Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Career Advice

Education vs Experience: How Important is a Degree for Landing Your Dream Job?

Paul Brown
28.01.2022 Published: 28.01.22, Modified: 28.01.2022 16:01:11

Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or thinking about changing your career, your CV will play a key part in your success at finding a new job. Your education and experience are two of the most important details employers look out for on your CV when hiring. But, what’s more important when it comes to landing your dream job – education or experience? Let’s get stuck in.

What’s the difference between education and experience?

Before we delve into one of the most debated arguments in the recruitment industry, education vs experience, we need to first define what each term means and the difference between the two.

Generally speaking, education refers to learning from books or teachers and applying your knowledge to theoretical scenarios. In a job-hunting situation, education usually refers to someone’s higher learning, aka their university degree. Whereas, experience provides learning from completing first-hand, practical tasks and immersing yourself in real-world situations. So, how does this translate when it comes to applying for a job?

The benefits of education

If you are fresh out of secondary school, you are unlikely to have a tangible amount of relevant experience, which could hinder your success in finding a job.  In this scenario, obtaining a university degree may be a suitable option for you, equipping you with role-specific skills and specialised knowledge that may be essential for some employers, especially if training is not provided on the job.

Studying at university offers you the opportunity to learn transferable skills, such as critical thinking, researching, communication and presentation skills, which are crucial for your future career. Similarly, there are plenty of life skills to be learnt in a university environment. University campus is a melting pot for students from all different walks of life and offers the opportunity to appreciate diversity, see the world from new perspectives and gain independence.

Sometimes, a university degree alone can be enough to land your chosen career. Read our blog to find out more about how to write a CV without experience.

The value of experience

There are countless benefits to gaining valuable work experience that can help you impress employers and secure a job.

Working in a professional environment will equip you with transferable skills, such as communication, time management and problem-solving, as well as role-specific skills, which will vary depending on your job. Studies show that practical knowledge provides a much more profound understanding than theoretical knowledge, and we are able to apply this into a wider context and are also more likely to retain this information, too.

Best of all, there are various types of work experience available to you so you can find something that interests you and suits your learning style. This includes internships, job shadowing and work placements. And, when paired with a university degree, taking part in work experience allows you to apply what you’ve learnt and take your skills to the next level.

Education vs experience: what’s more important to employers?

So, is a 2:1 at a Russell Group university worth more than hands-on experience in a professional work environment? In short, the answer is no; however, this will depend on the role you are applying for and your employers’ preferences.

A university degree isn’t always the be-all and end-all. Yes, you can learn an awful lot studying at university; however, you can’t learn everything from a textbook and exams do not offer an accurate reflection of your capabilities and potential. There is so much more you can learn outside of academia, too. In the same way, experience isn’t always necessary as your university degree can provide you with a base knowledge, so you can then learn on the job or request additional training from your employer.

In some cases, you’ll be able to land your dream job without meeting all the requirements in the description if you have something else of value to offer the role, such as transferable skills from a previous job, an unrelated degree or an extracurricular activity. In fact, it’s very common for professionals to study in one area but pursue an unrelated career.

Luckily, 58% of leading employers value work experience from graduates over university grades. Let’s take the technology industry as an example. According to Laszlo Bock, former Google vice president of People Operation, technology firms are no longer concerned with hiring staff from prestigious universities and an increasing number of those entering the technical field do not have a degree at all.

Experience vs Education: what do we think at FDM?

At FDM, we believe that both education and experience are beneficial for self-development and career progression in their own ways. That’s why our Returners and Ex-Forces Career Programmes are open to all candidates, no matter their academic background. We also offer technical training and exclusive work placements for graduates from all universities and degree subjects without any prior experience. We believe that the university you attend should not dictate your career prospects.

The job market is evolving with the times and many employers are challenging old-fashioned ideals and embracing candidates from all backgrounds, whether they’ve graduated from top universities or not. At FDM, we celebrate differences and believe in equal opportunities for all. Diversity, social mobility and inclusion are at the heart of everything we do, and we are committed to helping people from various backgrounds, giving them the tools they need to kick start their career. This includes supporting those with visible and non-visible disabilities or caring responsibilities, and empowering those of all genders and faiths.

And, if you’re lacking in both experience and education, there’s no need to worry. It’s never too late to get started. Why not do some online research into university courses, get in contact with your careers officer, tap into your professional network to find work experience, or even get involved in volunteer work?

Are you looking to kickstart your career in technology or business? Apply now!