Education vs. Experience

Hands hold blank speech bubblesIt wasn’t that long ago when a college degree was considered a very big deal. It was almost unheard of to get ahead in a career without one. However, many large and successful companies have recently started hiring people based on real world experience rather than a fancy plaque on the wall. Will this last, or is it simply a sign of the times? Even more important for employers, is it a smart thing to do? Should career driven individuals skip the pricy college tuition and gain real world experience in their field instead? Below is a list of pro’s and con’s for both being educated and having experience.


(Having a degree in a specific field from a creditable college, but have not used the knowledge in real world application)


  • Vast knowledge of the field from books and teachers that have had the experience
  • Years of looking over other examples of successes and failures in the field
  • Ability to gain second hand experience from teachers and professors
  • Time to really focus on the field and determine if it is for you
  • Some fields REQUIRE a degree to reach a certain level in the felid
  • Big Interview plus
  • Chance to fast-track to a higher position than one starting in the field without an education


  • $50,000 – $250,000 in school loans/debt is typical
  • Entering into a very competitive work force with no experience
  • The possibility that what was taught in college was not the most current practice in the field
  • Desired field may have filled most jobs since starting college; a flooded market with more potential employees than employers


(Having no formal education and certification of knowledge, but years of working practice in the field)


  • No debt/school loans to repay
  • Significant time working in the field giving employees a realistic
    understanding of the reality of a future career
  • A possible track record of success in implanting ideas/knowledge
  • Potential relationships with important/respected people in the field
  • Ability to start working/earning money years before students


  • Individuals may work in a field that REQUIRES a degree to achieve a higher position
  • No accreditation form a well known college or trade school
  • Must have an above average level of success in the field to overcome the lack of a degree
  • Learning through trial and error without a base knowledge foundation to excel from;
    more difficult to learn the basics and the more complicated aspects of the job
  • Less job security than those with a degree
  • Big Interview disadvantage

So what is the proper approach? There are many things to consider for both employers and employees. For example, CBS News reported that one with a higher education, on average, makes 18% more than those without the degree. For employers, it depends on what the opinions are on which individual is considered more qualified, the one with book knowledge, or the one with hands on knowledge? Employers must consider the type of job they are hiring for, and that being qualified for a job doesn’t always mean that potential employers have to have a piece of paper with their name on it to prove their worth.

Are you an employer or an employee? What have you experienced personally with this issue? Let us know in the comments below!

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