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Skills vs degrees: What's crucial for career success?

Do you know what Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson have in common, other than being rich billionaires? They are all individuals who reached the pinnacle of success without a college degree.

In India, while skills are gaining significance, traditional university degrees still hold sway in many job requirements. Will this dynamic change in the future? Moreover, in the age of AI advancement, does not having a degree improve or hinder your chances of landing a job?

In the Indian job landscape, while skills are increasingly valued, university degrees continue to be a prerequisite. Will this landscape shift in the future, and what can job seekers do to secure employment? Let’s explore the answers to these questions!

Degree vs skills: Which is more important?


The ongoing debate on whether a degree or practical skills are more valuable has never been more relevant than in today’s highly competitive job market. While a degree showcases academic dedication, it’s the skills that truly set individuals apart in their fields.

Although a degree may open some doors, it’s the practical know-how and real-world experience that employers prize most. Skills like communication, problem-solving, and adaptability are crucial for success in any profession and can be honed through hands-on experience and continuous learning.

If you are an active user of job portals like LinkedIn and Indeed, you may have noticed a bunch of companies have dropped university degrees as a requirement. Some of these roles include graphic designer, digital marketing, air hostess, etc.

In India, the hiring approach is still rather stringent compared to other countries as having a degree is a necessity for applying for a role. The good part is startups often welcome talent as long as they have the skills or experience. So, the main thing is it may be difficult to get selected for an interview without having a degree but your skills and experience can put you ahead of the crowd.

This is why, the best approach is a mix of both a degree and skills. After all a university degree lays a strong educational foundation, while skills empower individuals to apply that knowledge in a professional context effectively. It’s paramount for individuals to consistently improve their skills and stay updated in their field to thrive in today’s rapidly evolving job market.

What is skills-based hiring?

As the name suggests, skills-based hiring is a recruitment approach that focuses on a candidate’s abilities rather than educational background. It is unlike traditional recruitment where the job descriptions list a certain level of experience, qualifications, along experience. Skills-based screening helps companies boost their talent pool by allowing candidates which showcase their competencies.

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The uptrend of skills-based hiring

With the rise of platforms like Coursera, Udemy and upGrad, the nation has shifted to learning new skills or upskilling. This is mainly because companies have started to prefer skilled candidates over qualified ones.

An online pre-employment testing platform TestGorilla survey found that 70% of employers agree that skills-based hiring is more effective than resumes.

It is no secret that big tech corporations such as Amazon, Google, etc post job descriptions that do not require a person to have a college degree. Another great example is IBM in India which introduced its “skills-first” hiring approach in the nation which assesses employee’s abilities. However, IBM had previously launched this technique in the United States in 2012 but has now expanded it.

Moreover, in the era of the AI boom, firms have started to either upskill their current employees or train college graduates so that they can fill up the gap of AI professionals.

The bottom line

Degrees do not necessarily indicate a candidate has the skills to do a particular role, it is the skills and experience that counts. This makes things tricky for fresher students who are yet to have hands-on knowledge. To be ahead of the crowd, it is best to give importance to skill-building and also gain experience through internships or apprenticeships.

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