The Relevance of Degree and Certification

A degree, or certificate, is given to someone who has pass a certain program. It certifies that the holder of the certificate has fulfilled the criteria stipulated in the degree or certification program. For example, a certificate of attendance given to someone who has attended a training, or seminar. A bachelor degree is given to someone who has passed a study, battery of test and final thesis. Other certification program require someone to take one or more tests, and meet passing grade before the certificate is awarded.

One thing that a degree or certificate don’t say is how the holder will do in the real world.

A PMP certified Project Manager knows how to deliver a project according to PMI Standard. However, it tells nothing if the Project Manager able to negotiate a change request for the benefit of the business, or able to handle a meeting where the CIO of the customer is enraged. Personally, I’ve seen a CIO making comment to a PMP-certified Project Manager: “I don’t understand what is in your slide, or what you are trying to say to me.”

A fresh graduated, certified medical doctor might have all the knowledge to cure people. However, does he/she has the skill to show empathy to terminally ill patient and family? Or understand the environment he/she operate at to understand whether a 3 different lab result of urine that showed different bacterial presence indicate an urinary tract infection, or contamination of the sample?

So, the question, is certification or degree still relevant in the business world? Is it still relevant to pay someone solely based on the certificate under which his/her name is written, or the degree that he/she hold?

I will give another example before answering the question: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, all never graduated from university. Yet, they are all successful to change people’s live, and in the process, earned a lot of fortune. I don’t think they have a certificate in Project Management, Cisco, Microsoft, or other major certificate that is highly sought after. This itself proves that the certification alone is not the the only factor in determining success in business.

Yet, there are also many people with university degree, has also become very successful. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started a successful company called Hewlett-Packard, which now become HP and HP Enterprise. Larry Page & Sergey Brin holds PhD and University Graduate. Both launched a very successful search engine called Google.

So, to answer my question, certificate or degree is no longer relevant in business world. It might be necessary, or might not be necessary, but it is no longer the only important factor, not even the most important factor.

And then, should we reward and promote someone solely based on the certificate or degree that he/she hold? Well, if certificate or degree is not relevant, why should it be the only factor?

My answer to the question: if you are running a university, then please go ahead and score people based on tests, exams, and certification.

But if I’m running a business, I would rather reward and promote people who bring more money, improve the cost structure, bring more customer and keep the customer happy, rather than rewarding and promoting people with long list of certification and degree.

What about you?