The question of whether further education is better than work experience depends on many factorsSay you walk into an interview with a PhD, with no working experience, but there’s this guy, with 25 years of experience under his belt, applying for the same job. Who gets the job? It depends. Here are some things to consider for this debate.

Career Field

There are many careers out there where experience outweighs any form of education, and vice versa. In sales, having a record of many dollars brought into a company will definitely trump any degree. On the other hand, in the tech field, having a recent college degree which consists of studying the latest developments will probably give you the upper hand to someone with more experience. Your chosen career field will tell you how experience and education stack up against each other.


Education and experience aren’t equal. A degree from a reputable university like Oxford or Cambridge will definitely do you some good. For the latter, did you obtain your degree while working full time? That will definitely show that you’re a hard worker and can handle high amounts of stress. In terms of experience, simply working from 9-5 every day isn’t going to give you any points. Did you bring in new businesses? Did you win awards? Therefore, reputation matters in both experience and education.

Company Policies

You have 15 years of work experience under your belt. You think you deserve a promotion but there’s the other guy who just got out of college and the job may go to him. Some companies allow you to substitute experience for education, but some don’t. You still have to finish your college degree before you can apply for the job, even if you may be the best candidate.


Studies have shown that over the last few years, employees with a college degree tend to earn more than employees with only a high school certificate, making a strong case for college education. Does this mean you have to sign up for college? Yes, but consider local colleges because the college debt is in rise. It keeps getting more expensive by the year. Carefully consider your career field, the college’s reputation and finances carefully before committing.


What do you do if you lack education or experience? If you lack experience, becoming an intern for a company gives you a great opportunity to get your experience and show that you’re willing to invest in your career. Likewise, volunteering will do some good to your CV. Look for jobs that will give you the experience you need, even if it’s not part of your field.
In the great debate between experience and education, there is no clear winner. If you’re looking for a job, try to find ways to strengthen what you lack, and be sure to capitalise on both, experience and education.



Posted by Derek Toh

Derek is the founder and CEO of WOBB.CO. He was part of the pioneer batch for the Stanford-MaGIC Entrepreneurship Program, and is also a mentor for McKinsey & Company's Youth Leadership Academy. Derek is on a mission to revolutionise work culture in Asia. He cares about initiatives that improve education and the talent market. Derek is also a big fan of superhero movies, and has been told that he drinks too much coffee during the day.