when I walked into a business meeting and I had all the certifications (except degrees) as the 5 lead engineers (specialized in one field) at project table.

    I have gone on to work for 4 successful (2 only partially, 1 failure) start-up companies. Start-ups seem to get the point that a degree doesn’t mean talent. Yet if I go to any of the online job posting sites, guess what, I can’t even apply for the jobs of the people I would be supervising, replacing or training.

    I believe “life time” learning is great and self learning is great too. If degree also reflected this reality then that would be great also. So until degrees actually reflect a persons true ability, then requiring a degree is a form of educational discrimination, discriminating against really smart people who figured out early on you don’t need a college education to succeed.

    1. I agree 110% I left school to study cisco, and become the best network technician I can. Just as an FYI. What I learned from Cisco using their training materials, classes, tests ect covered networking concepts alot better than most of my professors. I feel college is almost a scam that brainwashes people to think this is the only way to do things you must pass all theses classes that you will never use for thousands of dollars.

  5. Brilliant post. I share many of your characteristics: the huge library, the retention, the learning speed, which is essential for a technical writer like myself moving from technology to technology to explain it in writing to a user, and, personally, I’m 1 point from Mensa qualification – but also lacking of a degree even after a total of 7 years in 2 schools (one very elite that I am proud to have attended) because of boredom or different family crises. I also share the unemployment issue. But I do have another problem: I have 29 years of working successfully as a technical writer and now, at 56 years of age, only the new graduates are getting the jobs.

    I reinvented my professional self to find work 4 times before the age of 35 and have reinvented (or “put a new spin on”) my career 3 times since then. It took patience, perseverance, and money each time. Do I have to repeat the process regularly to survive until I’m 75 (there’s no survival money in retirement)?!? When will it end? If this is the economic reality of today and, very likely, tomorrow, I understand the pessimist adage, “Life sucks and then you die.” And it is “modern” American educational and business practices (the “greed model” of the latter invading the mentalities of other countries as well) that are making that adage a reality more and more every day.

    I know it’s always a question of money in these difficult times – even here in France where I moved to 20 years ago. Things are not as bad here for the moment as in the States (relatively speaking, because it’s bad everywhere), but the American model for hiring and business practices is spreading everywhere and there is nothing to be done about it. If you have a degree it means you know “something” about the industry and you won’t be expensive.

    Another adage, “Those that can’t “do”, teach” was put into sharp relief by implication in another comment above. Most professors haven’t worked in the marketplace at all (or, at best, haven’t worked there in the last 5 years). So what kind of value do the diplomas have? For that matter, and at my age, what value would diplomas that would be 30 years old have now? Even the business models are out of date. No one seems to ask that question when they say that people my age would be better off with a degree even if it was from 30 years ago. With that logic, everyone who graduated 10 or more years ago should actually go back to school because their degrees are no longer relevant.

    **sigh** If only the powers that be would take up this issue, but it’s not to their advantage.

    Okay, I’ve vented. You’re post was brilliant. Thank you for it.

  6. I think your article amounts to an argument that is technically accurate, but practically irrelevant for companies above a certain size. Let’s say your company hires 1000 people a year. That’s more than 3 per work day. It is completely impractical to develop and deploy pure competency based hiring procedures across dozens of professions when you’re doing that much hiring. So, when you can’t get perfection, you downshift. Successfully completing a college program with a high GPA is an adequate, if imperfect, proxy for predicting performance on the job… especially for those without a lot of experience.

    1. Fair enough, but the vast majority of companies don’t hire 1,000 people a year. I’d wager that at least 90% of companies hire less than 100 people a year, so my argument is totally relevant for the majority of companies. At the end of the day, it comes down to this: any idiot can get a degree, and most idiots could manage a fair GPA at the right school or under the right circumstance. But it takes real skill to actually excel in an industry, and real experience is more valuable to the bottom line than classroom experience.

  7. I needed to see your post today. I have been in community college off and on for the last 20 years although I got pregnant a year after graduating from high school. I too have a very large home library and love reading on business administration as well as information technology. I have been discriminated against just because I do not have a degree. I would do work well beyond my salary and when I was due for my raise, the you do not have a degree you do not deserve the next grade would come in to play. I studied EEO laws and education discrimination does not exist for employment. Therefore, I leave that position and each and everytime, they have to hire 2 or more employees with higher salaries for each (way more than my little raise would have paid out). It happens so much, I just laugh at it now. I did like you and opened my own business finally and hired myself. One of my professors said to the class back in 2006, “If no one will hire you, hire yourself!” As a result, this is one of my services. I help empower aspiring entreprenuers and help them open their business the correct way on paper as well as help with their business print and online presence. Pay back is awesome!

    Thank you for your blog. I feel so much better than I did 15 minutes ago before I found your blog!

  8. There are millions of intelligent people having excellent skills but no college degree. College equivalency tests for specific knowledge could easily be administered and recognized. Why is it not being done? For one, college is big business like any other industry and erects protectionist barriers to justify and legitimize its existence. Second, over time, society and entrenched power defines rigid methodologies for both success and the potential for success. Unless people conform to these ideologies and play by the defined rules of engagement, they will experience discrimination. There are numerous ways to obtain the equivalent knowledge that college delivers. Digital media including television, could be used to educate the masses at any level for less cost. If technology existed that could directly program the brain with Ph.D level of knowledge and without the need to step into a classroom, continued use of our existing litmus test that defines human potential could relegate those people to inferior jobs. Our society and education model in many ways continues to be a relic of the past, reflecting the top-down nineteen and twentieth century industrial model of management and subordinates. Finally, in my opinion, I believe there is a world order of powerful people that control governments, corporations, the financial system, energy, religion and the education system. It is not desirable to have too many people educated OR be recognized as being educated — too many chiefs. Structure societies and civilization to comprise ‘haves and have-nots’. Keep most barefoot, pregnant and uneducated, otherwise there will be too much competition. Our current model accomplishes this. Somehow, humanity must get to the next level – sooner rather than later.

  9. But, it doesn’t stop there. In fact, there is another level of discrimination even among those who have sought out and achieved degrees: workers are discriminated by the college they attended. Review the bios of most high-level executives and high-ranking government officials. They all went to, you guessed it, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, etc.. If you went to the University of Central Florida and graduated magna cum laude, you will be passed over for a C student who attended Harvard. Let’s face, it simply looks better on the company web site – correct? ;).

  10. Many companies put their trust in HR organisations for their selection and recruitment of personnel. Quit often managers never actually get to see real talent because HR have filtered it out. You end up with clones selected on the basis of misplaced amateur psychology with a knowledge so focussed as to be virtually inapplicable to the real world – but according to HR they are ‘best in class'; which of course is utter rot. Standards of quality and best practice are falling in almost every industry as a direct result.

  11. I have studied and worked with computers since I was 4 years old. I am now almost 40. Computers are my love and passion and it’s all I’ve ever done. Not only do I work with computers at the expert level but it’s also my hobby. I spend almost every minute of my life interacting with computers, church or my family as that is the core of my existence. I have been in DefCon and other DoD sponsored hacking tournaments and am rated in the top 1000 hackers in the world.

    While English is my primary language I also speak Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish all self taught minus a few classes to perfect my accent. I’m an Olympic shooter (10m pistol), I can run a 5 minute mile, I can pick most every type of lock known to man (minus that hard ones like Medico locks), I can program in over 8 programming languages, develop websites, develop applications and write enterprise standards, policies and procedures. I can hack into just about any type computer system in the world including the banks I have had the fine pleasure of being the lead architect in.

    I have published works in the IT Security industry which are used internationally but most companies and all IPOs. I do not have a 4 year degree and refuse to work for any company that requires it even if they allowed the exception for me (e.g. DoHS, FBI, NSA, CIA, BAE, etc.). I am currently making just under $200,000.00 (USD) per year and I can tell you this….. College is not for everyone.

    College is for two people primarily: 1. Best stated by the unabridged version of Mark Twain-Those who do not have the natural talent or gift of intelligence. In other words, college is designed to enlighten those who can not learn on their own or do not poses the natural gift of an intelligent mind. These people need college 2. College is for followers, not leaders. Additionally, all state universities heavily teach the theory of evolution, which as we all know is the theory of death (e.g. Survival of the fittest, We have evolved from primordial soup and then fade to black upon death, No life after death, etc.) So for the lack of a better term, a secular mindset.

    To me, it seems that those organizations that require you to have that piece of paper called a degree are looking for 2 things: 1. Your ability to stick with something for more than a couple of years. Employers make a financial investment into training you and getting you up to speed. They do not want to see that talent and information walk out the door. They want to get their money’s worth out of you for at least 4 years. (Perhaps this is their cover story while the number two reason is the true underlying reason); 2. Employers who ‘Require a degree’ Want you be have been exposed to copious amounts of death theory (evolution) because it better aligns with the CEO’s beliefs, personal practices, principals and principalities. These are of darkness and not light and life. Being ‘dark’ allows you to fornicate more freely, use drugs at leisure/recreation (I’ve been inside over 30 fortune 500 companies. The inner circle of executives all use drugs and drink. If you do not see that you are not in the inner circle.), listen to their kind of music, have similar belief systems of a higher power or the absence of, and so forth. In other words, you do NOT want to be a part of these companies. They will only hurt you, your family, your mind, your financial outlook, your belief system, etc. Start your own company and do it your way. You will make more money, be your own boss, and you can distribute and use your own belief system.

    Furthermore I have found that the executives are highly threatened by naturally intelligent people who may come into the company and eat their lunch. You would ultimately wind up running the place and taking their job. And if you aren’t teaching death through evolution you are bringing the theory of light and life into the office which advises people to not use drugs, to not be slaves to the system, to be honest, work hard, not to cut corners, be clean and not cheat on your spouse, etc.

    So you should pick. You pick what you think the reason is exactly. I can’t pick for you. To me, I come from a spiritual mindset with a sixth sense about what people are feeling as I’m very empathetic of those around me. I sense when managers, directors and VPs are feeling threatened that I am outgunning them with brains. This is the same sense I pick up when I speak flirtatiously to a girl I just met and her boyfriend or husband may be near by listening in. I know I’m not going home with her but she’s cute and I like to smile and flirt a little. It makes me feel attractive and good inside. So when I flirt she smiles and or laughs and enjoys a brief moment. But then the boyfriend or husband will move in and posture because he has had enough. The body language changes and becomes more aggressive. So I usually back it up and slow my roll. I let things cool down as I’m not there to make him feel bad or get his feathers ruffled. Most of the time I feel the other guy is threatened because I’m making her feel good in a way he can not…..by just being myself and laughing/talking with her. Managers, Directors and VPs get this way as well but in a different arena.

    However, I believe this world is largely out of control and headed into the abyss. And knowing that that misery loves company I can count on companies still requiring a degree despite the fact that everything you can learn in college you can learn on the internet faster and for free. Those miserable, angry bosses need people around to hurt and put down so they can feel better about themselves which is terrible to me.

    Bottomline, work for a company that does not require a degree. Rather work for those that indicate ‘or equivalent experience’ or a company who’s principals align with your own. For me, I’m not in bondage to a company or debt. I have 2 homes and 3 cars all paid off. I have a CC for emergency money but when my personal account outgrows the CC limit I will cancel the CC as there will be no need to have it. I do not believe in being in debt as I am not a slave. I do not work for a company which insist on a secular or religion of death mindset and I advise all friends to NOT work for these companies as well until these companies change their policies. Stay alive friends, teach love, teach life, work hard, education is important and critical and do as much of it as possible, stay positive, stay spiritual, stay healthy, exercise, eat right, treat your body right, treat your family right and treat your neighbors right. Maintain a relationship with that ‘higher power’, love your families and work hard for them. Invest all you got into your family, friends and children. That is one investment you’ll never regret.

  12. Well, if you started a company and need an extremely intelligent guy to help you, then I’m your guy.
    I just didn’t get a job because I was too smart.
    The company needed a guy to write an ISO9001 program to get them qualified so they could deliver their product to another ISO9001 company.
    There are over 5 million square feet of production area.
    Having got other companies qualified in the past, I know EVERYTHING required to perform this task.
    I didn’t get the job because “I know everything.”
    That was the official reason.
    Sounds insane? It did to me.
    The real reason is, the Facilities Maintenance Manager isn’t computer literate, doesn’t know how to do this and I would be a threat to him in the company. I could, basically, walk in from the street and do his job better than he does making me a threat.
    It’s called intelligence discrimination.
    Having an IQ of 168, it happens to me ALL the time.
    Knowing EVERYTHING is BAD.
    So, if you need a guy that knows everything, look me up.

  13. I appreciate you expressing your point of view. I am in senior management for an internet wholesale company. I have a bachelors in fine art. This obviously has nothing to do with my current position and I can attest to the fact that I have learned more in the work force than I did attending school.
    Recently I was having an informal discussion with the CFO of our company regarding two of our departments average salaries. I questioned why Customer Service salaries were so much lower than our merchandise departments. Our merchandise department is currently and has always been one of our most disappointing departments. If it were up to me, I would get ride of them all and start over and I do not think I am alone in that thought. His response was that our CS department is “uneducated” and at the bottom of the totem poll, but our merchandising department has degrees. He proceeded to tell me that it is like that everywhere and that is just how it is. I know for a fact that not all companies are degree snobs, but I let him finish. I asked him if he had to make a choice about which staff members to retain and which to let go, who would he choose? His answer was what I knew it would be, Customer Service would stay. He stated they were more motivated, willing to help and more adaptable to changing work loads. Oh and that they had more knowledge on how to get the job done. I told him I agree and therefore believe that we should pursue elevating those employees first. He on the other hand still had the audacity to state that it came down to degrees setting the precedent for their salaries, not ability to the job. I am sorry but what the hell was that load of crap, I was speechless. I have never heard such ridiculous reasoning in my life. All from a man who at one point I respected and thought of as an intelligent individual (no not based on the fact that he has a degree).
    It’s sad how we, corporate America, think formal education is the only prerequisite for hiring. I for one do not hire based off education only and it has worked out for me very well. Why are we so ignorant to the fact that a college education isn’t always all its made out to be and on job training really can make a difference.

  14. Oh, Oh…. Ted Talks… The Thirteen yr old ‘kid’ who found a way to test for different types of cancers for almost nothing. No degree. Just determination. He did have help where only one University ‘decided’ to help him research.

    What a joke for a place for higher learning to turn down a ‘kid’ just because he was a kid. Very sad.

  15. I know I have said a lot to day But I want to share one more thing. When I first started at a Major Company back in 1988 I had already had 3 years system administration experience with UNIX computers including backup, loading software and even built my first database using Informix. When hired by the bigger company the manager asked me if I would consider being an admin for them, becuase they were getting UNIX machines – they didn’t make me an admin. But they move one of the engineers from his postion to that position. I had to help him more than once to get the machines running and the guy that did the initial install made mention of it as well becuause I helped him with an issue with UNIX at the job. – Most of all I wanted to comment on how my Third manager specifically held me back and was open about why he didn’t promote me. It was because the other two hired after me had degrees (AS degrees) and they “deserved it”. Not only that when we started using a new CAD software he wouldn’t allow me to use it. So I asked if I could come in before and after work to learn it. And I did, and I became very proficient in the software quickly. So I didn’t let him hold me back. But it was direct discrimination. I should have been rewarded on my peformance. And if I had been giving the opportunity to learn the new software when the others had received the chance I would have been even more proficient. Shame on him. After about 12 years and I was the Manager of our CAD deparment he said “I knew you could do it.”.
    This man. Gave up his daughter to persue college. I, on the otherhand, was working for the four years he partied and mess around and passed his tests.
    It was very frustrating being under his employ.

  16. I looked up this article because I am SO tired of this debate. I’m a senior recruiter w/over 15 years experience and often make more than Ivy League grads…..with a GED. No excuses, just life. I fully intend on finishing my education. I served my country first, then supported my husband’s 20 year military career, while raising a family and working full-time. Unless you’re my doctor, dentist, lawyer or architect, I don’t ask to see your transcripts.
    That said, when a hiring manager adds “College Degree Required” to the job description, I’m asking why. To my fellow recruiters, I encourage you do the same….often their response is “I just thought it was”. Be a partner, identify the best candidate for the job. Then remind your manager that tuition reimbursement is a great company perk!

  17. “As a business owner, I can tell you without hesitation that I would rather hire someone with no degree and 2 years of relevant experience than someone with a degree and no relevant experience. Now granted, having both would be nice, but a degree is not a reflection of knowledge or ability, whereas experience and success in a given field is a direct reflection of both.”

    Where does the experience come in first place before you or anybody hire him?

  18. I totally believe Experience counts, however degree is always the base !!. Nowadays, recruiters have the luxury to search for both (i.e. Degree+Experience) in candidates specially for highly specialized jobs and they can find a lot !!

  19. As Ezra Pound, a deep thinking poet and philosopher had once proclaimed, a person cannot fully understand what they are reading, especially a deep book, until he has at least lived a portion of its contents. In other words, experience is the base not the degree (what was read in books).

    Recruiters and HR persons have elevated the degree requirement as they had seen other companies doing such, so that just followed suit, just as sheep tend to do.

    “I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.” – Ray Bradbury.

  20. I guess the problem is that there’s no way to attest that you have in fact read thousands of books in the public library, or what you have learned from them. That, to me, is the point of having a degree – it allows companies to leverage the standardized testing that has been performed by accredited institutions in which they trust. You could be the smartest guy in the world, but references can only take you so far – I mean, at the end of the day, you are still asking the hiring manager to trust the opinion of someone they do not know.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying a degree is a necessary requirements for success, but I hope you can understand how it helps a hiring manager make a decision. One comment further up that I fully agree with – it shows your ability to stick with something and complete it. I think it also acts as a testament to your ability to learn. Again, you could be the smartest guy in the room, but if your answer is ‘well I attended a few classes, but I didn’t complete the degree’ it almost doesn’t matter what you say next when there is a similar person beside you who had completed the program. You may say well college is not hard work, and is easy, but I would counter and say that if you have not completed or even attempted the work, you are probably not in a position to accurately judge this. Some reasons are more acceptable than others for not completing a degree (and some are very acceptable!), but it is probably very difficult to come across as a down-to-earth, reasonable person if your answer to ‘why did you not complete your degree?’ is ‘Well, it was too easy for me.’ If that is your answer, I hope you have a long list of accomplishments in your experience to back that statement up, otherwise it will come across as rather arrogant.

    Don’t get me wrong – in the above paragraph, I am talking only about people who started and then decided to stop pursuing their degree. I generally agree with the overall stint of the article – that college degrees are not necessary to succeed, and that a bias exists in the hiring market. But there are many other factors at play. It can be very hard to tell when you are getting a straight answer in terms of why you weren’t selected for the position, and it may not come down to education. It can be a scapegoat at times. If you were granted an interview, clearly they did not think it was the end of the world that you did not have a college degree. It could very well have been something else, that people are less comfortable talking about, that barred you from getting the role, like your interview skills. Just a thought.

    I have worked in recruitment, and my heart goes out to those who are having difficulty obtaining meaningful work in their field where they have a wealth of experience. And the same, my heart goes out to those who have worked hard to complete a degree, but who are having difficulty getting into their field due to lack of experience.

    I just had to comment because it seems like the opposite bias is very present in the comments – that a degree is next to useless compared to experience. Again, understandable, given the stint of the article, and the readers it would attract! I think it’s very important to recognize the value that people are able to offer, based on them. I get the frustration of feeling like your manager is inferior and only has the position due to his increased education. I would posit that anyone who has worked for 20+ years, or spent more than a year or two in a situation like this, has had the opportunity to pursue a degree, on a part time basis, without incurring hundreds of thousands in debt, and has chosen not to. Hey, life is full of choices, sometimes beyond our control, but you can’t honestly tell me in a career of 25+ years that you never had the chance to complete a program relevant to your field. Hell, anyone working at a major company probably would have had it paid for if they had showed interest! Sometimes it just comes down to choice, and some people are rewarded for their choices, and others aren’t.

    I’ll tell you right now that if you have a skill-set that is highly in demand, like web development, people will be more willing to try you out with a lack of formal education. If you have a skillset that is abundant in the hiring market, you will be subject to the ‘education inflation’ that is currently underway in our society. It also helps that if you’re a web developer, you should have numerous examples of things you have worked on and done well, because you are producing something tangible. If you are a mid-level accountant, proving the quality of your work will be undoubtedly more difficult. All you’ll really have is your references, and not all employers ask to speak with your most recent supervisors when screening candidates, so you can bet that all the other candidates will have great references too. It’s a tricky one, no doubt.

    Aside from the value in the education, a lot of getting a degree comes down to your ability to sell yourself in the hiring market and obtain a position where you will be gainfully employed and able to continue to build upon your skills and experience. That is why 99% of people get degrees, and what is driving the education inflation we are seeing. Based on what I have seen, experience is still valued very strongly in the marketplace, but the majority of employers would like to see a blend of education and experience, not just one or the other. Fact is, college grads are competing for entry level positions, because any intermediate or senior level role typically asks for 2+ or 3-5 years relevant experience respectively. If you are competing against recent grads for a position, and you are the more experienced type, try playing up the level of responsibility you have held in past roles (they won’t have this), and your proven work ethic. Also emphasize any on the job learning you’ve done – at entry or intermediate level roles, companies are still strongly looking for people who are trainable and capable of learning quickly. If you are in the mix for more senior level positions, where you know you will be competing against people who have a mix of experience and education, it changes the scenario somewhat – these people will likely be able to argue the value of their experience the same as you. You will need to really bring your ‘A’ game here, and if/when you encounter resistance from the interviewer regarding the lack of formal education, try to steer the conversation back towards the value you have consistently delivered, and where you have gone above and beyond, over-performed, etc. It can be difficult to find a way to subtly remind the interviewer that they chose to bring you in knowing you did not have the schooling, but it can be done.

    I hope my post did not offend anyone, and that some constructive tips were found within!

    But seriously, if are in a position that you are unhappy because you feel like you are being managed by an inferior, petty person, it’s probably time to kick the job search off, contact a local recruiter in your field of expertise, or work to see what can be done about switching teams, or find out what needs to happen in order for you to be promoted to the next level. Most companies will work with their respected talent to develop and enable them to succeed. If you are as good as you say you are, they should be willing to help enable you to continue in your career progression in a meaningful way. If they are not, I would again suggest to start seeking out a company that recognizes the value of its people more. This can be a tricky search, but they are out there!

    At the end of the day, I believe there is considerable value in pursuing a formal education. Not to the exclusion or at the expense of experience, but they complement each other nicely. Personal note – I have an undergraduate degree in Religion and Culture. I love to read etc, and had a strong interest in it before taking my degree (thus, why I took the program). I could have probably learned an equivalent amount through self-directed reading and studying, but there is value in having been able to leverage the decades of knowledge that my professors had, and ask them questions and learn from them. Also, they brought hundreds of books and articles into my possession that I would not have otherwise had through the coursework and study. I could have eventually came to own them all through my own collection efforts, but getting a jump-start of good reads from informed people certainly did not hurt! I guess it all just depends on how you look at it.

    As for entitlement – I am not down with the belief that you are owed something because you completed a degree that a TON of other people also have. That being said, I do not believe that most fresh grads are expecting salaries of 50-60k (having worked in recruitment, my experience is that most will ask ‘ what do you reasonably think I’ll be able to get as a starting salary’ – they are open to guidance). What they believe they are entitled to is a chance, and if they worked hard in their undergrad, they would deserve it, just as you would if you didn’t go to school but instead worked for those 4 years and worked hard. I would say most recognize the value of work experience over the education. I completed a program in 4 years, you’ve worked here for 20. I may be able to show you a new trick or two, but no one is under any illusions that I won’t be learning more from you than you will from me. Using my education, I may understand something in a different light than you after you’ve taught it to me, but still, I needed to leverage your experience in the workplace to learn it.

    Everybody deserves a chance based on the merit of their work, be it directly in the workforce or through attaining an education. Nobody likes dealing with entitled people, whether it’s ‘I deserve a job because I completed a degree’ or ‘I deserve a job because I’ve worked hard for 20 years’. In both cases, you are dealing with entitlement. The answer should always be ‘I deserve THIS job because I have the right skills, I respect your company, and I will bust my ass to deliver the best work possible.’ That to me is a winning combination. Notice – degrees and experience don’t come directly into it, they would be more attributions of where you developed your skills. And yes, ability to learn new things (as demonstrated by schooling, or taking on new tasks at work, etc) is quite a valuable skill.

    1. Jamie, the majority of examples you present to substantiate the value of a degree have already been provided by other commenters, and others have commented to successfully challenge those points.

      Memorizing information in a book and being able to regurgitate that information to the questions on a “standardized” test is in my opinion no measure of how well a person will have the skills and knowledge for the field which they are seeking employment. I can recount numerous times I have heard managers, human resources and recruiters comment in bewilderment how the person they hired, which they thought was a perfect fit for the job due to their BA or BS degree, was not able to perform the tasks of the job well.

      Are you saying that a person who has worked in for a company for 10 or more years and has documented progressive success in their position (e.g. yearly increased sales revenue, yearly cost reductions, success in several project management roles, etc), this person has not demonstrated they can “stick with something and complete it” ?

      Honestly, If I was hiring for a position, I would seek the person who as proven themselves successful in the real world and has demonstrated their passion for their chosen career by utilizing all avenues to learn more and stay current with the information of their chosen career. A person, such as myself, who continually reads books, attends classes, webinars, lectures and seminars to continue and advance their knowledge in their chosen career, is a person I would have admiration for. I certainly would have high admiration for a person who obtained just as much, if not more knowledge of their chosen career without incurring the huge cost of a college degree. This would demonstrate a high degree of passion for that career path, plus the person was able to think outside of the box to obtain that knowledge and save money. Having intellect, not just intelligence, is something a company should seek in an employee. I believe it was Mark Twain who commented that college or university teaches one what to think, but not how to think.

      We could go on to discuss the merits or lack of merits in regards to obtaining a degree, however that would be moot as that is not the topic of Sam’s article. The topic is degree discrimination, meaning many companies, when receiving a resume for a position, will toss that resume into the circular file if they do not see a degree listed on the persons resume, even if that person has shown many years of progressive experience in the position they are submitting their resume for. In my opinion, companies doing so are overlooking some great talent.

      Todays college students should be furiously voicing the opposition to the high cost of college. Do you know that the cost of a college education (training) has increased by over 120% since the 1980’s ? No other industry has shown that large and quick price increase and the college degree has not increased its value (e.g. more people now have a degree), nor does the price increase reflect economies of scale (e.g. the larger number of people attending college should reduce the cost in the same manner larger scale production reduces production costs).

  21. Fantastic text! I am sorry for the moment I don’t have enough time to read other replies except fews, but intent to do It later. What I wanna say, here in Croatia we have more or less free Educational system. You enroll on desired University (after you pass some exams ofcourse), and when you get out you don’t have to worry about thousands of dollar debts or bank loans. Of course, nothing is free really, but we finance our Educational System (and Health Care too by the way) through taxes and country Budget. I will not speak about quality of our educational system, It depends from one school to another, but let’s say they are not ranked high on any list. In fact they are less then average. The best one is University of Electrotehnical and Computing (FER – lets say this is our Univerity of USA’s more popular MIT), it’s considered the hardest one to get diploma. And here comes a problem. Many companies would rather employe somebody who get diploma from FER even they really don’t need such qualifications for the placement for which they seek new employee. So, you learned about programming, termonuclear reactions, fusions, have dealt with highest mathematical problems and end up working as a Seller for Google ads through our T-Com Telecommunication company with low salary. OK, a lot of stuff they learn on University are more to make their mind to think more creativity and to solve problems, not just learning boring theory (what is the case on other Universities). But It’s fact that type of job can be done by anybody who had decent grades from Elementary School. I know, you can think, It’s their own fault, they should value theirselves more and start their own job. But some people just cant, or they don’t have managament capacity, ideas, start up money (ok, yeah some goes to Kickstarer or else), but vast majority of them got education for jobs they will not work. I see it as a waste of money, time and maybe even part of life. It’s not they don’t like It to study that particular area, they are just demotivated with current job opportunities by large companies and salary packeges.

  22. Time will change but who gonna control the time.!!!!! Degree is good but not must to prove our life and knowledge. The funny part is Bill gates company not selects non-degree folks. Education is nothing but money in india. Very sad to say this.

  23. My situation: I have worked for the same local government agency for 20+ years. I am 1 of 2 top admins in the city. In the past 3 years my responsibilities have literally doubled. I answer to several bosses and the CEO of a non-profit corporation that was started with the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. The non-profit is a stand-alone corporation in which I do all of the administration; coordinate property purchases, accounting, insurance, budget preparation and monitoring, staff reports for board and council meetings, etc. I took this on and still have all my other responsibilities. I have been in the workforce since I was 16 and have worked full-time ever since. My two “supportive” bosses acknowledge that I do analyst work and should be at that level. The thing is I don’t have a degree from Podunk University. This would make about a $35,000 a year increase for me. At the beginning of the fiscal year they are going to recruit for an Admin Analyst in the department that I work in (City Manager’s Office). Ever heard the term “try fighting City Hall”. It really puts a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m planning on applying and am already working on a justification letter. I currently do 99% of the items listed in the job description for the AA. The sad part is, I know it won’t fly.

  24. This is SO true. I have been in the banking industry for 20 years, from teller to mortgage/loan officer. I have retained training from the very 1st day of being a teller, can still tell you what screen to do for a deposit with cash back. Even after all my knowledge, because I like to read and NOT sit in class rooms, I still get asked about a degree when I apply to different jobs or positions within the company. I went to a conference for my manager, exchanged SO many business cards, I ran out. Later in the week, I was asked where I went to school, so I stated I do not have a degree, I took a course here and there as well as read a lot. The looks I received was astounding. You would have thought I was asking for their 1st born. I told her about it and she was like, ‘I knew you could hold your on.’ On the other side, my husband went to college, computer programming, was offered 3 jobs, 2 within his field of study and the other totally unrelated, delivery business opportunity. Which one had the best income? Unrelated and grew the business to 23 employees. Knowledge defines a person, not a degree. So, I’m just trying to re-open my desktop business and if someone comes along that acknowledges my talent, good, if not, see you at the top :). Thanks for the article!

  25. Dr. Benjamin Franklin – 3rd grade education
    Abraham Lincoln – 1 year of formal education
    Thomas Edison – 3 month formal education
    Henry Ford – 6th grade education
    J.D. Rockefeller – High School Dropout
    Albert Einstein – High School Dropout
    Steve Jobs College Dropout
    Bill Gates – College Dropout
    Mark Zuckerberg – College Dropout

    Common Denominators: A thirst for knowledge, personal motivation, tenacity, and strong work ethics.

    (I wonder how closely these men looked at whether or not someone had a college degree before they would consider hiring them.)

  26. I have experienced the same thing. I have been with the company I am still employeed with for almost 15 years now. I started in their Customer Service Department and worked my way to sales. On several occasions, there has been an opening for the Sales Manager over my division, and even though I have bascially been doing that job for the past 10 years, I was told that because I didn’t have a degree, I couldn’t take that position. The last time the position was available about a year ago, I was told the same thing at that time when I asked about it, however, they brought a man in from another department within the company, to take over the management position and he doesn’t have a degree, nor does he fully understand what we are still doing in this department after a year in that position, everything is still ran by me first. I work for a multi-billion dollar company and seem to be the only sales person still growing in sales but making less than others with degrees that work in our sales departments. It is soooo frustrating to me. I just have to accept it and deal with it because most other places only hire with degrees.

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