In our day and age you don't need to go to university or college to become an expert at something: encyclopedias, instant access to tens of thousands of textbooks and classics (both free and not), papers, discussion boards, educational videos and actual filmed lectures at the most prestigious of universities, Q&A sites where it's not rare for an answerer to have a PhD, the following question seems very topical (to me, at least).

What expression is best suitable for a person who does not hold a degree in something, but is still an expert in this something (sometimes ironically being a better expert than one who does hold a degree)?

The best expression that comes to mind is 'enthusiast', but it's not serious enough, in my opinion.

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    What's wrong with your suggestion of expert? – BladorthinTheGrey Sep 24 '16 at 19:52
  • This doesn't full answer your question, but may be interesting: english.stackexchange.com/q/315297/184766 – BladorthinTheGrey Sep 24 '16 at 19:54
  • It seems to imply you've had some formal training of sorts to become one. – Michael Smith Sep 24 '16 at 19:58
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    An expert is an expert. If you want to emphasize the lack of formal training, you could add self-taught or autodidact. – michael.hor257k Sep 24 '16 at 20:23
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    Unfortunately there are lots of people who are “qualified but not certified” who aren’t permitted to practice their professions, but what’s really scary is the number who are permitted to practice even though they’re “certified but not qualified” to do so. – Papa Poule Sep 24 '16 at 20:53

Enlightened people care about expertise in a particular area X, not about credentials, e.g. advanced degrees, professional certifications. The latter are meaningless compared to what a person knows or can do.

That said, the word you are looking for may be authority.

From Merriam-Webster:

authority: an individual cited or appealed to as an expert

An authority is a person who simply knows more about a particular something than anyone else, or most anyone else. Whether such a person has a degree or not simply shouldn't matter.

  • I couldn't have come up with a better word. +1. – alwayslearning Sep 25 '16 at 5:43
  • @alwayslearning Greetings. That's a high compliment coming from you. Thanks! – Richard Kayser Sep 25 '16 at 19:10

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