Skills vs. Degrees: Forbes Technology Council Discusses Value of Each

Do you need a traditional education to succeed in today’s world? Forbes asked the members of its Technology Council, and the consensus was that formal education, while valuable, is less important than ability. Employers value modern skills, bleeding-edge tech, and the ability to get the job done. Formal education can help with some of those and may be important for specific roles, but it is far from a prerequisite for the vast majority of career paths.

“On the cutting edge of technology, formal education means very little, says Nicholas Thompson, Founder of Grit. “New technology changes so fast that institutions of higher learning, even the best ones, just can’t keep up. By the time they develop a course, a newer technology has taken its place. What matters is the ability to retrain yourself frequently based on the needs of the current project.”

This is especially true for software engineering, where today’s hot framework can be an afterthought in under a year. That’s why, while our course focuses on today’s most important tools, the most important part of the Hack Reactor education is “learning how to learn.”

There is a trend away from degrees as a prerequisite for many technical jobs. This has happened as more people from alternate backgrounds prove they’re up to the task.

“Early in my career, I was very strong on developers having a CS degree,” notes ALICE‘s CTO Dmitry Koltunov. “I have since met a number of great engineers that did not do a formal degree.”

Marcin Kleczynski, CEO at Malwarebytes, has also seen first-hand that education is not always correlated with real-world success:

“One of my co-founders was working on his Ph.D. in physics while another never went to college. Both were equally important to the founding of the company. Many of my technical hires without a formal education ended up being the rockstars of the organization.”

None of these perspectives are especially surprising to us. Our students come from a variety of educational backgrounds from dropouts to PhD’s, and we have found that all of them can be successful with the right training and lots of hard work. Or, as Chalmers Brown, Cofounder and CTO of Due puts it:

“The only thing that matters to me is if you can get the job done or not. I could not care less how you got to where you are today, as long as you are great at what you do and can provide value to a team and push the company forward.”


Get a modern education focused on the latest developer tools and the ability to deliver on a project: apply to Hack Reactor.

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