Do I need a university degree to be freelancer?

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It’s not easy being a successful freelancer. You need courage, entrepreneurial spirit, a high degree of motivation, and skills in which you really excel. Freelancers are not usually required to show proof of their educational background. Do freelancers need a university degree?

The reality is that you don’t have to go to college or university to get to call yourself a freelancer.

But do freelancers go to college anyway? Does having a college degree affect a freelancer’s success?

We were interested in learning more about the backgrounds that freelancers come from. We asked over a thousand freelancers from our DACH community to tell us about their highest obtained degree.

Here are the results:

Highest level of education freelancers
Highest level of education among freelancers – Freelancer Survey 2020

40% of our participants said they had finished a university degree.

This just goes to show that freelancing does attract people with high education who believe they can use their knowledge without being a part of a big organization.

With a university degree, these 40% of freelancers probably have a pretty good chance of finding jobs, but they chose to freelance instead!

Additionally, 34% of our survey participants have completed an applied science degree. No wonder if you consider just how popular some of the technical jobs are with freelancers.

Whether you want to learn how to write code or build websites, technical colleges offer a great deal of expertise that can be useful as a freelancer.

The third big group in our survey were people who had obtained their “Abitur” Certificate. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s the German equivalent of the A-Levels or the Matura. It’s the qualification granted at the end of secondary education after having completed successfully twelve or thirteen years of schooling.

Portfolio Dragos Muntean

As you might know, there are a lot of young people who were born in the age of freelancing – they know it’s possible and they’re choosing to go for it. And that’s great because real-world experience is invaluable. You can always go back for that college degree later.

We also looked at the correlation between education and the hourly rates of freelancers. Here’s what we found: 

Freelance hourly rates based on education
Hourly rates distribution based on education – Freelancer Survey 2020

On average, freelancers with a University degree earned €96 – about €14 more than freelancers at the secondary level of schooling. 

This perhaps indicates a slight bias towards freelancers with a recognizable certificate of skills. However, it may not necessarily imply that freelancers with no formal qualifications lack talent or skills. 

When asked about further education, freelancers chose “Technical Literature” as their primary source of knowledge. Coming in second, “E-learning courses” was also a popular choice with over 50% of all freelancers choosing it. 

Workshops, webinars, seminars, and conferences all followed as a source for further education for freelancers in their respective fields. 

Most used methods for further education used by freelancers
Methods for further education – Freelancer Survey 2020

So while certain employers may look towards freelancers with formal qualifications, having a degree does not have to be the only way to be successful as a freelancer.

Your ability and knowledge, can speak greatly for your skills as a freelancer and prove to employers that you are ready to take on a challenge.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you believe freelancers need a formal degree or is freelancing still welcoming of those with non-traditional paths to education and knowledge? We’d love to know what you think!

Viktor Marinov

Viktor is the voice behind the freelancermap blog. Every week he comes up with helpful hints, checklists, and guides for freelancers and independent workers. If you would like to know how to find remote jobs online or how to niche yourself as a freelancer, don't miss his freelancer tips!

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By Viktor Marinov

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