Degree vs Experience: What Do Employers Prefer?

Degree vs Experience: What Do Employers Prefer?

It’s always useful to know what a hiring manager is thinking. But most people go into a job interview without knowing what the hiring manager wants. One common area of confusion is whether employers care more about a degree or experience. By understanding the answer to this question, you can maximize your opportunities. You can make better decisions regarding your career path and focus on the parts of your resume that matter the most.

Why Does a Degree Matter?

In the degree vs experience debate, no one is arguing that a degree isn’t beneficial. In fact, there are several benefits to having a college degree. For one, it’s not unusual for employers to require their workers to have a minimum of a college degree. Your degree opens up opportunities that other employees may not have access to.

A degree also gives you more insight into an industry. While you’re studying in college, you prepare yourself for a career. Someone with no degree needs to learn everything on-the-job, and this can be challenging. Here are a few other benefits of obtaining a degree:

Make More Money

Generally, individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree make more money than those who don’t. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that people with a bachelor’s degree made a median of $1248 per week. Individuals who had a high school degree and no college credits made a median of $746 each week.

There are instances where an advanced degree won’t earn you more money, but this isn’t the norm. If you want to improve your chances of a high-paying job, obtaining a degree could be the best option.

Lower Chance of Unemployment

As previously mentioned, a degree opens up more jobs for you. However, there’s another way in which having a degree can improve your job prospects - it decreases your chance of being unemployed. Unemployment rates among people with degrees are lower than they are among people with no college credits.

In 2020, the unemployment rate for people with no college credits was 3.8%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for individuals with college degrees was 2%.

Why Does Experience Matter?

It’s obvious that there are some benefits to having a degree. So why do some people push for experience over a degree? Here are a few ways in which having more experience can help you find and keep a job:

Become Familiar with the Industry

If you spend four years in college and don’t work, you won’t truly know what it’s like to work in your industry of choice. You spend your time learning rather than doing, and this insulates you from the industry.

When you work right away, you learn how the industry works. You know what you need to be successful and can start carving a career path. As you work, you can build connections that help you get a promotion or a job offer later on. You also have an opportunity to obtain certifications on the job.

Proven Success

A degree shows an employer that you successfully completed your coursework. But it doesn’t show an employer that you’re good at the job. If you gain experience early on, you start creating a proven track record. You can use metrics and achievements to show employers that you would be a productive employee.

Meet Experience Requirements

Because so many employers value experience, they often have strict experience requirements for job seekers. Even if you have a degree, you might need two years of proven on-the-job experience.

Unfortunately, experience isn’t something you can easily substitute. It’s not uncommon for job listings to say that experience can substitute for education, but it’s rare for listings to say that education can substitute for experience.

Less Training Needed

If you go to an employer with experience over a degree, you need less training. Due to the fact that you already have the skills you need to work, your employer doesn’t need to hold your hand. On the other hand, someone who only has an education often needs extensive training.

Which is Better -A Degree or Experience?

Every employer has their own needs and wants. For that reason, no one can say that every employer values a degree over experience or experience over a degree. Despite that fact, there are some general trends in the workplace.

In the past, employers seemed to focus more on education. But now, they’re leaning towards experience over education. Careers in the trade industry have always heavily relied on experience and still continue to do so. However, other industries are starting to follow suit. An employer might still have a minimum degree or education level, but they’re more likely to allow a candidate to substitute experience for a degree.

If you’re trying to decide what matters more to employers in your industry, consider the following factors:

What Your Career Is

Whether or not you need a degree depends on your desired career. Before you decide to go to school, you should research your industry. Are there strict education requirements? For instance, you can’t be an RN without an associate’s degree. There’s no way around the requirement.

The Cost

You also need to decide whether or not the cost of college is worth it. Although having a degree can earn you more money, it might not be enough of a raise to justify the cost. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a four-year degree from 2017 to 2018 was $109,428.

Whether or Not You Have Alternative Options

It’s equally important to consider whether or not there’s an alternative to a college degree. In some fields, you can take an online course or a certification program. This could strengthen the education section on your resume without making you broke.

Consider Your Experience

How much experience do you actually have? If you don’t have any experience as an employee, you might want to focus on gaining experience. And even if you choose to get a degree, you should find a part-time job or internship.

As long as you know your job’s basic requirements, you can easily make the right decision. You can always go back to college or find jobs that work well with your level of education and experience.

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