This subject is a constant debate, and there is no right or wrong answer. If you’re an employer seeking qualified candidates, you need to choose what matters most to your company. If you’re a candidate, it will be based primarily on the industry and, of course, the requirements of the company you’re interested in joining.

Weighing More Toward Education

If you intend to become a doctor or attorney, employers will lean toward a quality education as those are textbook skills that you will use repeatedly. And, it would be rare that you could get away with just pure experience. It also demonstrates that you can learn about new trends and advances in your field through studying and then use that information to function in your profession with that practical knowledge.

But, if your degree is from ten years ago, you’ll need to keep your skills up to date to demonstrate that you’re still relevant. Consider further education via certificate programs or seminars that keep you current and display that you’re motivated to stay on top of your game. This ongoing plan is most relevant in a technical field where advances are crucial for the job you need to perform.

Experience is in Your Back Pocket

Suppose you’re in an industry that doesn’t necessarily require a high level of textbook skills, and your experience allows you to hit the ground running with minimal training. Examples are the construction industry, financial consulting, government positions, or even hospitality. In that case, your industry knowledge and hands-on experience may be more enticing to an employer. If you’ve had the opportunity to “learn on the job” for a few years, that can help get your foot in the door, although an employer may require you to continue your education and, many times, for the right person, at the company’s expense.

Candidates and employers can argue both situations, and the scenarios may look something like this:

  • Hands-on experience may be attractive to employers, but a higher level of education may ensure you can advance in the future.
  • Securing a deeper level of education may be what an employer wants to see on paper, but without the experience, it may raise a red flag to someone who wants to know you’ve had real-world practice in your field and can start immediately.

For employers, if you’re not open to experience as part of what a candidate can offer, you may miss out on the individual who has what it takes to help take the position, and your company, to the next level.

If you’re a candidate, talk to a qualified recruiter who understands the market and will help guide you during your search. You might have the experience and education, but you may need to make tweaks to be current.

Both options have their pluses and minuses, and many employers will agree that a combination of education in your field and practical experience may be the winning blend.