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Experience vs. Education: Why One May Add More Value Than the Other

Whether experience or education matters most when getting a job is an age-old debate. Will your academic qualifications be the thing that seals the deal? Or do your years of experience and skill development matter most? Will your education or your experience get you that higher salary you’ve been chasing?

In today’s world, many people are wondering whether an expensive college degree is worth the investment. While this can depend on the field you’re in and where you are in your career, research shows that many employers value experience over education. In fact, recently, many major companies like Google have changed their policies about requiring degrees. Why?

Understanding Experience vs. Education

In general, education refers to learning from books or teachers. When we talk about education in a job-hunting situation, we’re referring to your higher education and academic qualifications. 

On the other hand, experience refers to the skill development that you’ve achieved from hands-on learning in practical and real-world situations.

If you’re fresh out of college, you likely don’t have much hands-on experience. But, more education can actually lead to higher pay and better job stability if you don’t have years of practical experience to rely on. 

The Benefits of Experience vs. Education

Gaining valuable work experience can help you impress potential employers and land a job. Proven success in real-world situations shows employers that you’ll be able to jump right in and do the job today without a lot of additional training. This is especially true if the job requires technical skills. Hands-on experience also gives you the soft skills needed to thrive in a workplace environment. 

Research shows that 62% of employers do still require postsecondary education, but internships and employment experience during college hold more weight than a GPA. 

Industries Where Experience Matters More Than Education

In the rapidly developing field of IT, experience is often prioritized above education. Experience in specific programming languages and hands-on experience with software development will often get you further than a formal education. IT roles often involve complex problem-solving, and practical knowledge helps you to navigate those complexities.

A study by Harvard Business Review found that only 29% of IT roles posted by IBM require a degree. 

And in trades like carpentry, plumbing, or electrical work, the value of hands-on experience outweighs education, although attending trade school provides a valuable advantage.

Industries Where Education Holds More Weight for Career Advancement 

In the debate over whether education or experience is preferable, the industry does matter. In industries like architecture, engineering, law, or medicine, a formal education is essential before entering the workforce. 

Many of these career paths will also require some sort of internship or practical experience as well. For example, medical students often complete thousands of hours of training in clinical settings before graduating with their degrees.

Balancing Experience, Education, and Personal Development

It’s important to find a balance between experience, education, and personal development for professional success. Recognize the value that each component brings to your particular career. Create a growth mindset, and make sure you stay open to new challenges and opportunities. Seek opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills, and you’ll build a solid foundation for professional growth and success. 

Bottom line — you can’t achieve success with theoretical knowledge alone. Education does serve as a foundation for a greater likelihood of success and higher pay, but it’s important to supplement higher education with experience. In today’s world, a degree alone doesn’t guarantee employment and career advancement.

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