Can you have a career without education in India?

Any person over 7 years of age and able to read and write is considered literate according to the 2011 India census. UNESCO defines literacy as –

Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.

In India, more than 84% men and more than 70% women are considered literate according to the last census as reported by TOI. This means that about 25% of Indians do not possess the ability to read and write.

It is also worth a mention that being illiterate is different from uneducated.

An uneducated person is someone who has received little or no formal schooling but may still be able to read, write, and compute.

Such a person may be literate or illiterate – depending upon whether he can read and write or not.

When it comes to career however, questions like Is literacy enough to be able to pursue a career and Is it necessary to be highly educated to pursue a career come to mind. To be able to answer such questions perhaps we should first define career.

What is Career?

Oxford dictionary defines career as an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress. A career therefore means staying in one occupation – not necessarily one job – for a significant time during your life. So an MBBS graduate who begins a private practice, goes on to study dentistry and ends up practicing dental surgery may be said to have a career in dentistry – although he began with medicine. You might say he has a career in medicine but his career path led him to dentistry.

What Is the Ideal Age to Start a New Career?

This may sound like mere semantics but then what would you say for a person like Dhirubhai Ambani who was a mere matriculate (SSC) but went on to found one of the largest corporates in India? What about Edison who attend school only for a few days before being declared addled and expelled because of it? Yet he went on to discover the lightbulb and form General Electric which now ranks within the top 15 Fortune 500 companies?

Can you have a career without education?

The obvious answer is a big unequivocal and resounding YES. But then why do students pursue higher studies? The short answer to that is that employers prefer graduates over undergrads and post graduates over graduates.

Is a degree your only ticket to success?

Taihei Kobayashi’s story of high school dropout who founded Sun Inc. proves the point yet again. So yes it is possible to have a great career even if you are uneducated – or even illiterate. The only rider is that you should be willing to work extra extra hard. For those who cannot read or write, learning these basic skills is an important first step. That said here are a few pointers on how to make a career without education –

Understand your aptitude

Aptitude and career guidance tests are not only for those who have completed their 10th or 12th – or even graduation. Anyone desirous of doing so can take an aptitude test for career guidance – also called a career aptitude test so that they can plan their career strategy.

Do you have a DRIP on Your Career?

What do these tests do? Well they tell you a few things like your personality traits, your passion, and your aptitude to name a few. This means that after taking these tests you’ll have a clear idea about your own mind-set – such as whether you have a creative mind-set or a logical one – what you want to do most – your passion or desire – and what you can do best. Putting these together, counsellors usually suggest a few careers for you – or at least starting points for your career. How you perform and succeed will of course depend upon you.

For those who have not had the benefit of formal education, an aptitude test is a definite first step.


Having understood your aptitude, it’s time to get qualified. Ok so you did not – or could not – go to school. But still, if you have even studied a few grades or learnt the basic skills of reading and writing you can still get certified in a vocation of your choice. It is the simplest and first step towards the start of your career. You might also want to acquire some much needed transferable skills alongside.

What are transferrable skills and how to acquire them.

Certificate courses are usually short term courses with a duration of 1 year or less. Many certificate courses are also available online and part time giving you the flexibility to earn while you learn. Whatever you decide, a certificate will give you an edge – and more knowledge about your field. Also many certificates or diplomas are considered at par with degrees.

Getting certified is the next step towards building your career and also a definite advantage.

On the job Training

Having acquired your certificate, it’s time to get a job in your chosen field. But wait! You might need some more training. After all, theory and practice are two different things. Even if your certificate or diploma course gave you plenty of practical training, there will still be some job specific training to be taken because every organization has its own way of operating. For instance, if you have chosen to enter into the sales and marketing field, selling biscuits and washing powder may require different modus operandi. So too, selling in a physical store, selling in the field such as door-to-door, selling at exhibitions, and selling online are very different.


Another way to get started working is to do voluntary work or internships. That way, you can create and expand your network – and your reach. It will also give you much needed experience which will be a definite plus as opposed to fresh graduates. Internships pay a stipend that is usually lower than the market standard salary for any given position. Volunteering of course does not pay anything except perhaps travel expenses. There are also some start-ups that have a graded system where you work free for a few months and if this goes well you work on a stipend with a proviso that you will be absorbed into the organization eventually subject to certain criteria.



If you are lucky you might find yourself a mentor who can then guide you through the twists and turns of your career path. Career mentors help candidates by suggesting courses to take, positions to apply for and in general guide candidates through their career path. You might also find a mentor at the place where you do your internship – indeed you can find a mentor almost anywhere but don’t forget to stay in touch. Once you have found your guide stay in touch with him or her even after you part ways. If the person is a true mentor he will guide you no matter where you are and what you are doing.


As you go about getting certified, trained, and work through your internship you will come across many individuals who will befriend you and others who may not have good vibes. It’s a good practice never to forget your friends – and those who rub you the wrong way. There’s no telling who can lend a helping hand in what situation. In any case, networking is a great way to gather information about new openings, opportunities, and developments.

No matter how educated – or not – you are, if you are resourceful enough you can find yourself employment. The trick is never to give up.

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