Why Leading US Tech Companies Look for Skills and Not Degrees by@nehapant

Why Leading US Tech Companies Look for Skills and Not Degrees

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Neha Pant

A skilled wordsmith with a penchant for tech and life-related content. She believes that to learn one must teach.

One of the most pertinent questions in a developer’s mind today is whether they need a full-fledged degree or more skills to make it to top tech companies. While most people might agree that having a 4-year degree is still the most trustworthy path to success in the tech field, leading tech companies like Google, Apple, and IBM are trying to change that mindset.

Research conducted by McKinsey and [email protected], a nonprofit company, showed that STARS “skilled through alternative routes” workers tend to get about $12/hour less than workers with a bachelor’s degree on average in 2019. However, STARS have the skills necessary to earn about 70% more than what they already did. This McKinsey study also tells employers what they can do to bridge the wage gap between STARS and workers with degrees, and it implores business leaders to:

  • Create higher wage pathways for workers who have gained skills at their companies
  • Create infrastructure in collaboration with other employers and training organizations to facilitate upward mobility of skilled workers
  • Update the value proposition of their employees and let them know the paths for higher-wage work


Interestingly, companies like Apple and Google have been doing just that in recent years. They are launching new programs that teach coding and other tech skills. Moreover, both these companies have jobs that do not require a degree from college.

The initiative is to improve the knowledge and knack for the in-demand tech skills in students. These tech skills are usually not taught in schools. These training programs show students the possibility of having a lucrative career in tech without having a four-year college degree.

A Glassdoor article has named 15 companies that do not require college degrees while hiring for certain jobs and Google, Apple, and IBM make that list. A common thread among what employees are saying for these companies on Glassdoor is that these places are fantastic to work for. There are hordes of learning opportunities and resources that you can benefit from if you put your mind to it.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s former Senior Vice President of People Operations has said that people who have missed out on school and yet carved their place in the world are truly exceptional and worth finding.

In 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that approximately half of the employees hired that year did not possess a four-year degree. He highlighted a mismatch between the skills like coding needed by businesses and the skills taught in college. He said that Apple has never considered the degree as something that is needed to do well, especially since Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder was a dropout from Reed College.

Apple’s own program, Everyone Can Code, which launched in 2016 is part of the curriculum in 4000 schools in the US. As per Tim Cook, this program’s curriculum helps students from kindergarten to college learn to code.

Google has launched several new courses under its Google Career Certificates program. One can complete these courses in about six months without any need for prior experience. Moreover, these courses prepare takers for jobs that offer median average annual salaries of $50,000 or more. There are courses in fields such as data analytics and user experience design as well.

Brinleigh, a business recruiter at Google, and Okwus, a technical recruiter at Google, highlight what you need to get hired at Google in this YouTube video. One of the things they underscore at the outset is that you don’t need a college degree to get hired for several roles at Google. Instead, they look for skills and relevant experience. They also point out that students’ GPA only matters for recent graduates.

Brinleigh and Okwus encourage developers and others to go through the careers section on the Google website and find vacant positions as per their skills and interests. However, preparing a detailed resume is key to getting a chance at the interview because highly-trained pros go through applicant resumes. They look for relevant skills and experience in the resumes and the first interview with a Google recruiter also aims to assess the same. Only after that, a developer will go through the more technical rounds of the vetting process. The four key attributes Google looks for are general cognitive ability, role-related knowledge, leadership, and Googlyness, or the ability to collaborate, deal with ambiguity, and bias towards action.


Select Occupations and digital skill level, 2016. Source: O*Net, OES, and Moody's data analysis done by Brookings.

Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs at Google and Alphabet, believes that people need online tools to skill or upskill and find high-paying jobs. He thinks that the increase in the need for medium to high-level skills for new jobs in America presents a challenging scenario for both job seekers and the long-term US economy.

Many small to medium businesses have survived and thrived because of technology in the post-pandemic world. Kent believes that college degrees are expensive and unaffordable for American and global students. He says that a college degree must not be required to gain economic stability and security. In his view, job-training solutions focusing on vocational skills and online education must lead the way forward.


The global rubric for employability is evolving. Even though higher education and a four-year degree may still be your ticket to a high-paying job, it is not the only one. If you build and hone technical skills through online courses and gain relevant work experience, you may well be on your way to a job in a top MNC. Building an in-depth resume is also important for getting a foot in the door.


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