The Benefits of Being Self-Taught

The self-taught have ceased to be considered unusual. In fact, it's become something of a trend. Self-learning means, for instance, that some hackers end up being more skilled and expert than specialized engineers.
The Benefits of Being Self-Taught
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 03 November, 2022

Autodidacts are those people who learn without the need to receive formal instruction. They’ve always existed, and it’s predicted that they’ll have tremendous opportunities in the future. In fact, due to the way in which science, technology, and social knowledge advance, it’s believed that these kinds of people are particularly adapted to the demands of today’s world.

This may seem unfair or strange to those of us who’ve spent years completing our formal studies. After all, we still live in a time when qualifications are of great value, often regardless of an individual’s true knowledge and skills. Therefore, currently, many self-taught people face the paradox of possessing knowledge, but not having a degree that guarantees them the option to further their careers.

In some periods of history, self-taught people were privileged. One of the most notable examples took place during World War II. When the men went off to war, ‘do it yourself’ manuals abounded so that women could learn trades to keep production going.

The only really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn .”

-Seymour Papert-

woman reading a book
Self-taught people have great autonomy and self-confidence.

The self-taught

Self-taught people are capable of learning by themselves. Therefore, they forge their own education, either in trades or even professions. However, there are some areas that lend themselves more to individual learning, while others can’t really be separated from formal education.

Today most of us are, to a greater or lesser degree, self-taught. Indeed, we can train and acquire remarkable knowledge in virtually any area or profession. That said, we need to constantly informally update ourselves since science and technology have a tendency to advance extremely quickly. Consequently, learning is never-ending.

Many of the difficulties faced by the self-taught involve the large amount of easily accessible information that’s around today. At some point, the intervention of a teacher or an expert is usually required to help filter it.

The virtues of the self-taught

Self-taught people aren’t innate geniuses, but people endowed with greater interest and tenacity when it comes to the acquisition of knowledge. They also possess great autonomy and self-confidence. Therefore, they have more ability for making the best of life or finding solutions and opportunities from almost nothing.

Nowadays, many companies, especially the avant-garde ones, are changing their selection criteria for recruiting new employees. This is more evident in fields such as computing. It seems that increasingly more importance is given to the skills that individuals have learned for themselves than to the formal education they’ve received.

This means that the self-taught seem to be more prepared than the university-educated for the world of today. In fact, multinationals like Tesla increasingly value aspects such as self-learning ability, communication skills, adaptability, and the ability to solve problems, regardless of whether an individual has a degree or not.

Girl talking about her shortcomings at a job interview
Companies highly value people who have a great capacity to learn by themselves.

Developing self-study skills

The less radical of us might think that self-study is a complement to formal education. On the other hand, the most daring believe that increasingly more trades will appear in which it’s essential to know how to learn. Therefore, the self-taught will have an even greater advantage in the future.

It’s widely agreed that self-learning plays a really important role in today’s world and in the world of the future. For this reason, it’s a skill well worth cultivating. So how do you do it? Here are some general guidelines:

  • Draw up a study plan on a specific topic.
  • Define and understand the basic context of the topic.
  • Establish what you know and don’t know about the subject.
  • Research what you need to fill in the gaps and answer any questions that might arise.
  • Get some experience.
  • Draw conclusions and synthesize what you’ve learned on concept maps.
  • Keep going.

As a rule, self-taught people have a high tolerance for frustration. However, building knowledge independently means there’ll be moments of confusion and mistakes along the way. The secret is to keep going and learn how to rectify any mistakes in time and stay motivated. It’ll be well worth it.

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  • Rodríguez García, T. (2019). ‘Hágalo usted mismo’. El autodidactismo como alternativa para la generación de capacidades sociales. Academia XXII10(19), 122-141.
  • Zamora, M. J. A. (2015). La estructura 3+ 2 en los títulos universitarios como amenaza y oportunidad de desarrollo del derecho a la autonomía académica de las Universidades. Revista general de derecho constitucional, (21), 5.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.