Would Your Company Hire Someone Without a College Degree?

Ah, college. That wonderful place where millions of kids flock annually — and then head home 15 pounds heavier, under-slept, and vaguely hungover.

But, standard practice implies, better for it. Smarter. More qualified. The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicts that about 1.7 million students will graduate college this spring.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel disagrees. He’s spoken at length about changing the dynamic of learning professional skills — basically, he thinks college debt hurts more than college education can possibly help. He paid four college students $100,000 to drop out of school and start businesses.

It’s an interesting argument, one either backed up or squashed by the fact that he has a Bachelor’s and J.D. from Stanford. In the last two and a half decades, college costs have increased 3x faster than the average household income. College enrollments are at an all-time high – and it’s not just a gradual uptick.

Would your organization do it?

But there’s at least one huge barrier. Would your company really hire someone who doesn’t have a college degree?

How about if they did it consistently, and in sufficient numbers to make college truly optional? Now, Peter Thiel isn’t investing $100,000 in kids because he wants them to be employees. He’s trying to build an alternative to college for young entrepreneurs. Heck, it worked for Mark Zuckerberg.

But realistically speaking, it’s going to be hard to replace college applications with investor pitches. So what happens to everyone who invests their effort into joining companies? Will they find success?

I’m not so sure. My college experience was marked by bloated credit requirements and unimaginably irrelevant topics.

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Yeah, I learned more about business from my internships than from class. And I am in lots of debt because of it. Check, check, check.

But I don’t see college becoming optional anytime soon. What do you think? Is the purportedly safe path worth the roughly $24,000 in debt the average college student leaves with — or is it BS?

Will the cost of college start to drive people away from attending — and will employers welcome them to the same white-collar jobs?

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.


4 Comments on “Would Your Company Hire Someone Without a College Degree?

  1. Degree requirements are not about finding the best qualified candidates. You alluded to that when you said, “But realistically speaking, it’s going to be hard to replace college applications with investor pitches.” Bingo! Putting a college degree requirement is frequently a lazy, cover-your-butt shortcut for the person creating the job description. My own career is a perfect example. My first job (many years ago) required a B.S.E.E. but I spent 100% of my time programming computers. The only computer programming class I had ever taken was Fortran, which was not at all applicable. I would have been much better prepared by spending a year or two studying math, physics, chemistry, design and some liberal arts classes.

    Incidentally, that sounds harsher than I mean it to be. I don’t blame the people writing the job descriptions: I’d do the same. It’s kind of like the old adage, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” It’s the company’s responsibility to rewrite the rules and establish a different hiring culture that thinks outside the box a little.We’re doing kids a disservice by telling them that they need to begin their lives with all of this debt and businesses are doing themselves a disservice by not rolling up their sleeves and picking the right job candidate instead of the right school.

  2. I have to agree, Jon. Some students just are not ready to take on the debt, but do so because of every reason except the motivation for the work itself. I was a college dropout, back in school for management and am going to finish with a 4.0. We do have to realize that people don’t fit into boxes that are arbitrarily created. You may have someone you are willing to “bet” on, and you have someone you are sure needs the discipline of college. I would rather have a dedicated worker by mission than a “C” student out of college who only wanted to do enough to barely pass.

  3. Let’s face it folks.   Our entire education system needs an overhaul.   Universities have professors on the tenure track that are far more interested in research and journal writing than teaching.   Awards pump up university rankngs.   “Pro” football teams have $ spent on them almost as lavishly as pro players.   And most importantly curriculum is hopelessly out-of-date.  People coming of college are in no way prepared (knowledge-wise) for the real world.   They have no counseling in high school or college to help them understand their options.

    There is a “cachet” attached to a degree that really is not deserved.   Somehow the “No Child Left Behind” policy has backfired terribly with everyone thinking they are “nobody” unless they have a degree.   The ones that can’t cut it drop out and have big debt.   The ones that graduate can’t find jobs and have debt.   No one told them there no jobs for a bachelor’s degree in art history.

    We desparately need to stop this self-perpetuating myth.   Most jobs really do not need a college degree.   I know Accountants that are really doing AP or AR work.  Degree required to do this job?  Not really.

    (Someone that has 2 master’s degrees — so I am not anti-university per se —- just they way they operate today)

  4. Great article, fortunately Thiel isn’t the only one – Over at Google, Lazlo Bock (senior vice pres.) has been quoted saying that GPA’s a worthless, going on to mention they now have teams where up to 14 percent of the team are made up of people who’ve never gone to college. With our insanely expensive university fees and ever-mounting student debt it’d be great to see more employers hiring on practical experience over a GPA. It would be even more great if we could see a dip in the estimated $1.2 trillion of debt that’s estimated this year… Incidentally if you want to read more on the topic, this article covers some more issues on the pro’s and cons of hiring non-graduates: http://goo.gl/R1buBd

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