Tesla’s Elon Musk: Four-year degree isn’t “evidence of exceptional ability”

Tesla’s co-founder and CEO Elon Musk wants young people to know that getting a four-year degree is not the only way into top companies.

During a Q&A at the Satellite 2020 conference, Musk said that having a college degree doesn’t mean you have “exceptional ability,” noting it would be ideal if “you dropped out and did something.” He continued by pointing out that billionaire tech moguls Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison dropped out of college.

Musk also said that he wanted to make sure Tesla’s recruitment process doesn’t say the company requires a college degree, as that would be “absurd.” Apple, Google, and Netflix also don’t require employees to have four-year degrees.

Musk has been reiterating the importance of “exceptional ability” over a degree from a prestigious university since at least 2014, according to the Business Insider.

The Center’s Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree project has reached Minnesotans aged 14 to 30 and their parents over two million times to inform them that the traditional baccalaureate route is not the only path to success. While a four-year degree remains an excellent choice for many, it’s important young people know they have options and that these options—such as a two-year degree, an apprenticeship, or an occupational certificate—not only lead to well-paying jobs fast, they avoid crippling school debt too.

It’s encouraging more and more prominent business leaders like Elon Musk are recognizing the importance of prioritizing skills over a certain type of degree. While there are students who will thrive and excel in a four-year setting, it’s not the best fit for all and, as Musk alludes, it’s not the determining factor for a successful future.

“Did Shakespeare even go to college? Probably not.”