Knowledge and skills without a degree

Today, many technology companies are hiring workers with special skills that they need even without the degree. Last night, I had dinner with Stuart Wittmann, a manager from IBM so I asked him about it. He confirmed that a four-year degree is no longer a requirement for some positions.

He said: “When looking to fill some positions, we determine if a degree is absolutely necessary based on the skills needed to be successful in that job. If we based our hiring only on a degree requirement, we may be missing out some top people who have what we need. We know that not everybody can afford to go to college and today there are many learning alternatives, a candidate has the specific MOOCs certifications may be better than a graduate with a college degree. For example, we often hire cybersecurity people with CPSA and CCNA certifications than graduates with a Computer science degree who only take one or two courses in computing security.”

Image: Internet

I asked: “How do you make a decision?” He answered: “It is important to assess the skills and experience needed for the job first then we spend more time to probe into their life experience. We want to know who they are and why they did not go to college. You will be surprised about some of their experience as most of them are more mature than the typical graduates with a resume full of courses they took in school. Today there are many skills that are difficult to find, especially there is a shortage of people in Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Cryptography, Cybersecurity, Cryptocurrencies etc. If we wait for the university to train students, it takes at least four more years, but MOOCs can train thousands of them in several months. We need to fill our needs as competition is fierce.

I asked: “What advice would you give to people who want to work for your company even without a degree? He said: “They need to take advantage of this skills shortage and learn about the high demand skills. They should be able to explain the reason why they did not to go to college and how their life experience is more valuable than what they can learn from a traditional school. They should explain their career plan and what they want to do with their skills so we can have a constructive dialogue about their goals and career path. We want to hire somebody who plans their career, not someone who needs a job. Any work experience or life experience can balance out the lack of college experience. People without a college degree should focus their resume on their strengths, their experience, and their skills and where do they get their skills from.”

I asked: “Since MOOCs train people all over the world, what happen when the applicants are not from the U.S.” Stuart explained: “We have many locations around the world and some works can be done there. For example, today we have more workers in India than the U.S. and we continue to hire workers that have the skills that we need no matter where they live.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University