Education or Experience: What Comes First When Hiring?

Friday 4 April, 2014


The weathered argument about what’s more valuable in the workplace- experience or education- has never been more relevant than it is now, in the midst of a struggling economy and an unforgiving job market. Is a higher degree going to widen your career prospects, or would that time be more wisely invested in taking on a job that extends your experience in the industry? Also, how far is the next level of education going to take you in terms of developing your career and earning a generous wage once you have your foot in the door?


This is an issue that is repeatedly brought up in strategic discussion within organisations about internal policies but it’s also a conversational point when referring to a specific candidate or position. It’s a very personal topic to breach for some, depending on their own circumstances. There seems to be a common theme during these debates: on one end of the argument, there’s someone with years of experience under their belt, but no degree. On the other end, you’ll find someone who is proud to tell you about all the years they spent battling through academic institutions to reach the level they’re at now. Both sides are passionate about their beliefs and neither backs down easily, so these discussions often lead to lengthy debates.


Although there are some cases in which, the question need not be asked – as is the case with surgeons (who are generally required to possess some sort of medical PhD) – there is a wide grey area that spans far and wide, affecting all industries.


When drafting job descriptions and position needs, the question of educational requirements is often one that is determined by personal or cultural preferences. If you’re a manager considering the necessity of a candidate in possession of a degree, you should consider some basic points first: 


1. It’s not an either/or situation- both educational history and professional experiene have their own strong points


2. There are variables- The type of degree the candidate possesses and when they actually attained it plays a big part in suitability


3. A student’s performance doesn’t always reflect their ability to perform in a working capacity


4. Some skills are transferable to new capacities- this can work in favour of both sides of the debate





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