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Life After Earning a Diploma – Experience vs A College Degree


For the longest time, most employers wouldn’t even consider a candidate for a position unless they had at least a college degree, even if the candidate has tons of experience in the right areas for the position. However, more recently, having experience vs having a degree is making a come-back and proving to be more valuable, especially in certain industries. More and more industries are now preferring candidates that have real-world experience vs candidates that only have a degree in their field.


Why is the value of having experience increasing?

It is a mixture of several things such as most information can be learned online without ever putting a foot inside a classroom. Most industries have improved their efficiency making most jobs a turn-key position where hiring a candidate with any degree is really not required. With technology advancing more and more each year, each generation is becoming more efficient in advertising, marketing, and networking than our older peers. It is not an uncommon situation to find students that are in middle school helping teachers with technology, navigating software programs and applications.


Organizations are considering the following:

  • That obtaining a higher education only proves a candidate can succeed in academia, not in a real-world job situation.

  • Success in actual “work” tells prospective employers more about what a candidate has to offer.

  • Prospective employers are likely to see a candidate with experience as someone who can get up to speed quickly, requiring little to no on-the-job training, which costs employers both time and money.

  • Candidates who obtained their degree 15 or 20 years ago, especially in a technological field, are almost irrelevant now. Candidates will need to show potential employers that they have continued learning, kept up with industry trends, and acquired whatever new skills are required by the employer.

Is earning a degree even worth it anymore?

This would depend on the industry you plan to work in, the type of job you are applying for, and the hiring person’s preferences.

As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with pursuing a college degree. One major drawback is the significant cost of higher education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), undergraduate students paid over $30,000 in tuition on average for the academic year of 2018-2019. That’s 28% more than they paid just a decade ago. Clearly, the price of a bachelor’s degree is going up, leading many a would-be college graduate to question whether or not it’s all worth it.


To prove our point, here is a small list of high-paying jobs that require no degree at all::

  • Elevator installers and repairers - Median annual wage: $79,480 - Projected job growth through 2026: 12 percent

  • Air traffic controllers - Median annual wage: $124,540 - Projected job growth through 2026: 3 percent

  • Funeral service managers - Median annual wage: $78,040 - Projected job growth through 2026: 7 percent

  • Nuclear power reactor operators - Median annual wage: $93,370 - Projected job growth through 2026: -10 percent

  • Power distributors and dispatchers - Median annual wage: $82,510 - Projected job growth through 2026: -3 percent

  • Power plant operators - Median annual wage: $77,180 - Projected job growth through 2026: 1 percent

  • Transportation, storage, and distribution managers - Median annual wage: $92,460 - Projected job growth through 2026: 7 percent


Is a degree still valuable?

Yes! There are still some jobs that require a degree but no experience.

Some of these jobs include the following:

  • Computer and Information Systems Managers: $151,150

  • Architectural and Engineering Managers: $149,530

  • Petroleum Engineers: $137,330

  • Advertising and Promotions Managers: $141,490

  • Computer Hardware Engineers: $119,560

  • Computer Network Architects: $116,780


Some other things to consider when earning a degree…

  • Work experience can make you a good match for a particular job today but without higher education, you may lack the skills that are important for advancement tomorrow.

  • A degree can show that you have the specialized knowledge or technical skills that an employer is looking for and that can be transferred to the workplace with minimal on-the-job training.

  • More education often leads to better job stability and pay. A common theme from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) research on employment opportunities is that those with higher levels of education typically earn more and experience lower rates of unemployment.

  • Having a degree (or several) on their resumes can also give job applicants an edge in getting hired in the first place, surveys show.


What is the conclusion in experience vs a college degree

That the industry you plan to be in plays a big role in whether earning a degree is even worth it. With the average degree costing over 30k, some degrees never pay for themselves in value. Having experience in any industry is valuable and cannot be taught in a college classroom. The more experience you have, the more desirable you become to an employer. Candidates who plan to compete against college graduates for a position will usually need 15 years of experience in their respective field.


This article was written by Brittney Lucas

Manager of Student Services at EIPCS


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