I'm wondering whether there's any way to enter the academic world, do research at a university for a living, without an undergraduate degree, but instead with several years of experience in industry (the same field of the research).

This is actually my situation. After 8 years of software development in several professional environments, I want to enter the academic world. But I'm frustrated about having to go back to the basics.

  • 1
    Do you mean a graduate degree or as a full-time researcher ?
    – Suresh
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 23:57
  • 6
    this seems very similar to your previous question From industry to academia. The answer hasn't changed since you asked. Commented May 4, 2014 at 7:06

3 Answers 3


I'm sure it varies by country, but in the US you would not have a good chance of getting an academic position.

However, you might find a position at an academic institution as an OPS (other personnel service), which is considered equivalent to a "contractor" position with no benefits and hourly wages.

I'm by no means a degree snob, but getting a degree is akin to getting a ticket to an event. If you don't have one, though shall not pass..

  • 1
    They can also be called "consultants" or "research assistants". I know some working in biology, for example running analysis on data or creating webs to collect and synchronise several labs.
    – Davidmh
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 10:58

It depends on what you consider academia. It is very unlikely that you will be able to become a professor. However, working in an industry research lab is always an option for computer scientists, for instance at Microsoft, IBM, Intel, or SAP. I do have collaborators at these places that are working in research in reasonably high positions, and which at least do not have a PhD. Whether there are people that do not have an undergrad degree either I am less sure, but it is not entirely inconceivable.

That being said, not having any degree will be a huge disadvantage during your entire career. I presume the number of doors you will find closed due to your background will significantly outnumber the opportunities where people do not care.


Academia is a circle. Normally you need an outstanding work during your PhD and Post-PhD to get a university position. Without these, the possibility of getting an entry-level long-term (not tenure) position in the university is near to 0, let alone without an undergraduate degree.

But your situation won't prevent you from doing some serious research work yourself, in an UNUSUAL way. I'd suggest you give up seeking any normal recognition in the academia circle (like a long-term position or a title) until you've achieved something obviously awesome.You have to understand it's hard for people to view you as an exception unless they are surprised by what you've achieved. People would doubt, if this guy is awesome enough, then an undergraduate and PhD degree are like a snap for him, why he didn't just get the degree.

If you insist on not pursuing a degree and go for an usual way, that would be very hard. But maybe you are indeed an exception. Wish you good luck!

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .