Education vs. Experience

Posted by Katie Minnick
It’s the age-old question. Which is more valuable to potential employers: experience or education? With the rising prices of higher education, college isn’t feasible for many. For others, getting an education is much easier than finding real-world experience. Many see it as a black and white issue: you either get education or experience. In my opinion, you can have both.


In its 2010 Trends in College Pricing report, College Board found that the price of college increased in 2010-2011 by 7.9% for in-state students and 6% for out-of-state students. Despite the rising cost, there are benefits to higher education. Last July, one study found that the unemployment rate for college graduates was at a low 4.5%, while high school graduates had an unemployment rate of 10.1%. Many see college as a huge risk, one not worth taking. In 2009, the average college debt rose by 6% to $24,000.

At times I get discouraged and think that maybe college is just a big waste of my time. After all, only 20% of college graduates are currently working jobs that require the skills and knowledge they acquired in college. Some college dropouts are making more money than I’ll ever see in my lifetime.

Despite these discouraging facts, I’m reminded that college teaches invaluable life skills that a normal 9-5 job can’t. I have been taught how to balance two jobs, five classes and a variety of extracurriculars, while trying to have a personal life and stay sane. I’ve learned how to live with someone I don’t like, manage my money and make hard decisions without the guidance of Mom and Dad. My class work has taught me the importance of integrity and ethics in journalism as well as basic skills I will need in the field.

Journalism students working on a project

Many journalism schools have been incorporating experience into their curriculums, either by having internships as a requirement or offering experience opportunities for students. Most, if not all, universities have campus publications such as newspapers or magazines that are student ran and produced. Other schools, such as New York University and the University of California-Berkeley, have partnerships with large media outlets, such as the New York Times, so that students can directly write and work for them. This is a win-win situation, as students get real-world experience and portfolio work with prestigious organizations, while the organizations gain workers.

What do you think? Is experience or education more valuable? If you had to choose one, which do you see as being more beneficial? Is it possible to have both and be successful in the professional world?

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7 responses to “Education vs. Experience

  1. Experience is unbeatable. It is learning. Job experience is much more beneficial than education, but I wouldn’t have made the connections to get to my jobs without my education. If anything, my schooling helps me make a network of mentors and people that can help me get experience. It is entirely possible to have both and be successful in the professional world. Instead of working a minimum wage job at the mall go out and do something that relates to your future career while you are in school.

  2. I agree Chelsea. However, what do you do when you need to make money and get experience, but can’t find an internship? This is a dilemma I’ve been facing lately. I know experience makes me a better potential employee, but I also need to have some sort of income.

  3. Most people agree that experience can’t be beat. A great way to get an internship is to go somewhere and volunteer. Whether it is at a youth shelter, or a political campaign like I did, if you do a good job and are committed, many supervisors will do you a favor and simply call what you do an internship. That’s how I got my ‘internship’ and employers are always impressed by it.

  4. I suppose it depends what kind of field you’re looking to go into. I find it hard to believe that someone without the education we’re learning could have a better chance of making it without the skills we will have acquired. I also think that employers look at experience as proof that you know what you’re doing and hope that you’ve learned everything you need to know from a previous experience. That is a lot to expect.

  5. Katie Minnick

    I agree that it is a lot to expect. However, I think having both experience & education sets us apart from many of our peers who only have an education. One of the benefits of going to a smaller university is that we have opportunities to gain real-world experience.

  6. I have learned the majority of my career set skills through my experience in past internships, but I feel as if the skills one learns through actual schooling lets you learn these specific skill sets well. You do really need a combination of both.

  7. I will always take experience over education. One example would be you take two golfers. One has read the book on golf, the other plays it. Which do you think will perform better?

    I feel that with experience you become educated. Problem is, most employers won’t take an uneducated person. You need one to get the other.

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