Logtar has a post on whether it is education or experience that matters more in the IT world and comes down somewhat on the side of experience. More people than not in the comment section agree.

Functionally, I have to agree with the consensus. The eighteen months of experience I racked up while in college proved almost as useful as my college degree. When I left Wildcat (my first post-collegiate job), my three years of experience was probably worth more than my degree when it came to getting a job. Even now, with five years of experience under my belt, I suspect that I would be better positioned had I spent the late nineties in the workforce rather than in college.

As far as whether or not that should be the case, I’m not so sure. When it comes to doing a particular job, such as network administration, experience does count more than education. In the broader scope of things, however, I find that my college degree has helped me as much as my work experience. Part of that is that I have become a “utility infielder” of sorts and am not very specialized. I have a couple of years of XML programming experience, a couple of years of SQL database experience, a couple years as a network admin, and a couple of years as a network technician. So my experience hasn’t carried over as well from one job to the next.

However, I find that having a college degree is ideal for working a more general position at a smallish or medium-size company. Small companies are always changing, as are job-responsibilities. It’s less about “doing a job” and more about “helping the company.” You don’t just have a series of responsibilities, you try to find new ways to contribute. It was college, much more than the work-world, that gave me the versitility to excel in these kinds of environments. And these are the environments that, despite my constant complaints about the chaos, I much prefer over the corporate alternative.

On the other hand, this versitility wouldn’t mean much of anything at a larger corporation until it was time to move into a more management position, by which time there is a good chance I would have forgotton most of what I learned by being in the narrows for several years.

Category: Office, School

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9 Responses to Education vs Experience

  1. logtar says:

    I don’t remember much from my college education when it comes to the technical stuff. However, I think the humanities kind of stuff is still with me. We have to make space for the “current” stuff on our brain, but I still believe school is super important.

  2. Webmaster says:

    From my experience, the degree is a “required step” on the application, but the experience is the real kicker.

    However, this has more to do with the state of HR departments than it does anything else, which is where your “utility infielder” experience is helpful for smaller companies that don’t necessarily have a major HR department.

    The bigger problem is that HR departments put out ads or qualifications for a position, but usually don’t actually know what they are looking for. I once saw a series of five ads in a row, all from different companies, asking for people with 5+ years of Microsoft .NET coding experience. This was six months after .NET was actually released. Sadly, you see this sort of thing more often than not: the “experience” line that the HR people are parsing for is often sadly out of touch with reality.

  3. trumwill says:

    Logtar, I think the specific techstuff is practically useless because so much changes by the time you get out. The abstract theory (OSI, HAL, etc) can be important stuff to know, but it’s not stuff that you will need to know until further down the line, and by that point you’re likely to have forgotten the details. In many ways it’s actually the more business-related stuff that has been extremely helpful. How organizations work, why they work the way they do, and so on. My favorite stuff was neither the tech nor business, though, which might should have told me something about my choice in majors :).

  4. trumwill says:


    No joke about the HR people. Unsurprisingly, this is doubly-true at Falstaff, the small company that wants to act like a large one. For a while, HR insisted on drawing up all the requirements and whatnot. In some cases they turned out 180 degrees wrong. The Software Quality Control director specifically did not want to hire programmers for testing purposes because he wanted people that actually wanted to test. By the time HR was done with it, of course, half the software engineers at the company didn’t meet the programming experience requirements.

    Similarly, apparently I am not and have never been qualified for a single job that I have held at Falstaff. I was still underqualified for positions that I was getting promoted out of, according to the requirements. Go figure.

    Anyhow, the inane policy was reversed. Now it’s the Cheif Officers that write up the job requirements. This is an improvement, but I’m still not qualified for my current position and won’t be until I have held it for over two years.

  5. Becky says:

    The first filter is the degree requirement, then you move on to experience and even graduate degrees for further filtering. I agree that HR recruiters are often the most clueless when it comes to looking for quality. The hardest part I had when looking in Seattle was that they wanted five years of technology experience, when in reality, marketing is the same. Or, I wound up working with this particular client and was amazed that even with five years of tech experience, some people were clueless about marketing.

  6. logtar says:

    Here is the thing,

    I have worked with a couple of “programmers” that got into the industry on experience alone. Both of my experiences left a sour taste in my mouth. While it is true that technology wise, when you do stuff at school you lack behind, it is also true that structure programming and principles are very important things to know and building blocks for future development.

  7. ms. graves says:

    I found this 2002 response to the related question. Interesting…

    This subject is truly a sore spot with me, and I believe that degrees are the newest form of discrimination in the hiring process. If I have had the “hands on” experience, and have continued to progress in my field, why should someone who has a degree, and no experience get preferential treatment? I have often fantasized about the day I start my own business, and put the Ad in the paper for my new hires. Do you know how it it would read? “Do not bother applying if you have a college degree.” I have read too many Ads for general business management positions that read “Do not apply if you do not have a B.A., or B.S.” Anyone who believes that a degree will make a person more motivated, ambitious, sensible, or valuable than someone who only has experience, is in my opinion an idiot. A large number of college students have gone to college on their parents dime, and have pissed away their 4 years at keg parties, and spring breaks, or cheating, just barely passing to get their degrees. If you have two students graduating High School, one is just getting by, but for whatever reason decides to go to college, and the other has excelled, but for whatever reason decides not to go to college, what has changed about who those people are?
    Some of the greatest, and most creative minds our world has ever produced have not gone to college, or have dropped out of college. Our society is currently creating a disparity between the haves, and have nots, and part of this is due to the salaries that are paid to people who have degrees vs. those who have work experience alone. For those of you who are in a position to hire, take heed. Do not discount those people who have gone to the school of hard knocks, rather than an institute of higher learning. Do not be biased because you have student loans to pay, and feel that the people you hire should have to “pay their dues” the way you did. Many of us have paid our dues in other ways. Like training college graduates to do the job.
    My response to Mr. Buffkin:

    Mr.. Buffkin: Your response was AWESOME! I’m faced with this problem daily at home and at work. Not having a college education in today’s world is extremely frustrating, and because of this I’ve enrolled myself in community college for Spring semester. I’m tired of hearing I’m not good enough because….

    Employers could care less if you have 10+ or more years of experience-it means NOTHING! And, is ultimately frowned upon. You’ll find this interesting and might even get a chuckle out of this, but I applied for a Q&A position for a call center; mind you I have several years behind me in this type of position. Well, the Director of the call center told me I would play a wonderful part in this position; however, I don’t posses a college degree. Ok. But what’s more interesting is that the Call Center Director who interview me (I know her)only has a high school diploma and had the audacity to make such a statement. I chalked this one up as another disappointment and left with a smile.
    Interesting, isn’t it? So, along with this and other trials in my life, I find that going back is my only option.

    P.s. I totally agree with your “Do not apply if you have a college degree”!

    -Thank you, Mr.Buffkin.

    -Ms. Graves

  8. Jack tha Ripper says:

    An old adage says, “Experience is the best teacher.” Numerous other adages, however, say, “Learning from others’ experience is best of all.” In my opinion, this is what education is, a collection of the experiences, successes, and mistakes of the teacher’s past. It gives students exposure to knowledge, concepts, and people that they would never have known otherwise.
    Am I rejecting the value of real-world experience? Absolutely not; I consider experience to be a vast and largely imperative part of having a well considered education.
    In conclusion, school is a very important piece to preparation for adulthood; however, if not paired with real life experiences used to educate, it is useless.

  9. Jpowers says:

    Knowledge can be acquired from many sources. These include books, teachers and practical experience, and each has its own advantages. The knowledge we gain from books and formal education enables us to learn about things that we have no opportunity to experience in daily life. We can study all the places in the world and learn from people we will never meet in our lifetime, just by reading about them in books. We can also develop our analytical skills and learn how to view and interpret the world around us in different ways. Furthermore, we can learn from the past by reading books. In this way, we won’t repeat the mistakes of others and can build on their achievements.

    ??Practical experience, on the other hand, can give us more useful knowledge. It is said that one learns best by doing, and I believe that this is true, whether one is successful or not.

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