College Degree 'Requirements' Were Never as Real as You Thought

The truth is this: outside of government-backed cartels like law, academia, and medicine, no company has ever actually required a degree.

"You see, but you do not observe." – Sherlock Holmes

Google, IBM, and Apple have stopped listing college degree requirements on their job descriptions, but everyone is missing the point when they say that this is some revolutionary, bold new direction in hiring. It’s not.

You Never Actually Needed It at All

Companies have never had degree requirements, and you just didn’t know it. [1] The great lie you’ve been told is that you need to buy a piece of paper to have permission to create value in the marketplace. You were told this because a lot of people have a lot at stake if you ever realized the truth.

Companies just want to know you can create more value than you take out in salary.

And the truth is this: outside of government-backed cartels like law, academia, and medicine, no company has ever literally required a degree. The degree is just a signaling mechanism, and if you can signal the traits it’s supposed to signal without it, you can sidestep any checkbox.

Companies just want to know you can create more value than you take out in salary and don’t give a darn what paper you have so long as you can prove it some other way. And in today’s world where college graduates frequently can’t read and students spend 4-6 years in a debt- and alcohol-fueled vacation from the real world, it’s embarrassingly easy to prove that.

As my friend Isaac Morehouse said in his 2016 speech at the Voice and Exit conference,

Compare “I graduated from college” to what you can now signal on your own. I can find out more Googling you in two minutes today than I could have found in two months with a private investigator in the past. Your degree is worth less than your Github profile, your LinkedIn profile, your personal website, your Quora answers, the projects you’ve created and the people you’ve worked with.

Companies have always known this—they could not succeed if they hired by paper instead of product—and Apple, IBM, and Google (and many more) are just acknowledging explicitly what they’ve done implicitly for years.

You Don't Need Permission to be Amazing

Those of us who realized this at an early age experienced a massively unfair advantage in our career, because we got to start at 16, 17, 18, and 19 instead of 24, 25, and 26. While my friends were in school waiting for permission, I traveled, worked with all sorts of companies, spoke at universities around the world, took a startup from nothing to over a million in revenue, and started my own company.

Nobody ever seemed to care at all whether I had permission from a government-subsidized college.

I did all the things you’re told you need a degree for and nobody ever seemed to care at all whether I had permission from a government-subsidized college. Imagine that.

It is a shame though that so many people racked up 1.6 trillion dollars in total US student debt to check off an imaginary box. They are paying the price of the passive, permission-based approach to life, but the people who fed them the tired nonsense that they needed college will pay soon too when the whole myth collapses inwards and they find themselves without customers.

Apple, IBM, and Google are just the beginning.

[1] Of course it feels good to be vindicated. I already was, but now I when someone says, “Do you really think you don’t need a degree?” I can just say, “Look around.”

Reprinted from the author's blog.

Further Reading

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