Is Skill Development More Important than Academic Degrees?


What have you been focusing on- honing your skills or just acquiring a degree?

There are several thousand graduates in the country and yet a majority of them are jobless. If a degree could get you a job, why is still a significant majority of the population unemployed?

Newer and newer advancements are being made in the education sector. But, the question remains- what is more important, is it skills or an academic degree? The age old wisdom suggests- go to school, go to college and get a degree and then get a job based on your degree. However, this age old wisdom might not hold much relevance in today’s era.

If you find yourself asking the same question then you are at the right place.

In this article, we try to answer this question that at some point or the other, crosses almost every student’s mind.

Is Skill Development more important than Academic Degree?

What would a degree do for you?

A college degree is basically an authentic certification that will qualify you in a particular field. For example, with a degree, you can be a qualified engineer, a qualified artist, a qualified designer etc.

But, times are changing and there are advancements in technologies every now and then. And the thing with degrees is that their curriculum is not updated as often as new innovations are made. In many cases, the degree course curriculum is outdated. Even if it is relevant for the time being, what is learned in a degree can become outdated in a few years (for certain professions).

However, a degree still earns a lot of respect and social reputation. And it is also true that earning a degree is fundamental to certain professions like medicine and law.

So, while a degree may qualify you for a certain profession, it does not necessarily equip you with all the skills that you need for a job.

What would developing skills do for you?

When you focus on developing your skills, you always have updated knowledge in your choice of field. The skills for most disciplines keep changing and if you focus on developing them, you always stay updated.

A degree can earn you a job but your skills are what will help you grow and become successful in your career.

In fact, a lot of companies have started hiring employees based on their skills rather than their formal education.

In the current socio-economic context of the country, skill development has developed a greater importance.

What do the experts have to say?

Even experts have been stressing on the importance of having skills over a degree.

The CEO of Upwork, Stephane Kasriel wrote an eye-opening article titled ‘The future of work won’t be about college degrees, it will be about skills’. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner also quoted on the kind of qualities that employers seek. He said that employers look for qualities that you don’t necessarily pick from a degree. Then he added that these are the qualities that are often overlooked when sifting through resumes. He also said that these skilled people are actually the ones who make the biggest difference within an organization.

The CEO of IBM has also said that to work at today’s IBM, a degree isn’t mandatory; however, what matters the most are relevant skills.

A few other tech giants are also advocating on a skill-based system.

All of this tells that focussing on enhancing skills should be given a greater priority.

Why are skills more important?

Now that we know how major a role skills play, let us take a look at why they are so important.

  1. Skills better show your goals, personality and values

A degree doesn’t say much about who you are as a person. A degree can tell that you are capable of a job but it doesn’t tell how well you can fulfill it.

While a degree also tells that you are educated, it doesn’t show how passionate you are about your work.

Having skills is often connected to how well you can do a job and fulfil assigned goals.

  1. Skills show experience

Either you can develop skills with thorough learning or with work experience. Through your internships or part-time work you gain experience. This kind of experience cannot be guaranteed by a degree.

  1. Skills show how serious you are about something

Millions of students graduate every year. However, not each one of them is passionate about what they have majored in.

Whereas, when you develop skills on your own and focus on enhancing them, it shows how passionate and serious you are about it. This passion and seriousness is ultimately what most employers look for in a candidate.

  1. Skills help you advance

A degree might help you in landing a job but skills are actually what help you advance. To move beyond your current position at work and to make progress, skills are what are needed.

A degree can only help you to get an entry-level job but to move ahead, your degree isn’t enough. You can’t achieve greater positions at work just by showing that you have a degree. You need skills to prove it.

What kind of skills should you be developing?

Now we know how extremely important skills are. These are the kinds of skills that you should be acquiring.

  • Soft Skills: No matter how qualified you are, employers ultimately look at your communication skills, personality, management and behavioural skills before making a final decision.

  • Skills in the field you wish to work in: Whatever your field of choice may be, make sure that you are skilled in and out in that field. Learn everything that you possibly can and gather every skill that you can.

Conclusion- Is skill development more important than college degrees?

The answer to this is somewhat ambiguous. While getting a degree still holds a lot of importance in today’s world, it is actually your skills that will sustain you. In order to get more details, you should go on and seek career counselling.