Why You Don’t Need to Study to Be Successful

In Germany, it has become more and more expected to go to university after graduating from High School. Compared to around 10 years ago, there are 1 million more students. German people often have the mindset that success equals studying. But not everybody is necessarily made for studying, not every career needs a degree, and a person who has completed an apprenticeship can still be successful. There is not ONE way to succeed. So let’s talk about why you don’t need to study to be successful!

diverse successful businesswomen smiling and walking together in modern workplace
Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on Pexels.com

For a deeper look into the topic, I decided to get some first-hand experience from a young womxn who has chosen an apprenticeship over going to university. Paulin is 22 years old and works as a Junior Account Executive at one of the top 5 lifestyle PR agencies in Germany. She started to work as an apprentice/assistant in event management after graduating from High School in 2016. In early 2020, she successfully completed her apprenticeship and began her climb up the career ladder. As a young woman surrounded by people who often put studying above all else, she wants to share her story and make sure that other womxn know that studying is not the only way to success. 

Why was an apprenticeship the right decision for you?

Theory was never my thing at school, so I couldn’t imagine studying. I’m a very hands-on and self-taught person. The quickest way for me to learn is to directly execute tasks myself. If I get stuck at a certain point, I often acquire the knowledge through research, colleagues or simple trial and error. Besides those points, I also wanted to live independently and earn my own money. 

Have you ever felt like you were treated differently because you didn’t study? 

Yes, especially in conversations with people I have never met before. Most often those people treating me differently have studied many years for their bachelor’s or master’s degree. They often say that you should rightly earn more money with a degree because of the effort you put into studying. Apart from that, I often have to explain or justify why I didn’t study or why I ONLY did an apprenticeship.

What do you want to tell womxn who don’t know what to do?

Alone among many university graduates, it’s not always easy. But for me it was already clear during my A-levels that I first wanted to do something practical and go straight into working life. The stress of constant studying, lots of theoretical courses during my studies, and the doubts as to whether the material taught at university has anything to with real life and what I would like to do later, really strengthened my decision to take the step into another direction.
It’s important to find your passion or to become aware of your interests and to ask yourself how you want to live. In my opinion, this is much more important than a supposed (bachelor or master degree) status in society. And if at some point you still feel the need to study, then go for it.

What does “having success or a career” mean to you?

To me, having success or a career means getting up every morning and knowing what I’m actually doing it for. It means trying myself out and becoming successful with my ever-growing experience in a field that fulfills me and for which I burn. Whether this passion is short or long term. Success to me means growing my professional worth, knowledge and of course my salary. Having a successful career is often associated with pressure and recognition, but I want my career to also give me room for creativity and breaks.

2 things you wish you had known before starting to work:

  1. Women always sell themselves short in salary negotiations. Talk about it as early as possible with friends, family, colleagues. 
  2. If your job makes you sad or leaves you unmotivated, GO and find a new employer who appreciates you and your qualifications. Having a straight resume has made very few people successful and satisfied millionaires.

2 tips for other young womxn who are just starting a career:

  1. If you have no idea what you want to do yet, don’t STRESS. Start with your interests or talents and see what entry level opportunities are out there for you. 
  2. Listen to your gut feeling and your intuition. Don’t let yourself be persuaded to do things that you don’t want to. 
  3. Pull through and believe in yourself! Stay disciplined even if it’s hard sometimes, acquire knowledge, surround yourself with people who are good for you and above all learn to handle your finances!

Do you have something else you want to share?

Yes, I want to share 4 affirmations that always help me to keep going: 

  • Discipline is key.
  • Knowledge is power.
  • Trust the process.
  • You are great just the way you are!

Success doesn’t necessarily equal studying, but rather knowing yourself. In order to decide if you want to study or not, you need to know want to do in your future and you have to find out what the best way to acquire knowledge is for you. If an apprenticeship or getting a degree at university is the right fit for you, depends entirely on you as an individual.

Paulin made the right decision for herself, and she can already look back on a successful career at the age 22. You don’t need to study to be successful. Don’t let expectations pressure you into something that isn’t right for you!

Do you have a hard time deciding for or against studying? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to check out our other stories.

Be right back,


Fun fact: Paulin and I are good friends. But long before we became friends, we applied for the same job at a PR agency. She got the job, I didn’t. Depending on your chosen career, having a degree isn’t necessarily something that automatically makes you the best applicant.

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