Is Education or Experience More Important for Work?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

It’s a catch-22: you need experience to get a job, but you can’t get experience without a job. Almost all jobs require some experience — at least at the professional level. At the same time, many jobs require education. However, college graduates often face the conundrum of having the necessary education, but being unable to compete with people who have more experience. In some cases, potential employees who have years of experience will outshine those with an education. So the question of whether education or experience is more important becomes difficult to answer.

In some cases, a particular degree is necessary to obtain a specific job, in which case education is definitely important. Still, in such a competitive job market, education doesn’t guarantee you will get a job. At the same time, you could have years of experience and be overlooked because someone else has a shiny college diploma. Much of the answer to the question of which is more important depends on the situation.

For years, studies have shown that people who attain at least a bachelor’s degree will make more money than those who only finish high school. According to analysis by Pew Research, millennial college graduates who are working full-time earn about $17,500 more annually than those with a high school diploma. However, for many people, the potential debt that comes along with a college degree needs to be factored in as well. Some people cannot afford to go straight to college, or they don’t want to take out loans right away.

There are certainly jobs that pay decently and don’t require a bachelor’s degree. According to analysis of figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, completed by Business Insider, there are several jobs that only require an associate’s degree, and many of them pay very well. Air traffic controllers, radiation therapists, and dental hygienists are three examples.

There are also several jobs that pay decently and only require a high school diploma. According to Money Crashers, there are several jobs that require a high school diploma plus job training. Delivery drivers can get paid decently, and can also move up into higher paying jobs. Bill collectors, garbage collectors, security guards, and real estate brokers are a few more examples. One of the main issues with these jobs is that the salary ranges are so wide, and when you start off, you may not be making a livable wage. Another issue is that although these jobs are very important, people often don’t want to do them.

It’s clear that you don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree in order to obtain a job, and that you might even be able to get paid more by earning an associates degree, depending on what you want your career to be. In many jobs that start off paying very little, experience does become more important. Someone who has been delivering for years will usually get paid more than someone just starting out, and will also have a better chance at moving up to better positions. Someone with experience in this case will also win out over someone with an education in many cases, because an education isn’t necessary to perform the job duties. In some cases, even at the professional level, someone who has worked for years and has a lot of experience will be able to move up and make more money than someone with a degree.

However, many jobs require a specific educational background. If you want to get one of these jobs, you will need to meet at least the basic educational requirements. Even if you have been working for a specific company for years, you still won’t be able to move into a particular job position without meeting the necessary education requirements. Once you attain the education, then your experience will usually put you ahead of candidates just starting out. This makes it difficult for those who have the experience but lack the education, but in some ways it can also make it difficult for people who recently graduated but don’t have the experience.

One way that students can increase their chances of getting a job is by completing an internship. While it won’t equate to the same experience level as someone who has been working for years, it will help set applicants ahead of those who are graduating with no experience at all.

So, is education or experience more important? The answer depends on the circumstances. You need to weigh the debt that you will accrue against the education you will achieve, and the potential salary you will receive for that education. If you need money now, you might find that starting a full-time job immediately might be your best bet, and you can always go back to school later. However, if you want a career that requires a degree, you need to go to school. Even if you have worked for years, but you want to move up, you still might need to go back to school. Education is important in many cases, and when you are trying to move up or start a career in a field that requires education, it is definitely a necessary endeavor.

However, there are circumstances when college is not the right choice. According to NPR, if you don’t graduate, then your time isn’t worth it. You will probably end up with debt, but you will have wasted time that you could have spent working. Picking the wrong college or the wrong degree can also cancel out the benefits of going to college. Make sure you choose a degree that will be lucrative enough to be worth it.

If you avoid these college pitfalls, and you truly want a career that requires education (or one that education will help), then your degree will be worth the time and money. The education can come later, but be sure to maximize your time in college by completing an internship and networking whenever possible.

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