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Work Experience vs Education

“Hmm, now what? Should I continue studying or start working?”

An age-old dilemma that needles students who inch closer to their graduation. Naturally, your qualifications help you earn more brownie points but like every contemporaneous age, the 21st century is no different in birthing a new trend. It has exceedingly popularised the concept of working as a means to gain experience and practical skills prior to acquiring further education. You could even be a fresh graduate or an individual simply thinking about a career change – where the question can pop up.

So, does a higher degree favour your job recruitment process with the necessary skills and help you find ultimate success? Or does industry experience prove beneficial, helps boost the chances for staying employed and earning well in the future? Read on to find out.

What value does education offer?

“It helps build the foundation for your career.”

Simply put, education helps lay the fundamentals for your career. From training transferrable skills to developing your personality and character, university life assists in redefining yourself. More often than not, education helps you find a better job – a subjective concept if by ‘better job’ one means better yearly income.

Moreover, a few professions like law, medicine, and engineering demand a specialised study and therefore, help get you through the door relatively easier compared to a non-degree holder.

A report from May 2020 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggested that among employees aged 25 and above with a professional degree earned over 3x as much compared to those without a high school diploma. Individuals with bachelor’s, master’s or associate degrees still earned substantially more compared to workers without qualifications.

“But more education is not always the way to go.”

Alternatively, the notion of holding more education is not necessarily favourable. For instance, the BLS report highlighted that workers with professional degrees or doctorates held the unemployment rate under 2% while those with a bachelor’s degree faced over 2% of the unemployment rate. Furthermore, the circumstances remained worse for non-degree holders and those who do not hold high school diplomas, where the unemployment rate reached over 5%.

“Many employers believe education is vital for individuals.”

A degree on your resume gives your application an edge over other starters. Alongside transferable skills, it also shows employers that you possess the ability to assimilate information and learn quickly. A 2018 study from the Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) showed that 82% of executives and 75% of employers believed that education is vital for individuals today. They substantiated that the ‘soft skills’ coached by institutions held more significance over the specific curriculum. Furthermore, the majority of hiring managers also cited effective communicative skills and teamwork as important criteria in candidates.

Is Work Experience the go-to option?

“An employer will see you as someone who is battle-ready.”

For recent graduates looking to begin professional journey or individuals looking for career change, a degree may indicate that you have acquired the necessary skills for the entry-level job in your field. Furthermore, they are likely to see you as a potential employee who can immediately start the job with little hands-on training, saving the business time and money.

As you ascend on your journey, you will gradually acquire experiences along the way - whether it comes from internships, volunteering programs, or a job that helps you earn your livelihood. Such industry experiences generally teach you job-related skills that employers seek. It also proves useful in terms of practicality, wherein classroom values are applied in real-life settings.

“Stay up-to-date. It is important.”

Nevertheless, specific fields such as IT undergo various innovations and development. Such domains require relevant experience and education – so if you acquired either of them 15-20 years ago, it may seem irrelevant today. However, you can increase the possibility of getting hired if you kept up with current trends and information while also further acquiring the skills necessary for today’s requirements.

Work Experience vs. Education – the bottom line

The consensus is that the majority of prospective employers are on the lookout for candidates who bring a balanced blend of education and practical skills. It certainly proves difficult to ascertain which road serves better years down the lane. Considering the time and money spent on colleges, you must decide what field best requires higher education.

On the other hand, this does not mean either education or work experience do not help you. Of course, they are both extremely important and choosing either one brings the necessary skills. More importantly, employers also choose potential employees according to their personality. You, a job candidate, can also learn various life and transferrable skills from your environment, for example, socialising – a practice that can exponentially help you throughout your personal and professional journey.

In conclusion, it all comes down on you. What are you prepared for? Which field calls out to you? Does your chosen area require higher education or can you directly board the working sector? This is your expedition. Take it and strive to excel in whatever you choose.

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