In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said that some of the people say that “Sincere intention in this present era of ours is difficult (to achieve) or it may be impossible (to achieve) because those who seek knowledge do so with the aim of receiving a certificate”. The Imaam replied to this statement saying that one’s intention is regarded to be corrupt if knowledge is sought in order to receive a certificate or a desire for an elevated worldly status by way of it. But a person’s intention is regarded to be good and not in opposition to sincerity if he wants an elevated status in order to benefit the people, for he knows that at present it is impossible for a person to achieve a high and beneficial position for the Ummah unless he has a certificate. And because of this, even if one were to find a scholar who is good in various affairs of knowledge but has no certificate, it will not be possible for him to teach even in high school and this is the reality. And you will find that the one lesser in knowledge than this scholar will be accepted (as a teacher) at a university as long as he has a certificate. So in accordance with a person’s (sincere) intention and choices the certificate is not considered harmful and its obtainment enters into the statement of the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him]: وما جاءك من هذا المال وأنت غير مشرف ولا سائل فخذه، وما لا فلا تتبعه نفسك – And what comes to you from this wealth without asking for it or having greed for it, take it; and if not given, do not run for it.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhaari. Number 1473. Vol 2. Book of Zakat] (1)
The Imaam also said: It maybe that a person come long (whilst) holding the certification of a doctorate (PhD), and take up the position of teaching in the faculties and universities, yet he is the most ignorant of people. And if a secondary grade student came, he would be better than him (in understanding and knowledge). This is witnessed. At present, there is to be found one who has a doctorate certificate, but he does not know anything of knowledge- either he succeeded by cheating or succeeded by a superficial success that did not establish knowledge in his mind (and heart), but he is employed because he has a doctorate. A person comes along – a good student of knowledge, from the best of people and better than this one with a doctoral degree a thousand times, but he is neither employed nor teaches at a faculty; why? Because he doesn’t have a doctorate. (2)
[Ref 1: Sharh Hilya Taalib Al-Ilm..page:22. paraphrased]
[Ref 2: Source: Sharh Riyaadus Saaliheen. Audio number 74a]