Apple and Google are looking for new ways to hire people without college degrees — but experts say college might still be your best bet for landing a high-paying tech job

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Apple and Google are looking for new ways to hire people without college degrees — but experts say college might still be your best bet for landing a high-paying tech job

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Tim Cook at Stanford's 2019 Commencement Getty © Getty Tim Cook at Stanford’s 2019 Commencement Getty

  • Apple and Google have been making a big push into education in recent years by launching new programs that aim to teach coding and other tech-oriented skills to students and adults.
  • Both companies also do not require a college degree for certain jobs, and have talked about why lacking a four-year degree isn’t always a deal-breaker when hiring.
  • But experts say that attending a traditional four-year program is still the most reliable path to a high-paying job.
  • If your child is considering pursuing a different route to higher education, like a trade school, experts say the most important thing to do is ensure that it leads to job opportunities.
  • Sign up for our new parenting newsletter Insider Parenting here.

Tech companies like Google and Apple are looking to shake up the education space by offering new programs designed to encourage the development of in-demand tech skills students may not be learning in school.

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Taken together, the initiatives indicate there’s more opportunity than ever beyond the traditional four-year college degree when it comes to building skills for a lucrative career in tech.

Apple CEO Tim Cook even said in 2019 that about half of Apple’s US employment last year was made up of people who did not have a four-year degree.  Google, Apple, and IBM are among the companies that don’t require a college degree for certain positions, according to Glassdoor.

Still, experts say a college degree is critical for most fields. But with more and more tech companies supporting alternative education or coding boot camps, high-paying jobs in the tech industry may still be accessible even without a formal degree in the field. 

Google and Apple make a push into education

Apple and Google have been making some waves in the education space in recent months. Google recently launched a new selection of courses under its Google Career Certificates program, which only take about six months to complete and don’t require any previous experience.

The courses are designed to prepare those who enroll for in-demand jobs that have median average annual salaries of more than $50,000. Google recently added new courses in tech-focused fields such as user experience design and data analytics.

Apple, meanwhile, announced the launch of a new initiative in Alabama called “Ed Farm” back in February, which is meant to help students, teachers, and adults learn how to code. In addition to its “Everyone Can Code” curricula, a program it launched in 2016 for integrating more coding education into schools, Apple also announced a new course in July for helping teachers better understand coding to meet the demand for instructors in the field.  

Executives from Apple and Google have also talked about why the lack of a four-year college degree isn’t a deal-breaker when it comes to hiring. 

“When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings,” Lazlo Bock, Google’s former senior vice president of people operations who spent a decade at the company, told The New York Times in 2014. “And we should do everything we can to find those people.”

Cook said there could be a gap when it comes to the skills students are learning in schools and the ones that are required in the real world. 

Gallery: The best online tutoring services for elementary, middle, and high school students (INSIDER)

“And so to that end, as we’ve looked at the — sort of, the mismatch between the skills that are coming out of colleges and what the skills are that we believe we need in the future, and many other businesses do, we’ve identified coding as a very key one,” Cook said during the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting in 2019. 

Tech companies may be the exception

But college is valuable for much more than just the academic skills you learn, experts say.

A four-year degree tells future employers that you have other attributes that are considered desirable, says Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of Ladders Inc., a career advice and job search site for positions with annual salaries of at least $100,000.

A college degree signals the ability to listen to directions and commit to four years of work, for example. Moreover, people with college or post-baccalaureate degrees tend to earn much more than those without, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But large companies like Apple and Google that seek specific technical skills and have vast resources may be the exception to this general approach, says Cenedella.

“We don’t need the signals of a college admissions department from 1o years ago to tell us whether or not someone is good,” he said in reference to Apple and Google. “We can do that inspection and assessment ourselves.”

What to do if your child doesn’t want to get a college degree

If your child is considering pursuing another option, like attending a trade school, a good place to start is by having an honest conversation about why he or she feels this is a better option than going to a traditional two- or four-year college. 

“It’s worth taking the time to consider who your child is, what their interests are, and what they can do with the time,” Lynn Berger, a New York-based career coach and counselor that specializes in career transition, said to Business Insider.

But it’s also important to impress upon them that by doing so, they may be taking the more difficult route. Even companies like Apple that have been vocal about non-traditional education are more likely to hire someone that has both a college degree and technical training, according to Michael Horowitz, president of TCS Education System. 

That’s not to say seeking technical and trade schools aren’t a viable option. Although a four-year college degree has become the de facto requirement for securing a high-paying job, vocational schools and coding boot camps are legitimate alternatives, Horowitz said.  

But above all else, do the legwork and make sure the course your taking will actually result in a career.

“It’s a different approach to school where you might do more research initially to [see] what this degree [or certification] will allow you to achieve before you jump into it,” Berger said.

The emergence of new online programs like coding boot camps could one day potentially serve as a replacement for the traditional four-year degree. But that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, according to Cenedella.

“The question is, in the next decade, are we going to see things rise that have the same signalling power, but maybe don’t take four years and maybe don’t cost you $400,000,” Cenedella said. “I think it will be tough for anything to replace, even over the next 10 years, the signalling impact that college has today for most employers.”


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Apple and Google are looking for new ways to hire people without college degrees — but experts say college might still be your best bet for landing a high-paying tech job

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