“A PhD is definitely not required. All that matters is a deep understanding of AI & ability to implement NNs in a way that is actually useful. Don’t care if you even graduated high school.”
Tweeted Elon Musk on February 2nd 2020. It turns out, Tesla is recruiting potential employees and you are welcome to apply, even if there are no papers to verify your expertise.
Musk’s approach seems a bit unorthodox in a world where the vicious circle of education and employment has trapped thousands of youngsters in student loans. The circle is fairly simple - big firms filter employees by their academic degrees from prestigious graduate programs; students, in turn, take loans to obtain those degrees and secure the job that will help them pay back the loans. The average student loan borrower graduates from college with a debt of $28,650 dollars.
Does it really take years of college and thousands of dollars to be a professional in your field? Not always. According to the research conducted by Georgetown University, in 2020, 65% of the job openings will require associate's or higher degrees and 36% of the job openings will not require education beyond high school. Administrative assistant, personal assistant, customer service provider, project management - none of these jobs require college education but employers are increasingly guilty of requiring lofty higher education degrees.
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The trick here is, employers are shaping all of the job openings on the market and if they insist on a college educated person to brew coffee, then what choice is there? Well, there is not too much choice, says Mark, (name is changed) a 23 year-old college dropout who has struggled to find a job without a degree.
“As a job seeker without a degree myself, I’ve been to at least 30 or more job interviews”, says Mark but he admits he rarely got a call back, if at all.
He has sent out approximately 60 resumes to sixty different employers in a span of 6 months. A promising youngster, 23 years old, with 5 years of experience in the related field, 2 glowing recommendation letters, 2 trainings attended and 1 training held by yours truly.
“The first 30 resumes I sent out, honestly stated that I had dropped out of college because of my two jobs”, Mark recalls, “ I got a single call back for an interview. I was disappointed to say the least, I wasn’t getting the opportunity of presenting myself my skills and my motivation, So I tweaked my resume, saying I had graduated from college.”
The calls came in pouring after that. From 30 employers Mark had contacted, 29 reached out. It means he had 29 job interviews coming up.
“And here’s the kicker, the minute I mentioned in the job interview that I had dropped out and was without a degree, expressions in the room quickly changed, the HR department was scrambling for papers, one even openly said: And we still scheduled the interview?”
Mark describes the experience as tough. He was judged on one single factor, in a field where a degree is basically an accolade, not a mandatory quality.
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Following Mark’s interview, we spoke to an HR specialist and asked them to explain the necessity of a degree in the hiring process.
“The necessity of a college degree comes up before we announce a job opening. There are some professions that undoubtedly require a college degree, but some, arguably, do not. We always make the decision keeping the company’s interest the highest priority, so if both college graduates and those without a degree apply for the same job, we are going to call back the ones with a higher education, and if we can’t find our fit in that pool, we will then consider those who have lesser educational background.”
For employers, experience and education is a great mix, but when it comes down to hiring either someone with a degree, or someone with experience, they see less risk in hiring someone without experience, because checking the validity of a degree is easier than doing a background check on the applicants previous work experiences.
And yet, tech giants like Musk’s Tesla, Apple or Google are indicating changes on the market. What they look for is experience, teamwork and communication skills, rather than academic degrees. Their interviewers are willing to look into each applicant’s journey, rather than papers they sent per e-mail. With this in mind. more young people ask themselves whether they need 4 years of collage and thousands in debts to be successful?
*Illustration: Akshita Monga