Most employers say they want a combination of education and experience. And most experts will say that getting certifications in your field will give you that extra edge when you’re looking for a job. But which of the three is the most important?
Can experience make up for the lack of a degree, or does a degree provide something that experience cannot? Is one more valuable than the other? This discussion is truly a trap debate because the right answer is “it depends”—on both the person and the situation.
Someone with experience but no formal degree may find a great job early on but may find himself or herself reaching a plateau in his or her career earlier, or may struggle to advance professionally after a certain point. On the other hand, a college grad with the best education and book smarts may flounder when it comes to dealing with the real world of work if he or she lacks industry experience.
Obviously, there are specific cases where there is no question about it. If a company needs a registered professional engineer to approve plans, the degree and certifications are a given. However, especially in a field like IT where the technology often develops more quickly than the classes, there is a wide range of positions that don’t necessarily require a degree—but a certification can advance your career.
Why do employers often prefer college degrees? Because the perception of people who have earned degrees is that they possess:
- A proven ability to analyze problems, conduct research and produce solutions
- A proven ability to learn complex or difficult subject matter
- Motivation, drive and intelligence
- Better interpersonal skills
- More credible qualifications
Sometimes, they only think that a degree is required because it always has been. And can’t these things also be true of people who have years of experience but no degree?
There’s no easy answer to this question and no clear winner in the age-old debate on the importance of education vs. the value of experience. As a job seeker, what can you do?
Arm yourself, as early as possible, with the tools you’ll need throughout your chosen career. If the job path you want to follow absolutely requires a degree to advance, and you want to advance, get one. If you’re given the chance to take courses to achieve a certification that will be important down the road, take them. If you have real-world experience that makes you more than qualified for a certain job, make sure you can make a case for yourself.
And if any of this sounds overwhelming or confusing, give the experts at Synerfac a call. We can help you plan a career path or find you a job that perfectly matches your skills, experience, education and personality.