Education vs Experience - Which is More Important?

Talent Acquisition is about finding top candidates who possess the best skills, experience, training, and education for your clients.  Do you always get all of the above? --- Or is 3 out of 4 good enough?  Most often we are left with deciding between book knowledge and hand-on experience.  Is one better than the other? Hiring Managers and Executives often say, “It depends.”  Both provide essential and important aspects to your career and both could potentially hurt you as well.  Let’s take a look at the advantages of both and see if the weight shifts one way or another.


It’s been proven many a time that having a college degree (or masters) can help candidates rise to executive level positions.  Not only are they more likely to grow to higher levels within the company, a degree increases earning power. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those with a Bachelor’s degree earn, on average, over $20k more than those with a high school diploma

Having a degree shows that a candidate has studied and learned under trained, experienced professionals within his field.  It shows that he has been subject to analytical and logical thinking in an environment that also provides important social and interpersonal skills.

A college experience also exposes people to other subject matter aside from their chosen major.  Electives and extracurricular activities are vital to producing a well-rounded, team-oriented candidate.  Social skills are increasingly important in this networking age where ‘who you know’ can have a great impact on a professional track and college is often where those skills are developed.


It’s hard to beat the “been there, done that” candidate with a recent college graduate.  Experience shows that a candidate can perform in a real-world working environment.  The day-to-day knowledge of the business is instrumental in solidifying her as an important member of the team.

Being active and spending time in the workforce also gives candidates a heads up on the latest trends, technologies, and practices.  A classroom setting runs the risk of becoming ‘out of date’ very quickly if it’s using any type of text or technology older than 2 years.

Being in the workforce for a longer period of time gives candidates the opportunity to capitalize on networking.  These days, referral programs are providing organizations the ability to attract and find the best candidates for positions at a faster rate, and the longer candidates have been in the game, the more they can take advantage of these referral programs.


Is there a correct answer?  There may be HR Managers and Executives that lean one way or another, but for those coming up through the ranks, BOTH is the best way to go.  More college and university students are spending time taking on internships and getting as much work experience as possible before graduation.  Clearly this experience along with their degree will prove extremely useful when entering the workforce.

On the other side, companies are adopting training and coursework for their employees to help keep them sharp and up to date on the latest.  In industries with ever-changing landscapes, taking these initiatives will ensure that no one misses out or falls behind.  There are outside opportunities, especially in the tech world, for individuals to obtain certifications and licenses without setting foot in a classroom.

This doesn’t make a recruiters job any easier, but when in doubt, it’s safe to say both are equally important unless expressed otherwise.  A degree will always be important. The value of education cannot be understated.  But experience holds its own power and provides confidence to any candidate who owns it.