What matters most when it comes to getting a job is a debate as old as higher education itself. Does that higher degree get your foot in the door, or does your past work experience count for more? And beyond simply obtaining a job, will your experience or your education serve you better in terms of staying employed, growing in your career, and making a good living for decades to come? Education
Work Experience vs. Education: An Overview
The arguments for higher education vs. work experience (and vice versa) are varied, but some of the main ones go like this:
Obtaining a higher education only proves you can succeed in academia, not in a real-world job situation. Success in actual work tells prospective employers more about what you have to offer.
Work experience can make you a good match for a particular job today, but without higher education, you may lack the skills that are important for advancement tomorrow.
A degree can show that you have the specialized knowledge or technical skills that an employer is looking for and that can be transferred to the workplace with minimal on-the-job training.
The Value of Work Experience
If you’re a recent graduate, your new degree may serve as evidence that you’ve acquired the skills necessary for an entry-level job in your chosen field. Prospective employers are likely to see you as someone who can get up to speed quickly, requiring little on-the-job training, which costs employers both time and money.
Any work experience that you’ve acquired along the way can help, too, whether it came in the form of an internship in your field or simply a job to pay the bills.
Do Employers Prefer Experience or Education?
That depends on the type of job and the hiring person’s preferences. Surveys over the years point to most employers valuing higher education. However, experience can also play a critical role in deciding who to give a job or promotion to.53
Some professions demand a certain level of higher education as an entry requirement. Others, such as a job in sales, tend to value results and work experience more.
Can Education Replace Experience?
In some cases, yes. The completion of a relevant course could be viewed by employers as the equivalent of actual work experience. If that course was highly regarded, it may even be valued higher than time spent in the field.
Is a College Degree Worth the Money?
That depends on what you plan to study and what the entry requirements for your chosen profession are. In lots of professions, a degree from a good school will help you to get a foot in the door and move up the ranks. College is expensive, though, and might not always be necessary.
The Bottom Line
In the long run, the bottom-line benefit of higher education is difficult to dispute. In the AACU study, 88% of the executives and 85% of the hiring managers surveyed said they considered the money and time involved in getting a college degree to be either definitely or probably worth it.