Main image of article Most Tech Professionals Don’t Think Advanced Degrees Matter: Study

Some 31 percent of tech professionals say they could do their current job without their degree, according to new findings from Hired.

Respondents were asked if the master’s or doctorate they hold has helped them in their career; 25 percent say their degree is critical, and they couldn’t have done their job without it.

On top of that, 23 percent of respondents say their degree has helped them achieve a higher salary, while 21 percent are unsure if their advanced degree has helped them in any way.

Parsing that data, it's clear that only 25 percent of tech professionals queried by Hired see their advanced degree as directly impactful on the work they do day-to-day. Unfortunately, we don’t know what these respondents do for a living. Are they in jobs that didn't ask for advanced degrees? Or did the jobs require degrees that the respondents thought were ultimately unnecessary?

And of course, the 31 percent who say their schooling was basically a waste of time is also an eye-opening statistic.

Skills Over Degrees

This new data is indicative of a trend in tech: Employers are starting to look past degrees, instead focusing on skills. Stack Overflow data shows half of developers and engineers report being “self-taught,” and only 45.3 percent hold a bachelor’s degree (some 22.7 percent said they hold a master’s degree).

We can blame schools for some of this trend. A separate study from HackerRank shows only 32 percent of students rely on school alone for their tech education. Many supplement schooling with self-education; quite a few respondents say they’re only self-taught.

Simply put, many schools aren’t teaching the languages and frameworks employers need. Regarding HackerRank’s findings, we wrote: “The study finds employers need JavaScript, C#, Ruby, Go, Swift, and Scala developers, but there aren’t enough knowledgeable students to cover these positions. On the flip side, students are learning languages such as C, C++, Python, and Java, even though companies just don’t need those skills as much.”

Skills are proving critical at a time when education is falling short for many tech professionals (and students). A survey from January 2019 shows tech professionals want to learn new skills more than anything else, ranking it above promotions, raises, or quitting a job. (Golang, Kafka, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Redshift, and Cassandra all topped our list of top paying tech skills for this year, just in case you were wondering.)

Apple is among the major tech companies looking beyond degrees when hiring skilled talent, and it’s not alone. Glassdoor finds Google and IBM have also stopped requiring degrees for all workers. As former Google PR chief Laszlo Block said: “GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. … We found that they don’t predict anything.”

Skills will always matter; performance relies on it. But if employers and tech professionals are starting to doubt the validity of degrees for tech jobs (even advanced degrees), we should all question whether such credentials are truly critical in 2019.