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Tim Cook explains why you don’t need a college degree to be successful (businessinsider.com)
161 points by wolfgke 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 176 comments

Commented on something related in another thread, but it was either Bierce or Shaw who said something along the lines of, "all professions are a conspiracy against the layman."

This is distinct from trades and arts, where there is a simple scale of competence.

The reason most jobs demand a university degree today is because of the professionalization of management and HR means that the people making hiring decisions have a direct interest in preserving and increasing the value of their own positions and credentials.

For example, have fun getting P&L responsibility or significant direct reports without a degree, let alone getting a work visa. The reason for this is not because of competence, it is because of a tribal identity that the schools inculcate.

The thing about "uneducated," people is that because they have to trade on their skills and performance, and not credentials, over a certain intelligence you can't trust them to sustain cognitive dissonance (or to lie) on behalf of the team, because they will defect if they perceive risk to their competence-based identity.

When you hear someone say an uneducated person "doesn't get it," they are not referring to competence, they are referring to recognition of a power dynamic that means success and group survival is about relationships and the perceptions that drive them, and not about the material quality of the work.

This may sound nihilistic and cynical, but recognizing non-technical education credentials as more of a tribal membership or a kind of managerial officer training than a signifier of skill clarifies the dynamics of companies and organizations, and could save a lot of stress wondering if people are evil or insane.

They aren't necessarily evil or insane, they are indexed on perceptions and relationships that are not decided only by skill and competence.

Few will articulate it this way, but there is no incentive for people with an education to criticize it, and without one the perspectives and tools to do so are rare.

The value of a degree for most of us is mostly in passing those automated HR screens and not being defensive / self conscious about not having a degree. Where that degree comes from is largely unimportant, unless you went to Harvard/MIT/Stanford et al.

That said, as someone who's going for a greencard, I'd be shut out of this process in 2 seconds without a degree. The degree itself? It was good, but let's not kid ourselves, it's a middle class stamp of acceptance.

As for Silicon Valley, good luck getting anywhere without a degree. Look at the founders of virtually every startup and you'll see a pattern, Harvard, Stanford, MIT etc.

I have a degree from a no-name University in New Zealand.

This is excellently stated and is exactly the macro-dynamic across much of mega-business in corporate America.

The understanding of ignorant reasoning is no excuse for poor judgement.

As someone who vehemently despises the US education system, I have no sympathy for ethos-bound decision makers.

i am one of those idiots who thought college was about knowledge, and it took me a long time to understand the "way of the world" you articulate here.

with that said, i still find education valuable and have had lots of it by now. it took that plus time and life experience to be able to properly criticize education itself (so i'm nitpicking at your concluding line a bit).

A college degree is not some terminal credential to make you into a coding cubicle robot the rest of your life. It goes more towards helping you be a more well-rounded person, for the short time in your life while you are more than just profit to the machine. US execs aren't helping anybody out when they push this anti-college garbage.

I would like to see a study that indicates that dropouts working in a professional environment are less "well-rounded" overall. I don't dispute that something exists, but I haven't seen one.

I'm obviously biased, but I have a lot of interest in linguistics, history, political theory, moral philosophy, and a lot of other non-coding fields, for which I have purchased and read many of the college textbooks. I also do not have a degree, as I dropped out after two years towards a math degree, and work as a "senior" software engineer (I think titles are kind of stupid but it works for my point).

I typically did well on the tests, but for various reasons too elaborate to get into in a post, I had trouble focusing on and completing a lot of the homework, leading to poor grades, and then me dropping out.

Of course a lot of dropouts don't have much curiosity, but once they get to a professional level, it's basically impossible to avoid learning a fairly diverse set of skills.

I think most people who want to work in a professional field should probably go to college and get their degree, but college is not for everyone who joins. Autodidacticism can lead to new perspectives on projects, and allows people to focus on things that are important, but not emphasized in most colleges.

For example, I greatly dislike how concurrency is taught in the undergrad level. It seems like with many curriculums, the students learn a bit of some locking glue, what a semaphore is, and then they promptly forget any of the safety mechanisms that follow, at least in the people I've interviewed.

Conversely, a significant portion of the students in my class when I was attending university were only there to get a degree & didn't care about anything but the easiest way to get a passing grade.

Yeah, I forgot to mention that; I have no doubt that the top student from Harvard or Yale is dedicated to learning new things and at some level wants to be there. However, the bottom 25% who graduate probably are doing it simply to obtain the piece of paper and the letters "B.S." or "B.A." after their name.

Nevermind that many students just go for buying their papers so that the party can go on. I remember boasts of this at U of T back in the day—there was even signage above shops on Yonge St offering the service. They haven't even had to leave their seats for a long time—they can just purchase them online:

2001: https://slate.com/human-interest/2001/12/how-to-buy-a-good-c...

2019: https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/02/19/cheating-at-u-of-t/

Not to say it's universal, but it's rampant—the view that they're just there to pick up their ticket to an easier life. (if it's accurate, or not!)

I mean, you get what you put into college. I sort of veered off my senior and took a bunch of business classes after finishing my CS requirements. I wish I took extra CS classes because there's a lot I had teach myself. Motivated people can teach themselves a lot, but there IS something to be said for having a credential.

I can see why recruiters and business-owners prefer it; it basically implies "Person X has at least this much discipline to get through this degree".

However, a sort of consequence of this is you create a sort of inadvertent filter of "normal" people, e.g. the people who passed the classes designed around them.

>Autodidacticism can lead to new perspectives on projects, and allows people to focus on things that are important, but not emphasized in most colleges.

It also allows people to veer into becoming cranks, without appropriate teachers to guide you along the way. As long as we're exchanging anecdotes, in my undergrad I've met my fair share of "physics autodidacts" who seem to believe they've "solved" massive problems related to engineering/physics.

That's fair; there's no doubt that self-teaching can lead you down an incorrect rabbit-hole (though I do think most grow out of that eventually), and I'm not an exception; I once thought I could write an entire OS kernel on the GPU because clearly no one has ever tried that.

I think my point still stands, however.

No amount of "roundedness" is worth the current asking price of college. They're going to have to offer more.

This is why European universities are _extremely_ worthwhile, especially if you're a US student.

Great point. I was thinking of returning to finish my degree at $US_PRIVATE_COLLEGE, where tuition is around $60k/year now. ETH and EPFL in Switzerland, about equally good, turn out to be, like, 1/3 the price, and those are at the expensive end. (You do need competence at French or German first.)

Corporations should pay more of the costs of training. They get about as much benefit as we do. In the case of Apple, the company gets far more benefit from each employee than each employee gets, from a nominal perspective ($400k profit per employee).

Why do we pay all of our own training costs at this point, I have no idea why. I think that the workers of America deserve the same as the workers from Europe.

In the UK we pay the costs too (although the loan system is more like an extra tax).

I think the UK is actually more expensive than the USA in many cases as almost every uni is 9k GBP per year here vs. the USA where you have cheaper public colleges and community colleges etc.

I went to a public university, with a pretty decent scholarship, so it wasn't terribly expensive until I lost it due to the aforementioned bad grades.

I'm not sure what else they could offer; most of the information they provide isn't "forbidden"; you are welcome to go buy the textbooks and read them yourself if you wanted.

Considering the political leaning, expansion of censorship and other ideologies ever more prevailing in higher education, I wouldn't exactly call it well rounded as a goal. There used to be a goal for actual tolerance and an ability to listen and respect ideas or politics they disagree with.

I have no formal education... I've worked with others in software development with no formal education who can code with the best rock star developers. I've also met those with a masters in CS who couldn't think their way out of a paper sack. It really depends.

> US execs aren't helping anybody out when they push this anti-college garbage.

Exactly - how many employees has Apple hired who don'5 have college degrees and are working on something essential?

I do believe that the US corporates do this to convince graduates that their college education isn't that valuable so that they would be more willing to work for less.

Roundness isn't acquired from a degree. It's acquired from learning multiple perspectives.

Colleges push that propaganda but they only offer perspectives that fall into academia approval.

Life is much much more than structured curriculum. Life is chaotic. Knowledge can be obtained through structure. Wisdom is obtained through chaos.

They're also not helping if they're pushing well meaning but ultimately misguided STEM programs when these STEM classes displace classes where children were rounded such as the arts, music, foreign language, social studies, and civics.

> for the short time in your life while you are more than just profit to the machine

Except that for most, they are adding profit to a different machine: the $1.5T in student loan debt, averaging almost $40k each. $40k to become "a more well-rounded person"

> Cook also added that about half of Apple's US employment last year was made up of people who did not have a four-year degree.

Of course, the majority of these are probably retail, manufacturing, and support staff. Cook himself has a degree (MBA), as do most of the software engineers at Apple, I’m sure.

True, although Steve Jobs didn't have a college degree. Bill Gates dropped out too. We have to be careful to avoid survivorship bias though. reply

Your credentials matter a lot less when you are the founder.

I always got the impression that, at least in Jobs' case, he was the founder _because_ he didn't have a degree - i.e. he had nowhere else to go.

Jobs had a steady job at Atari before he left to start Apple. I seem to remember he offered the first version of the Apple I (or maybe II?) to HP while he was there, but they turned him down.

I thought Jobs was gone and it was Woz who did

Worth noting that in those days a far smaller percentage of the population were university educated.

yea but they dropped out of ivy league schools... that's not the average dropout

Reed is not an Ivy League school.

I am a former senior software engineer at Apple and I do not have a degree.

Which is why I didn’t say that all software engineers at Apple have college degrees, or that this was a hard requirement to be hired. I’m just saying that it is very, very likely that most software engineers at Apple have degrees.

I'm a senior software develop & architect with two degrees. Does that make me over qualified for Apple software jobs?

No, but you and todd3834 would average out.

It does not make you overqualified but you would still have to pass the technical interview ;)

>...manufacturing, and support staff...

Aren't those outsourced (to different countries, no less), so they wouldn't actually be counted as US employment statistics?

A large portion is, but there is still a small amount of manufacturing in the US, and quite a few facilities that have jobs are filled by employees lacking a college degree to a large degree.

Several are performed by US suppliers. For instance, Apple claims that they enable:

80,000 jobs - direct employment with Apple;

450,000 jobs - indirect employment with their US suppliers;

For more context surrounding Apple's employment numbers, start here: https://www.apple.com/job-creation/

I don’t even have a high school diploma and work as a Software Engineer at a Big Corp.

See my response to a similar comment by tod3834.

The Economist had an article about 6 weeks ago that reached the opposite conclusion. It essentially found a comfortable middle class lifestyle was going to be hard to achieve without higher education now, compared with previous generations. Now, it wasn’t specifically looking at coders and Tim was, but the title doesn’t mention that.

This is true due to the cost required, but how much of the cost is largely due to credential inflation?

Much of the population would probably do better with trade training, but we've sold it to "everyone must get a 4 year degree" and it's likely doing a lot of harm to people who are better served learning on the job or in apprenticeships than college.

I think it's a good argument to have. I'm hopeful that online education and more sensible thoughts toward future debt loads among prospective students will start to chip away at the absurd costs of higher education these days.

The only way to do it though, is if people have options.

Andrew Yang 2020 pres candidate articulated the realities of college education extremely well in the world of automation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DMCsXq_mYw

Well, then the Economist is almost laughably wrong. This completely ignores the building and construction trades. In America, the average Millionaire drives a F150 pickup truck, not a Mercedes-Benz or BWW. (well documented in the book The Millionaire Next Door.)

Don't discount the trades.

Take the HVAC guy who just spent a morning putting in a heat pump at my neighbor's place for $6000. It was < $2000 worth of equipment (wholesale) and just he and a helper working under the house for a few hours. Let's be extraordinarily generous and subtract out half that for overhead (licensing, rent, van, advertising, insurance, taxes) and that's clearing $2k per day. $8000 per month. Owner's surely making more than the laborers, but let's just split down the middle. That's still roughly $45k per year for working 8 hrs per week. Yes, that's poverty in the coastal elite towns but a middle-class lifestyle in flyover country.

Move up to doing two such jobs per week (or even three) and a very solid upper-class lifestyle is within reach. Get a couple crews working under you doing a couple of those jobs per day, and now you're talking about a high standard of living, indeed -- vacation home on the coast/mountains and luxury vacations.

Another example: The guy who built my home is an Ivy-League MBA. After graduation he quickly discovered he couldn't tolerate sitting in a cubicle, so he turned the "side job" doing home renovations (used to help pay for his $250,000 degree) into a full-time profession. Now 20-years on, he has built hundreds of homes and is a millionaire many times over. By swinging a hammer.

The only trades who are millionaires are those who started a business that became successful and employ others, probably at least a dozen staff. That makes such folks no more likely than 1 in 12 (assuming their business lasts and they don't regress to the mean). That's not the average tradesman today, and likely to be even less frequent in the future.

The average Joe Tradesman never makes no more than $50K per year and has to retire in his 50s because the hard physical work (and inadequate health care) has worn down his body and he can no longer keep pace with 25 year olds. That's not a winning career strategy, especially in a future in which the rise of product disposability and building with modular components will simplify and reduce demand for much of today's trade work.

That's true for all Associate Professional and Professional Jobs now.

When I left School in the UK you could leave school at 16 with 4 or 5 O Levels - (Exams taken at 16) and get a Job in the Bank now its joining at 22 with a degree

I just searched bing for “banking apprenticeship U.K.” and the following banks have apprenticeship programmes; HSBC, Lloyds, UBS, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Tesco. RBS and Santander also offer them according to this website.


Which require very good A levels to get into which would get you into a good Russell (Ivy) group uni.

Asa opposed to in the past leaving school at 16 - in US terms this is not graduating from high school

Just curious, how does apple's recruiters shortlist people if they are not looking for college degrees. We need some criteria for sorting through the haystack..right? Or is it just a standard motivational talk which we just read ,feel good, nod our heads and move on?

Speaking as someone without a degree, no clue, but I still get Apple recruiters reaching out to me regularly. I can only assume they're working either from recommendations or my profile on LinkedIn which shows extensive industry experience.

Coding test early in the recruitment pipeline. I've seen plenty of CS degrees on resumes that can't pass basic coding exercises/tests; at the same time, I've been impressed with the capabilities of new grads.

I'm looking for autodidects and could care less what educational format they prefer.

Seen similar and also used coding tests to good success. I myself don't have a 4 year degree (I got my 2 year, although truthfully I didn't learn anything new CS related when I got that degree), but I'm also an autodidact that was writing assembly programs by age 12, and OO perl/java before I graduated highschool.

The hard problem is finding a way to filter out fresh graduates (from either college or highschool) who can't code from those that can without having to slog through reams of poorly written coding tests in the process. For people who have been in the business a while it's a bit easier because you can usually take a look at their work history and the keywords they decide to use on their CV and intuitively get a reasonably good feel for where they are career wise. It's still very important to have them go through the code test as well though because CVs can be misleading and I'm still regularly amazed at people that come through with 10+ years of experience on paper who somehow still fail at basic programming tasks.

Ultimately I think tech recruiters may need to just step up their game. It's no longer sufficient to just play buzzword bingo to try to find candidates for a position, they need to actually have some amount of technical chops themselves in order to screen potential candidates. At the moment it seems like the industry standard is that recruiters function primarily as advertisers for open positions, while all the heavy lifting of actually evaluating candidates (of all levels) is ultimately left up to the devs at the hiring company.

So you're looking for something that's so rare it's probably a myth? https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rsnr.2014...

I think what you meant to say is you're looking for people with passion for the field, grit and curiosity and with a proven track record of delivering. The best engineers learn from others and stand on the shoulders of giants.

Judging by the abstract in that linked paper, I think that it is arguing more about semantics than anything else. It basically claims that: "No person is truly self taught as they stand on the shoulders of their predecessors". To which, I would agree. No man is an island and it would be very difficult to teach oneself something without material composed by others. However, I think the colloqual use of the term autodidact is more about the lack of a formal educational system or formal teaching figure and less about a person figuring everything out on their own.

No one has actually provided a counter argument. A list of 1000 over billions of humans just shows how rare this idea is. That article isn't arguing semantics, and as a matter of a fact it is showing that the truthiness of an autodidact is to be called into question given the nature of mastering a domain.

For reference, I was hired as a senior engineer at Apple and have no degree. Work experience counts for a lot more than any degree. You can get work experience at many places without a degree if you're capable of showing the quality of your skillset

How about accomplishment and impact instead of credentials?

Because recruiters can reason about the latter but only engineers/practitioners can really reason about the former.

Non-degreed applicants almost always need a recommendation to bypass recruiter screening (though recommendations work better than recruiter CV screening in general).

The point is who says you are accomplished and your work has an impact? For coding,yes. Your github account showcases your accomplishments and it is open to everyone for verification. But for the rest, i mean the non programmer jobs in sales, marketing, retail,finance ,customer care you cannot have your accomplishments showcased in a verifiable manner. For any company or recruiter, a guy from a decent college with good enough grades gives far more comfort than a random guy with a blog.

What the college attempts to teach is still mostly just writing and reading comprehension and math. It's just higher level than before.

You should have the ability to write 20-30 pages well structured text to show that you can think, organize your thinking and communicate your thinking to others in your field. Many people graduate without this ability, but at least they have had some practice and can write 5 pages better than when they started the college.

You should know about the things in your field even if you don't master any of them yet. Being smart but restricted is not substitute for college degree. For me the value from higher education came from mandatory classes where I had to learn stuff that I was not particularly interested in. I was interested in algorithms, machine learning and low level programming. I would have never studied database design, computer networks and software engineering as methodologically on my own.

You can avoid learning most of the above when you go to college, but you learn at least something. If you don't have a college degree, you should try to learn on your own. You should have completed large projects that you can demonstrate your grit. In many ways college degree is showing for others that you can delay gratification enough to graduate.

> You should have the ability to write 20-30 pages well structured text to show that you can think, organize your thinking and communicate your thinking to others in your field. Many people graduate without this ability, but at least they have had some practice and can write 5 pages better than when they started the college.

Almost all engineering programs I've seen, practically don't have any English requirements. I never needed to write a paper like that.

>Almost all engineering programs I've seen, practically don't have any English requirements.

This is certainly true if you're a rich international student paying international student fees.

at my university, You're required to take 2 semesters of english and for senior design 1 you're basically writing a 100 page book on your proposal.

We were 'required' to take two semesters of English, but it was really easy to test out of, so that's practically what everyone did.

> In many ways college degree is showing for others that you can delay gratification enough to graduate.

I disagree. A degree shows that the individual is capable of following structure, rules, and traditions.

Alternate title "Duke MBA Tim Cook explains why you don't a college degree to be successful".

Would it be a substantively different talk if Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Larry Elison, Mark Zuckerberg, etc, etc had said something similar?

It really wouldn't. At the end of the day it's a bunch of 1 percent-ers spewing platitudes when meeting with government; they have no idea what recruiting for non-executive jobs looks like these days.

While I feel that the cost of college is totally out of line with the salaries most people make, I know that I wouldn't have been hired without a degree.

Although I'm far from a Thiel fan, he at least offered an alternative approach using his own money (not a lot, mind you, but still).

Elison and Dell were nowhere near 1% types. Dell started Dell with money he earned selling newspapers and dropped out once it was making 6 figures while still operating from his dorm room. Ellison came from a messed up family situation, dropped out to work odd jobs, and ended up teaching himself programming dropped out and worked odd jobs before teaching himself to code.

Of course the environment changes over time. And so trying to create a business selling computers from your dorm room or moving to California planning to teach yourself to code and then [something] is probably not likely to work out so well. But I think the moral of these stories is often one of creativity and drive. Now teaching oneself programming is trite. When Ellison did so in the 70s, it was something extremely uncommon to do which meant it had vastly more value.


In reality, I think our opinions are going to be driven by our experiences. In contrast to your experience, I've only ever even mentioned my degree for exactly one job. And that job very much did not require a degree. Since then I've found endless opportunity in spite of the fact I'm pretty much the embodiment of anti-networking: dumb phone, no social media, etc. But I enjoy development. Create one product that's impressive and useful, and it's like the world just opens up to you. A lesson I rather wished I'd learned about 15 years ago. But hey, something I can pass on to my kids - perhaps not so different than one William Gates who enlisted in the army right at school, served in WW2, went to college on the GI bill, and eventually had a somewhat more well known William.

In any case, it's always made me question the value of the degree. I came from a very poor family which means that sheet of paper had quite the price attached to it. And that was before prices really went into lala land.

What difference does that make? They aren't being asked for their opinions about the job market in the '80s. They're giving their opinion of this stuff as it exists today. But they also haven't had to look for a job in a quarter of a century and don't personally vet hires unless they're at the senior mgmt level.

I had assumed you were framing things as them being out of context with 'real life' when you characterized them as "1% types." As for recruiting - that's what I was getting at. Different life experiences lead us to radically different views here. Your experience of finding your degree absolutely necessary is not necessarily indicative of people at large (depending on your field), though I'd fully grant neither is mine. It's just anecdata.

In either case, I'd fully agree with you though that a degree makes things much easier for most people. However, I think that is rapidly changing. Most of the big tech employers are now dropping college degree requirements and I expect we'll gradually see the same in ever more fields. A degree used to say a good deal about a person, and all positive. Now that's changing, and so the market is adjusting in response.

wait wait wait.

You're proposing that the executives don't know what recruiting practices their company is employing to sustain talent for their operations?

Cmon, that's ridiculous. They would be terrible executives if this were true.

Most people I meet agree that recruiting is broken. A huge part of this is regulation. The education system is integrated into the backbone of society which is maintained through regulation.

If you were hired for only a degree then I would be wary of Price's law. https://dariusforoux.com/prices-law/

No, I wasn't hired "because of my degree"; there wouldn't be any college-educated Starbucks baristas if that were the case. What I said was that without my degree, I would not have been hired, as I wouldn't even have passed the initial ATS screen. I think we can both agree that is a state of affairs that needs to change.

Yes, we can.

I apologize for the extreme edge case.

In a way, the applicant is still hired because of a degree rather than skill if that's what's used for initial filtering. Everything after that is derivative reasoning.

Never understood the "Bill gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Gabe Newell being a college dropout" argument. They dropped out specifically to start working. It's clearly not the same thing as dropping out because you were failing the classes.

If you want to get a Visa at some point in your live: things get much easier to if you have a university degree. All these "don't need a degree" posts always seem a bit US-centric.

Even more specifically, a graduate degree of some kind. Because most employers don't want to put in the effort to justify a BS visa hire whereas justifying a MS or PhD visa under H1B is much easier.

What visa?

If I assume correctly that you're talking about US working visa.. What you said sounds much much more US-centric than anybody who ever said "don't need a degree".

More or less any visa to any country, no?

No need for a degree for an entry visa. Probably for any country. As for working permit... Lots of people won't look for one during their lifetime. Out of those who would, frequently it's not a showstopper. And many will stick to areas where they don't need a permit anyway (e.g. EU+EFTA for their citizens).

A decent amount of countries offer point based immigration visas, where a degree certainly helps, but is not a hard requirement.

For example, Japan's Highly Skilled Worker visa can be pretty easily achieved without a degree.

If you read his quotes, this isn’t what he is saying. He’s saying you don’t need a college degree to be useful, with an emphasis on coding (in fact, maybe coding is all he is really referring to). This is pretty obvious. But the fact that Apple, but not most others, are willing to accept this says nothing about your likelihood of being successful even if useful.

Define "successful" ? What does that mean exactly ? A lot of money ? A good life away from trouble ? Be in the middle class mean you are successful ?

Really that definition matter a lot and the you might need a college degree to be successful

I don't think you need a college degree to be successful, i don't even think you need a good college degree. I do believe it increases your chances of living a comfortable and fulfilling life.

It certainly expands your network and increases the odds of success. The MBA is the ultimate example of this.

A lot of current jobs directly tied to some sort of college degrees will be automated out of existence in the near future.

This is a silly statement - I’d say a lot more jobs currently tied to NOT needing a college degree will be automated out of existence. Jobs that require creativity and critical thinking will be the ones that survive (I believe that’s the quote from the recent Last Week Tonight). Those tend to be college educated jobs.

How about Accountants? Turbo Tax automated many of the individual needs for accountants, and plenty of investing / portfolio management advice can be found online for free. The last big push is for enterprise / business / high net worth individuals to automate their accountants.

It's not to say accountants won't exist at all: we still need them as Subject Matter Experts to make changes to the software. But we won't need huge numbers of them like we do today.

TurboTax can't handle even moderately complicated tax situations without forcing the user to learn about tax law. (E.g. where people live and work in different states, which is not unusual in the northeast.) Nor can they handle the human-facing job of sorting through someone's documents. We pay an accountant about $1,000 a year to do our taxes, and being able to simply forward him a bunch of W-2s and email receipts instead of triaging them myself makes it worth every penny. (Fun fact: even though tax preparation software is more than 25 years old, more than half of people still pay a tax preparer to do their taxes.)

There is even less of a basis for thinking you can automate actual corporate accounting with known technology. Contrary to popular belief, that does not involve just applying clear-cut rules to ledger entries, but rather lots of judgment about how real-world transactions should be treated under the accounting guidelines.

I think accounting is probably a bad example of this. TurboTax automates the job of tax preparation, not accounting in general. The national tax prep brands (think HR Block) don’t even hire people with accounting degrees to do their manual tax prep.

>I’d say a lot more jobs currently tied to NOT needing a college degree will be automated out of existence

True, but I was making commentary on a large number of college education required positions. They are mutually exclusive assertions.

All the reasons to get Andrew Yang on the debate stage! Andrew Yang 2020! YangGang!

I had never heard of this guy before your comment. After reading about him, he's certainly an interesting person who has well-thought out policy ideas. He doesn't match all my political ideas, but he's certainly not a Democrat party-line guy.

listen to his joe rogan interview. He is very close to meeting the threshold of being in the DNC debates.

This is only true if all the things humans perceive as requiring human creativity and critical thinking actually require them. Human brains are notoriously bad at self-assessment.

>The Apple CEO also said he believes that it should be a requirement for every kid in the U.S. to have some level of coding education before they graduate high school. Apple launched its Everyone Can Code program in 2016, a curriculum designed to help students from Kindergarten to college learn coding.

>Apple is one of several corporations that doesn't require a college diploma for certain jobs

Does anyone else feel like this is just an attempt by Cook to increase the supply of people able to code competently so Apple doesn't have to pay out as much for software engineers like they do now? Just increasing the labor supply to push down wages? Not saying if that is a good or bad thing, just a thought..

If there's one thing everyone should realize by now, but whatever you learned in high school doesn't make you competent in the subject. It makes you basic, bare-bones at best. I doubt very much that a high school course or two will dramatically change the number of competent coders in the world.

I'm also incredibly cynical about that moves motivations - it really does sound like an attempt by the tech giants to flood the market. I just don't think it'll work.

For me there's two reasons to learn some programming:

1. Our lives is surrounded by technology, and thus software, and it'll just get more prominent in the future. Knowing a bit about how programs are put together can help reason about how a program works and its possibilities and limitations. For doing rote work it usually doesn't matter, but once you're off the beaten path this can really help.

For example, it can allow you to be confident about exploring a certain function in a program, aiding in self-discovery.

2. I found that the way you have to think when programming has improved my analytical skills. This has made me better at analyzing and making arguments, for example when reading or writing texts. This is something that's useful in most facets of life.

Is programming for everyone? No. But I think it's useful that people know what goes on behind the scenes, that it's not magic.

Agreed. I believe it's the same as owning a car. If you own a car and use it regularly, you should probably understand at least the basics of how it operates. In the modern world, everyone is constantly surrounded by computers and software and most people have absolutely no clue about how any of it works. This will become a problem as time rolls onward.

Not really. Knowing how to write an "if" is a lot different than wanting, or being able, to code professionally.

What we really need is basic computer literacy since most jobs will use software to accomplish things. Coding skills may help people work with the expert systems they will use at work.

If they are actually going to pay less, what's stopping software engineers from switching companies? Someone qualified to work for Apple is probably also qualified to work for other tech giants, so if it's really Apple's motivation to pay less, why not just apply elsewhere?

I think they have already done this just using a different approach. https://pando.com/2014/03/22/revealed-apple-and-googles-wage...

This is economic game theory. Supply and demand dictates profit share. Its also why wages tend to go up after plagues and wars.

Because the labor supply has grown larger for all companies? If Apple is able to pay less, I think other tech companies would also be paying less - if we're assuming tech workers are equally qualified to work at all tech giants.

We teach kids about Earth/Space sciences, but we don't expect them all to become Astronomers. I don't think teaching kids the basics of coding and how computers work will dramatically increase the pool of developers.

If Apple wanted to pay less for developers, they could start by getting out of California.

Plus if everybody in school is learning to code, the schools have to buy computers.

If anything, I'd say its more likely a hope to increase the market size for Apple products, since most techies prefer Macs.

I thought most techies prefer anything but Macs and iOS. With Macs, you get worse specs for a significantly higher cost. Similarly for iOS phones as well.

Which “specs” are worse on iPhones - definitely not performance seeing that the iPhone is usually two years ahead of Android phones performance wise.

I like MacOS but I'd never buy it on my own dime.

That is true, but at least he said: "you don't need a college degree to be successful _but_ education is very important", because lazy students around the world and hypocrite-people who don't have university degree _& actually want to have it one but unfortunately can't_ will use his words as an excuse.

Cook has to remember, without academic research there will be no cutting edge technology like chip or processor that support hitech company like Apple. He should be wiser.

Personal experience on this. My degree (physics) was nearly completely orthogonal to my career (software engineer).

But I have no doubt it helped me get not just my first job, but also subsequent ones, probably due to 'his code/tech talk could be better, but he seems smart and has a physics doctorate from a prestigious institution'.

Think software hiring+quality would be much better if we had an apprecticeship culture, instead of based on perceived prestige from excelling at University.

I agree but the very employers who are the literal gatekeepers to a good job often use credentials as signals right from the start, which contributes to the credentialling arms race that I think we've been going through.

Apprenticeships and trade schools will become a strong alternative path as soon as employers accept them to be. Moreover, often times the credential itself isnt the big deal, just its viewed as a competition and someone who got a good GPA from a top school seemingly displayed an ability to do well in that competition.

I wish it were different, but I don't see employers changing their game anytime soon.

I've met a disturbing amount of employers who love coding schools because they provide underpaid code monkeys.

IMO, things must change if we are to survive future obstacles.

> Cook also added that about half of Apple's US employment last year was made up of people who did not have a four-year degree.

A stat nearly as meaningless as the headline unemployment rate.

- Since we're talking about "successful" or not, what is the median annual compensation for Apple's retail workforce in the US?

- For non-college educated retail staff (or non-tech staff), what training opps does Apple provide to help them move up in the company?

I consider the University as a shortcut for knowledge.

Without University, how many years I would take to understand ACID databases, for instance. How many bad decisions and mistakes I would do, how less competitive I would be, how much time I would lose doing things wrong. In the University I was guided and tested. I learned theory and practice, through the books and also by the mistakes of others.

Depends entirely on your curiosity, motivation and energy.

The answer could be "less than four years" or "a lifetime."

Everything is "self taught" when you get right down to it. The only difference is whether one has/needs guidance about what to study, and advice from others with more experience.

We also don't absolutely _need_ good health to somehow still enjoy success but it certainly helps, doesn't it?

It's quite the same with education.

I have a college degree and I value it a lot. I learned a lot there, not just theory but overall a mindset how to learn, analyse things. You cannot say that a college degree is priceless of course at the same time you cannot say that those without it cannot do anything. It just depends on what a person wants, for me learning was actually fun.

I don't know where you went to college, but I learned nothing about how to learn. How exactly did you do this? College for me was 4 years of remembering exactly what was taught and then taking tests on it.

I studied CS in college but I was a sysadmin level programmer before that so the programming classes were easy. I kinda wish I had majored in psychology though.

With a college degree, specifically a Computer Science degree, you generally expect a certain level of competence in CS fundamentals. E.g. the recipient will know about Big O notation, will be able to do problem analysis and design, and understand programming principles like heap memory, object methodology and concepts like memory pointers.

That doesn't take four years. Most of it can be learned in a year. (Source: I did.) CS degrees teach you things like computer architecture, operating system, relational database, networking, etc. which are nice to have but optional.

The first 2 years of college is usually your core competency, including high level mathematics, statistics, and other things like ethics, technical writing...and other general education like history, foreign language to make you a more rounded education.

If you do well in high school you can obtain a lot of college level general education credit and knock off a year.

The last 2 years are probably more like what you did in 1 year.

That's very US centric.

In the UK the A-levels we do at the end of high school cover first-year uni material and there are no general education requirements at university.

The downside is we don't have the major system either - you pick what you will study at 18 before you go and it is rather difficult to change.

I preferred such a focused system but I can see why others may not.

I mean, if you have even a small amount of experience with programming, you can learn big-O in a couple hours or less.

Now, if we talk about memory optimization or the intricacies of concurrency, that's a much different story. Though, both of those things can't really be taught in the basic sense. They require a lot of experience to really understand.

Depends on where you go to school. I've interviewed seniors and recent grads who have worked on a whopping 1-2 projects and most of them were super simple web stuff. Like one page projects that had one query.

Most answers are about CS degrees.

I imagine almost all Electronics, Electrical, Mechanical engineers at apple and elsewhere have degrees in their respective fields. With good reasons. One being that it is really difficult to learn these fields on your own, unlike CS/programming/coding/etc.

Theres always so many views on this idea (whether its worth it to go to college if you work in tech and the externalities involved) but Tldr: I would have loved to take a 6 figure job without $80k in student loans.

I am a female software engineer and encourage the girls I know to not worry about the fact they are in their mid 20s stuck in retail jobs. I tell them to take udacity etc. Bootcamps. At our company some of our best hires are girls and guys who are doing bootcamps or took udacity courses.

One great benefit to this is

1. From my view they arent tainted in tech. As a female I hated going to a tech school with men and I would have loved to haved skipped the four years of social hell.

Getting hacked keylogged and told I only got accepted into college because im a girl despite having a 4.0 and making perfect SAT scores was the norm and ive confirmed from other tech schools as well including but not limited to MIT.

2. They dont have egos or entitlement associated with having a degree. They only have their relevant work.

3. They have the ability and initiative to be self taught and learn new things without it being handed to them in a curriculum.

4. They often feel inferior because they dont have a college degree which is bad but often as a result they are incredibly humble, open minded, respectful, greatful, eager to learn and grow.

We are currently hiring two great female candidates from bootcamp and honestly they know alot more relevant to my job because the classes are very applied whereas im stuck paying off loans and teaching myaelf everything they learned as well.

> According to Cook, there are certain in-demand skills that students may not learn in college — namely, coding.

Yes, for example studying for one of those degrees, that well... are unrelated to CS.

While i agree that some could replace college with self-study, especially in the age of open-source, can't help but think that some of these high profile managers could say that college is not essential just because employees without college debt and with a non-standard resume could be willing to work for less.

That's pretty much the meme material :)


Off topic, but why are you the rare user I cannot downvote? Everyone else has a double triangle next to the username.

Edit: actually there are many in just this thread. Bizarre.

I'm a Financial Analyst, CPA, CIA, CTA, Statistician, Expert System Developer.All my professional knowledge is self-taught, but I believe that I am involved in the various professions should be at a high level. https://github.com/linpengcheng/fa

"Cook also added that about half of Apple's US employment last year was made up of people who did not have a four-year degree." My bet here is that he's counting retail Apple Store employees. I'm not entirely sure the upward mobility is there for those people.

> Apple CEO Tim Cook says there’s a “mismatch” between the skills learned in college and the skills that businesses need, especially when it comes to coding. [emphasis added]

So, it's fine when it's Tim Apple saying this! What happened on Twitter was So Unfair and So Sad!

Ah the English Disease "Employers not wanting to pay for training"

Universitys job isn't to rote teach how to code

True but then we need to treat programming as a trade.

And devaluing our "professional" Job into a lower status and lower paid one why?

Why do a lot of HN commentators fetishize "trade" skills when they have no real idea what they are talking about.

Possibly if your going to target a CS/EE degree you should have bean learning to code from 13 or 14 - in the UK you wont get to study Physics if you haven't specialised in physics and maths at the GCSE and A level.

We do! We have bootcamps and stuff like Code.org now.

I think it all comes down to the required skills. If you don't have a degree, you have to convince the company in other way that you have what they need. Especially in software development it's pretty easy to show your skills.

Degrees do often make companies more inclined to let you show them your skills, though.

I've noticed a correlation between companies that are overly interested in credentials and those that will institute open plan offices, draconian intellectual property regimes, and other employee-hostile measures. No loss there!

How so? and you have to get past the gate keepers first.

I am sure I got dropped from a FANG job I applied for as the initial screening was done by an entry level hr person in a European country which is even more strict about having a degree and less liberal in dealing with atypical candidates.

Colleges are turning into 'adult daycare centers'.

Encouraging people to go into six-figure debt, so that they can get a degree that has zero marketability (except of course to continue on in college), is a deeply cynical enterprise. At least drug sellers and casino owners are open about what they do.

>Encouraging people to go into six-figure debt

That is just wrong, the average student debt in the US is ~$30,000. It still a lot for a 22-year-old to have, but that is far shy of ~$100,000. It holds for some degrees or personal situations, but in the macro sense isn't accurate.

>they can get a degree that has zero marketability (except of course to continue on in college)

I do think this is true for a good number of degrees, but I think it simply points to a larger issue with the system as it stands now. The fact that for most jobs, even if you don't need a degree, most businesses won't even look at you if you don't have a degree.

Like you are saying, the system encourages a "deeply cynical enterprise" by creating this ginormous industry of college degrees, loans, etc. all so students can simply signal to businesses their "competence" or whatever you want to call.

So much for an efficient market!

The average for those with student loans, which is still a minority.


(Stay away from for-profit schools.)

This is a cynical statement with no truth behind it. How do you explain the stat that college grads make a million dollars more over a lifetime? Almost everyone on Wall Street has a degree, would you call that zero marketability? Doctors all have degrees...zero marketability?

Average physician has lower lifetime earnings than a UPS driver. Most of the difference comes from time spent in training instead of earning, and ... financing a giant pile of school debt.

If one of your exemplars has lower lifetime earnings than a UPS driver, your point may be on shaky ground.

[Citation Needed]

There are multiple specialities and multiple pay grades. I'd appreciate seeing a citation for this claim.

I believe this is the site he is referring to


These numbers are wonky in the article. Average salary of UPS driver = $57,000. Average salary of a doctor = $299,000

(1) https://www.truckdriverssalary.com/ups-driver-salary/ (2) https://www.usnews.com/news/health-care-news/articles/2018-0...

Would you prefer to work as a UPS driver or as a physician? It's like looking at a country's debt while ignoring everything else. Yes, Greece has less debt (inc. per capita) than the US, but you can't seriously suggest it is better off for it. Your estate might be better off with higher lifetime earnings but not necessarily you while you still alive.

This is BS. I won't even ask for a citation cause I know none exist.

.... dude why be like that ? You perfectly know he was talking about gender-studies, "art stuff", "business stuff" (depending on the country) etc.

People who go doctoring have it good (& hard).

I concur. Taking his statement as meaning all of college is a bit disingenuous. It's more about the feeling that you "have" to go to college no matter what you study. Of course if you want to become a doctor you need to go to college, but going to college just for having been to college is not something we should encourage young people to do.

This is a dangerous thing to say because it's heard by teenagers who can't think about themselves at 40.

But you do need a college degree if you're planning to migrate to most developed countries.

The most common reason this is true is because you were born rich.

I'm pretty sure a college graduate created the touchbar.

If Cook really cares so much, why doesn’t he invest in internal training and mentorship programs? Where are all the entry-level new grad positions where a junior is paired with a senior? Where is the performance evaluation category for mentoring as a developer? These have all but disappeared in the modern job market.

It used to be the company’s prerogative to train hires for their job. Now that is being outsourced to colleges, with the media and politicians helping them broadcast their cost-saving strategy. It’s sickening.

I've been coding for a long time. All that has changed is your perspective. It used to be that the "real" developers were working on "real" technology, like satellites and mainframes. This whole messy website muck was chided.

So those companies hired people like me and trained them. I was 14 working nights, weekends, and summers.

Now, the web is Serious. It has enough pro devs to make it nothing but a waste of time to drag along some high school kids. But there are still high school kids getting recruited, you're just not in the same low-standards part of the industry that they're in. Motivated kids these days are building weird shit in VR and hitting bug bounties. If anything it is not a problem of training and mentorship, it is a problem of getting people interested in programming in the first place. When I got my first computer at 4 years old I had to use a CLI to get around. Most of my games were in QBASIC and could be inspected and changed, which I would do when I was bored. It's harder to get the spark these days, but once it starts it is so much easier to learn than it used to be. I was struggling with pointer math at 10 years old.

Kids these days use JavaScript and Swift.

If enough kids weren’t interested, the science and technology pipeline would dry up. Diversity in the stream may be an issue, but overall dearth is not currently a problem (used to be a much bigger problem in the past when computing was a less reputable industry).

Does it really matter what the technology or application area is? Electricians train and apprentice, as do scientists (what a PhD and post-doc are after all).

Given that you are a senior, do you feel these kids would not benefit from your mentorship? If so, does the organization you work at create opportunities for such mentorships? Do they count towards your promotion case?

This is also a huge part of the lie of "caring about diversity" large enterprises are trying to sell.

Disadvantaged groups have less educational attainment. If you want a diverse workplace, you have to invest in training for people without the stanford/mit/etc background.

Verbally recommitting to diversity at every all hands is some frustrating, cynical bullshit when the company expects recruiting to magically source diverse candidates who have the same credentials as people who grew up without institutional discrimination.

you have really nailed it on the head. this whole thing is just propaganda by tim cook and apple to continue to exert influence over university and high school education in order to outsource training and commoditize software engineers. in their mind, they just want universities, and now high schools, to start pumping out people ready to start writing software for them without any investment on apple's part. the more of these people, the more they can skim the cream off the top and keep wages low or lower.

as you say, there are very few companies left that are willing to properly train smart employees who may not have the background they need. it is very disappointing. this furthers the STEM myth, and it negatively affects other fields. let's say someone is interested in history. how are they supposed to feel comfortable with their decision to study history in university, if they are basically unhirable (in today's climate and for no good reason) afterwards? there is even pressure on actual STEM fields to learn software as well. the number one suggestion for mathematicians looking for a job is "learn to code". companies won't even hire mathematicians who don't already know how to code. it's so silly that companies can't say, oh, this person dedicated a lot of time to learning something i would probably struggle to or not be able to learn, but i won't hire them because they don't already know how to code, and i don't want to train them. that is the STEM myth.

universities should not be job mills, but u.s. corporations are doing everything they can to make them into that. university should be about exploration and learning and doing and not about how to land your future company's ideal job for you.

It’s not the same thing but maybe a compromise due to the scale involved: you can work your way up from the Apple Store into corporate without a college degree.

“Geniuses” funnel into QA mostly while “Creatives” funnel into marketing and design.

We did hire many, many interns too when I was there but they were from college programs.

> funnel into QA

That is, the lowest paying and least respected "tech" jobs in the company.

I agree that QA typically don't get the prestige of development. But at my job we happen to have some QA people that are worth their weight in gold. And that is generally understood and respected by the dev teams here.

Ask them what they get paid vs. the developers.

1) QA at Apple can work their way into regular Engineering roles too.

2) The delta in salaries isn't much since Apple doesn't pay their engineers much compared to other companies in the valley in the first place.

Sez the guy with the Duke MBA.

tl;dr: This advice is unhelpful in reality if hiring/recruiting/mentoring practices do not change. There are many talented people without degrees, but I feel that current practices throw hay on the needle pile. In the end, companies care about the bottom line––anything else is in support thereof.

--rant-- I am currently at a large university in the bay area. The competition is pretty tough. "CS" is a heavily impacted major and many schools have instituted gpa caps (while simultaneously espousing that equity and equality are of utmost importance).

So what are we all competing for exactly? I am not sure. I do not like the system; as it stands now it often feels like we are all competing for some sort of raffle ticket that we can then go door to door––company to company––asking "did I win," "did I win?" Many of my peers are confused as to why I dislike a system that we are benefiting from. My answer is that it seems off––something just doesn't feel right.

Companies save time and money, by not only feeding off of university pipelines, but also avoiding many smaller schools. I can understand the rationale. They seek skills––algorithmic and programming ability––perhaps also the ability to adhere to a factory environment.

I can see the rigor gap between my coursework and that of my friends at various other universities. I witness many talented students who struggle to find internships. I also see many students with tons of algorithmic ability, but cannot begin on a project of their own or contribute elsewhere.

I find it very odd that people (Tim or whoever) talk about not needing a 4-year degree, while possessing a 4-year degree. Likewise, as others have noticed, where are all of the mentoring programs?

To tell younger students that they do not need a 4-year degree is misguided if not negligent if not dangerous (that is under the assumption hiring/mentoring practices do not change).

I believe part of the problem is that Computer Science (or Software Engineer) has become the new "doctor"––except that you're out of the pipe in four years.

But of course, this (Tim's words) is just lip-service. What Cook and others actually mean may be two things––(1) they want talented people, period (2) they want to pacify those they will reject.

I agree with motohagiography, "there is no incentive for people with an education to criticize it." If I drop out and criticize the system, I'd probably be seen as "a sore loser." If I stay I am a cog.

I'd love if what Tim and others said was a truthful representation of reality. But the fact still remains, the fancy school name on my resume gets far more looks than a lesser-known school––what would it get if no school were listed? Hmmm, don't know. I do know that my linkedin profile got way more traffic when my school changed...

Lastly, I feel like Computer Science (and the degrees offered under this title) are meant to pipeline someone into a masters--->phd and not necessarily software engineering. You might be able to say that CS is a superset of software engineering, but even this is somewhat wrong.

I've been doing some soul searching lately and I'd appreciate advice. I see everyone in my community working so hard; for all the work to culminate in selling people things, ads, and maintaining the freemium-universe we live in seems... kind of dark. I know this isn't entirely the case, but yeah. --rant over--

College rules. If someone else is paying. It's too fucking expensive now. Boomers ruined yet another thing.

College degree means for me that someone was willing to waste his own precious time for stuff never really needed, sometimes right away obsolete and usually totally disconnected from reality. Also it means, that one usually doesn't really understand nor remember anything from school (because there is no need for this knowledge in practice). I'm talking about CS and folks thinking that if they're able to install 300 cracked games they're automagicaly CS gods (these tends to end-up as java programmers). I've met too many people like that. So yes, one doesn't normally need CS degree (and i'm probably biased, too). Probably don't event need degree in electronics to make stuff or do some research. But definitely need it for things such as physics or law

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