College Degree or Experience: Which Is Better?
A recent conversation on LinkedIn sparked my interest in a topic as old as software development and IT. Why do companies require college degrees for an IT configuration management or software development role? This question revived the never-ending argument of which is more valuable—having experience or a college degree. Let’s look at this topic as it relates to the broader IT/software industry and its implications to your organization.
Before we get started, I want to clear the air on a college degree and why you should get one. Studies have shown that if you have a college degree your earnings will be far greater than those individuals who are without one. Now, does this mean that someone with a college degree is better than someone with experience? Cue the debate, because this is where the trouble begins.
A good example of a company that puts great value in “skills and experiences” is Google. This might sound strange coming from a company as prestigious as Google and even stranger when the shots being fired across the degree-versus-experience battlefield are coming from the person in charge of hiring. The article has five quotes from people in the Google organization and offers their opinions on college degrees or experience. It is worth noting that in Google’s official guide to hiring the word college isn’t even mentioned.
To further expand on the subject of companies like Google emphasizing experience over a degree, here is a video on youtube.com that gives us what employees are looking for in 2014.
On techdirt.com, one particular article looks at a case arguing that college degrees are useless, but bases the premise dependant on who you ask. The article focuses on what many will argue is more of a vocational acquisition of the skills that employers are looking for rather than the traditional academic method.
With the argument finding proponents on both sides of the original question, the new question becomes are colleges and universities preparing students for the jobs of the future. The opinions on this new question vary as much as the degree-versus-experience debate and can be witnessed in a recentGallup poll which shows a great disparity in the results depending on who you ask.
So, where does this leave us? Are we any closer to an answer?
Yes—and no. The answer may lie directly with who is doing the hiring. The HR department ultimately decides what their answer is, and sometimes that can be all that really matters.
What do you think? Does your company value experience over a degree? Tell us in the comments below.