Degree vs. Experience: Which Matters More in the Hiring Process?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

Two applicants apply for a business management position. The first, applicant A, just graduated from college and has a Bachelor’s degree but no experience. Applicant B has 12 years of experience in this field but no degree.

Who is the better applicant for the position? Well, to answer this question we have to look at different factors.

Degree vs Experience Which Matters More in the Hiring Process

  • The Company’s View

    While it can be said that experience trumps education or vice-versa, many companies view the two qualifications differently. While some companies allow applicants to substitute a college degree for so many years of experience, other companies want the applicants that are trained and proficient in current technologies, strategies, and trends.

    Applicant B might be fully qualified for the position but applicant A could be given the job simply because they have a degree, even without experience.

  • The Career Field

    The career field that applicants are applying in will also have an impact on who gets the job. Some industries such as the construction industry place a higher value on experience over education.

    However, career fields in the tech industries, such as IT and software development, want the applicant that is the most up-to-date with current technologies, typically the applicant with the degree.

  • Applicant’s Performance

    If these two applicants are applying for the same position at a car dealership, who do you think will get the job? First, you have to look at what makes the money in this industry, selling the dealership’s vehicles.

    The applicant with the experience and a track record of successfully bringing money into a dealership will have a better shot at the position simply because he brings more value to the organization.

  • Reputation of the College

    A degree from a lesser known school is just as good as a degree from a big name college, right? Maybe not.

    A degree from a well-known school could open more doors for an applicant compared to an applicant with a degree from “All-I-Could-Afford University.”

    With that said, applicant B that has 12 years of experience could be rated higher than applicant A even if the industry trend is to take on college grads.

  • Expected Income

    Most people who attend college and graduate successfully expect to be valued at a higher pay scale.

    However, the same could be said for the applicant with a large amount of experience. In this situation, most companies will go with the applicant that provides them with the largest return on investment, the applicant with the experience.

    While applicant A may have the degree, applicant B has been in the field and can bring real-world experience to the organization.

  • Real-World vs Simulated Situations

    Another factor many companies look at is how applicants have handled situations through their work experience, something the applicant straight out of college does not have.

    Many view the simulated classroom scenarios found in many colleges as simply not having as much value as the applicant that has dealt with the same situation in the field.

    This would give applicant B an advantage over applicant A. However, if applicant A regularly participated in internships through their college years, it could take some of the competitive edge away from applicant B.


So the answer is, undecided. As you can see, there are too many factors that have to be considered before anyone can say that one is better than the other.

Taking a look at hiring trends within the industry an applicant is applying in, as well as what has the most value, experience or education, can make the answer a little clearer, however, not definitive.

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