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When Is a Degree Worth More than Experience?
When Is a Degree Worth More than Experience?

When Is a Degree Worth More than Experience?

It isn’t. 

Unless you have no actual proven experience.

sxc - Graduation - 613998_university_graduation_2This is a question I see come up very frequently, especially within my alumni groups.  When I am hiring, I am looking to be convinced of capability to do the job. I’m not worried about whether the applicant specifically has a degree or not. In most cases, the person’s degree has nothing to do with the job being applied for anyway.

When there’s a lack of real-world experience the degree serves to provide a minimum baseline. I have a general idea of what the person may know. For instance, if you have an MBA, we can talk about accounting issues without preamble, because you’ve at least been introduced to what journals, ledgers, and financial reports are.

Talking more about mid-careerists, if your experience is solid and can be reasonably confirmed (LinkedIn recommendations rather useful here…), I’m really not worried about a degree you might have gotten -20- years ago.

A friend of mine, a machinist at Ford, had been encouraged to get his bachelor’s in business to qualify for a salary role. He did, and then found he was considered too old.

The key with any degree, whenever you get it, is being able to leverage the -knowledge- and skills you develop. More than a couple years after you received it, and even then only if it’s from an ‘elite’ school, the sheepskin’s half-life quickly becomes of marginal value in my opinion.

(photo credit: Hasnan Sawal)


    1. JT

      Hi Stuart,

      Thanks for your comment. Of course, there’s a difference between a degree and a certification. Quite often certifications don’t serve much differently than do degrees. Certificates may be legally required; often need to be kept current; and, serve a specific targeted need. Because of the more specific needs and their being (not always) ‘current,’ they’re more useful in my mind.


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