Yes, we all are. This affirmation might seem a little odd but I am absolutely convinced that you do not need a master or doctoral degree to become an expert.
First, I wanted to make clear what, academically, means to be an expert, to achieve mastery in a topic or field, and that led me to look for the definition of a master degree. By definition, those individuals who obtain a master degree are considered experts in one (or more) specific topic(s).
According to the portal Top Universities this is the definition of a master degree:
A master’s degree is an academic qualification granted at the postgraduate level to individuals who have successfully undergone study demonstrating a high level of expertise in a specific field of study or area of professional practice. Students who graduate with a master’s degree should possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics, a high level of skills and techniques associated with their chosen subject area, and a range of transferable and professional skills gained through independent and highly focused learning and research.
While this definition makes complete sense, according to Malcolm Gladwell in his best seller book “Outliers”, to really achieve mastery, there are a number of factors to consider, but one of the reasons individuals become not only proficient at something but real experts is an insane amount of hours of practice under the appropriate conditions, which is also called delivered practice.
Formal education is definitely useful to achieve mastery at something but without the required hours of delivered practice, it is definitely not possible to become an expert. In the same way that children learn to speak a language —even a difficult language as German, for example— through continous trial and error, if formal education or even self education delivered for a determined period of time is added to the learning process, any given person might perfect their skills to acquire the expert status.
Therefore, we can assert that when an individual has devoted countless hours of practice to an specific activity, be it part of their regular work or a personal hobby, under an specific context, that individual might have developed skills and knowledge that an average person does not possess. That is to say, that an expert is not necessarily someone whose knowledge and skills are absolutely the best in a field, but someone whose knowledge and skills are even slightly superior to those of the average person and is capable to use them to solve a problem or to help someone else to solve a problem.
Every person we know could be an expert in something, even when that person is not conscious about it. For example, we all know somebody who knows a little more than we know about technology and gadgets. This person is the first one we think about when we experiment a technology problem, that person might be 13 years old or 50 years old, male or female, no matter who that person is providing that they can help us to solve an specific problem, that person is an expert to us.
A single mother who has raised four children will definitely have a lot of tips and knowledge about upbringing in her YouTube channel that can be highly valuable to any new mom looking to raise her first child. A carpenter with no formal education who owns a workshop and has been in the business for two decades could possibly write a 500 page e-book on carpentry that a Fortune 500 CEO with a passion for woodwork will possibly find extremely interesting. A 11 year old high school student who is passionate about Minecraft could write a daily posts in his blog about tips and techniques for the videogame that many grown-up gamers might find very useful. Again, formal education for these individuals will definitely create more value for them but without devoting hours and hours of practice, mastery will be just an illusion.
Every one of us is an expert in something we have probably been doing during some time of our life, but then real goal is finding what of all that we know might bring value to the lives of other people, because we know a little bit more about it than everyone else and can use to help others.