21 Apr 2021 19:53 IST

How freelancing is changing the value of degrees

Skills and attitude matter much more than a degree in the freelancing world

There is a lot to be said about university education and where degrees take you. The more you pay attention to people around you, the more you see a gap between what someone studied and what they’re doing. I studied sociology at Lady Shri Ram College Delhi, and I am a brand and project manager now. My brother dropped out of college, and he is now a CEO of a creative agency. Another friend who studied engineering is now the head of marketing at a networking company. And yet another friend studied engineering is now handling content at a fashion company. A colleague is currently studying statistics and math but is a full-time motion and graphic designer. The examples are endless.

It makes me wonder whether as a society our emphasis on university education as being the end all and be all is right. The path that my brother took was looked down upon. He had to have countless conversations with family and friends that told him, “You cannot succeed without a degree.” And while that is true for most situations in our country, it certainly isn’t in the freelance world.

The Payoneer 2020 Freelancer Income Report says, “Having an advanced degree doesn’t always translate into a higher hourly rate for freelancers.” In the freelancing world, your skills trump your degrees. Your attitude, competence, and talent, trumps the name of your college. Your experience trumps your grades.

According to the report, while the majority of the respondents, 57 per cent held a bachelor’s degree, 19 per cent of them had only completed high school. The impact of one’s higher education doesn’t correspond with an increase in wages or reputation. In fact, the global average shows that high school graduates who are freelancers earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree, and only slightly less than those with postgraduate degrees.

As an Indian, this was so shocking for me to read after all the brainwashing I’ve been through — that my life was basically worthless without a university degree. Don’t get me wrong, I loved college. I was a first-bencher, note-taker, completely absorbed in everything I was studying. But that’s the point, isn’t it? If you love college and academics, go do it. Enjoy it.

But if you hate it, you shouldn’t be expected to do it. In fact, there seems to be absolutely no other way around it. And that’s where the problem lies.

Freelancers, globally, are changing this perspective. If you can get the job done, and if you can get it done well, nobody cares how you got there. You could’ve learned it on YouTube, or through doing multiple internships. I read this post on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/posts/gowtham-sundaresan-845040111_employers-hiring-freshers-are-beginning-to-activity-6763332232250839041-DQeF) that summarised my thoughts accurately — “Employers hiring freshers are beginning to value skills, attitude and personality more, and degrees less. Degrees have been a currency of trust for the longest time, but as they become more and more irrelevant, we realise that we’re probably using the wrong currency. And that’s where the opportunity for innovation in edtech truly lies.” I couldn’t agree more.