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Education vs. Experience: Which Do Employers Value More?

employers Oct 14, 2022

Hunting for jobs is the single most nerve-racking feature of adult life, especially if you lack the right toolkit.  Many different factors of a candidate’s profile weigh in on the employer’s decision, but the two primary criteria shared by all companies are those of education and experience.

But which one is more important? Which one makes you more employable? And which one should you prioritize? Join us in our comparative analyses of education vs. experience. Let’s see who takes the trophy home.

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Round one: Education

In this corner of the ring, cheered on by the world's parents, we have the defending champion - education. A strong academic background has long been considered the main hiring criterion. It represents years of specialized training designed to prepare you for a particular role.

But keep in mind that education will only give you an edge in the job market if you achieve high enough grades, so if you are having trouble with your assignment paper, we think GrabMyEssay should be your online service of choice. Work smart, not hard.

Do degrees even matter anymore?

Seeing as how college tuition fees have skyrocketed in recent years, many have started to dought the sensibility of accumulating massive student loans to get a degree that might not even end up making a difference. Many progressive companies no longer require a college degree at all.

The entire job industry mindset is shifting in this regard. Modern companies are moving the emphasis toward interviews, tests, and demonstrable abilities and away from dry academic credentials.

In addition, the internet and its ever-improving online learning tools for students are reducing the role and indispensability of formal education, even rendering it increasingly obsolete. But before you give up on college, consider that having a degree can still serve as a sort of formal proof of your abilities and is still listed as a minimum requirement for many job positions.

Companies need to filter out the unqualified rabble that indiscriminately machine guns every job opening they come across, and having a relevant degree is usually the criteria for those initial stages of elimination.

Furthermore, many companies have adjustable salary terms depending on the candidate's qualifications and offer considerably higher pay rates or other benefits for applicants with college degrees.

Research has shown that statistically, people with college degrees enjoy a higher average salary, consistently higher rates of employment, and better job opportunities.

Round two: Experience

Have you noticed recently that in the requirements section of job postings, the academic stuff keeps shrinking while the number of minimum years of experience keeps getting higher? Companies are seemingly shifting their focus from education to experience.

It’s not always clear how well your education will translate into the real world. Academic achievements do not convincingly prove your actual abilities, while work experience proves you have the necessary know-how of the craft.

So why spend years and thousands of dollars on a college degree when you can use that time to gain valuable experience instead while making money instead of spending it? This approach could save you from crushing student debt and fast-track your path to a successful career.

Field practice.

High-quality education only proves your worth in the academic setting, which is always a far cry from a real work environment. Employers need to know that you are keeping your knowledge up to date, are following industry trends, and are aware of all the nooks and crannies of the profession.

Reduced training.

Having worked in a similar position minimizes the job training company has to put you through. The employer is getting a ready-made product, so to speak.  This saves them a bunch of time and money, making it an important point of consideration.

Closed loop.

As we have seen, prior work experience can be your strongest asset when trying for a job. But what if you are just starting out in your career? Most jobs stipulate the minimum required experience to even apply, many with a ridiculous amount of years, but where does your experience begin? If only you had a college degree to your side.

Because of this problem, you won’t be able to skip a few steps and land a higher-level position straight away, like you would with a proper academic background. Instead, you will most likely have to settle for an entry-level position and trust yourself to climb the career tree on merit.

Final showdown: education vs. experience - which one takes the crown?

We have finally neared our culmination, where we have to decide which is more decisive and influential in convincing employers of your abilities - education or experience.

And the winner is...neither. Or both. depends. Such an inconclusive answer can seem anticlimactic, given that we might have given you false hopes of a conclusive verdict, but don't worry; we still announce our champion at the end of the paragraph!

It's tough to compare the two because they are typically needed at different stages of your career. Experience can not appear out of thin air, so you will need the education to secure your first job and get career traction, while experience will come in handy for career growth. Education gets you going; experience keeps you going.

Of course, your answer will also highly depend on your profession of choice. When comparing two variables, you can often gain valuable insight by observing the extremes.

Acting, for example, is a highly talent-based endeavor that doesn't necessarily require any education at all. So an actor with proven experience will always tip the scales against one with a stellar acting school record.

On the flip side, industries like engineering or product design feature highly specialized jobs which require years of academic build-up. You would need a huge theoretical knowledge base to enter those fields of work and get your career off the ground.

So far, we are looking at a stubborn stalemate between our two contenders, but if we still had to pick our winner, it would be the experience.

Here’s why. Relevant education is no guarantee that you have all it takes to handle a particular job, as there's always a gap between theory and practice; Having a successful experience in a similar role, on the other hand, is.

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Bottom line

As we just mentioned, there is no simple better-worse when it comes to choosing between education and experience. Education offers a more proven path to success, albeit long, hard, and expensive, while neglecting education and opting to enter the job market straight away is faster but riskier and doesn’t always pay off. Which path is right for you will depend on your priorities, career goals, and merit.


Andrew Mazur is a writer and a self-made software engineer. He is a huge advocate of self-education and personal growth. Andrew has recently discovered a new passion for traveling and started a blog where he mostly shares his colorful travel experiences with his growing audience.


Zoi Kotsou

Copywriter - Content writer - Content Strategist

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