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College Education or Work Experience – Which One Is More Important?

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What did your parents tell you about the importance of education? Was it something like “Getting a college degree is the most important thing in the world. You can’t have a good life without it.”?

But, have you ever questioned that? Were they really right? Or, just maybe, they were told the same thing by their parents and that concept was woven into their minds when they were young too?

This is familiar to most of us. And it is not difficult to understand since college degrees meant a lot back in the day. Not many people could attend colleges, so having a degree really made a lot of difference.

However, is that still the case today?

The world, the workplace, and all industries are changing. Nowadays, many people would much rather start working right after high school or following a two-year vocational program. In other words, the hands-on experience you get is really valuable today.

So, what is the right path in this case – experience or education?

Acquiring experience – what it means

More and more people nowadays don’t even consider attending college after high school. This leaves them with two options.

The option number one is to enroll at a two-year vocational school. The other option is to immediately seek an apprenticeship or internship.

This may sound scary, but it really isn’t. When a person applies for a certification program (or enrolls at a vocational school), they place all their focus on a specific skill and various applications.

This is a narrowly-defined education. Obviously, this is the exact opposite of college education where one gets access to a wider range of knowledge.

Now, the thing that matters a lot is money. Lucky are the ones that have enough funds to pay tuition at elite universities. Vocational schools, however, do not cost as much.

To make this path even more attractive, nowadays more and more employers are looking for hands-on experience. Hence, starting to work right after high school makes it possible to quickly earn relevant experience.

Even if a person decides to finish a two-year program, that is still faster than acquiring a college education.

Earning a degree – what it means

Earning a degree is something every single adult would recommend, even today. The reasoning behind this is fairly obvious – a degree unlocks many decent opportunities.

Enrolling at a reputable college (four-year education) brings with it many opportunities. First of all, a person gets access to a wide scope of knowledge. Instead of focusing on a specific industry, there is a possibility to try out many different things.

This can help a student determine their strong suits and what they would like to do later in life.

Additionally, almost all colleges have alumni networks, internship services, and job fairs. These are all invented with the aim to help students find the right internship where they can earn valuable experience so that they later land a good job.

Of course, there is a danger of enrolling at a bad institution and pursuing a degree that is not as valuable as it used to be. This can really have a number of negative effects. First of all, a lot of effort and time is required to earn that degree, and a person will have difficulties finding the right opportunity afterward.

Going for the experience: a brief walkthrough

Let’s try to depict the life of a person who goes straight for the experience following high school or vocational school.

So, they start looking for internships or apprenticeships to attain the much-needed experience. This is a clear benefit since this way a person gets to focus on specific applications right away.

Of course, this also means that there will be no wide spectrum of education. A person will focus on a single path and stick to it. Obviously, this is a more cost-effective way.

Following a successful internship, one has to enter the job market. The matriculation is way shorter compared to the path of a college graduate. Also, many employers nowadays look for technical skills only.

It’s safe to say that landing the first job may be a bit difficult, but the money starts coming in immediately. Moreover, there is no huge student loan debt lurking.

Some industries that value specific skills are:

  • computer support

  • data analysis

  • digital marketing

  • web development

  • IT

Enrolling at a college: a brief walkthrough

A student graduates from high school and starts browsing for colleges. For example, a young adult wants to pursue a four-year BA degree.

The benefits of this path are obvious. The person will have a chance to enroll at a reputable college and thus get access to a wide-ranging education.

In turn, this leaves little to no focus on specific career paths. A wise college student will invest more time and effort into certain subjects over the course of these four years to better prepare themselves for the job market.

It is common knowledge that college tuition is expensive, so a budget plan has to be set up. This plan will help a student either pay off the tuition immediately or in installments.

Taking out a loan is always an option, but that oftentimes means that people spend most of their lives trying to pay off the debt they amassed to get a degree.

Fortunately, things aren’t that bad for college students. Many institutions have departments that can help out students find paying internships and jobs.

On top of that, alumni networks are a great chance to meet people who have gone through various experiences. This way, a student will be able to hear someone with a similar experience and thus prepare well for what lies ahead.

After graduating, the degree-holder enters the job market looking for work. If a degree is valuable and the college is reputable, landing a great job shouldn’t be a problem.

However, there is always the danger of selecting a degree with a variable value. Below are some degrees with the highest unemployment rates:

  • studio arts

  • human services

  • fine arts

  • composition


No one can tell you for sure which option is better. Both earning a degree and heading straight for relevant experience have their own pros and cons.

However, one thing is certain. In order to advance a career, one has to further develop their knowledge and skills. A degree will not be enough, nor will a two-year certificate be enough.

Of course, choosing a formal degree will cost more but it will come with certain employment options. Hands-on experience will lead to more particular opportunities and no student loan debt comes with it.

So, choose wisely. See how you can fit yourself in both scenarios. And, remember, whatever you choose, you will need to further educate yourself in order to advance your career.


Skills vs Credentials
Source: Degree Query

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