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Success = Education or Experience
Old 11-06-2014, 08:55 PM   #1
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Success = Education or Experience

I’m having an on-going debate with some “friends” (see debate topic below) and I thought I’d get some opinions from the folks on this forum.


No matter if you are still working or have already retired, do you feel that getting a higher academic education or gaining greater job experience(s) helped you the most in your working career? Or do you consider them equally important? OK, add luck or something else if you like.
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:09 PM   #2
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Why does it need to be one or the other? I think you need a balance of both.

I went to graduate school because it was apparent that at some point in the near future I would be competing for jobs within Mega against peers who had similarly good education, work experience and job performance ratings as I did but also had graduate degrees and if I had not done it I would have been at a competitive disadvantage.

I went to grad school while working (Executive MBA program) and found I was able to quickly put what I was learning at school into practice at work and having an MBA was an important credential in getting the next job I had after I left Mega.
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:12 PM   #3
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It doesn't - see OP above - Or do you consider them equally important?
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:15 PM   #4
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Both. I did MBA at night at a top school for finance and accounting while working in the financial industry and regularly talking to people with 25+ years on the buy side or trading derivative hedges. Best combined learning experience ever, although I am sure I burned a few years off my lifespan doing it.
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:19 PM   #5
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For me it was job experience. I have a master's degree, but it's pretty much useless. My Dad was extremely successful in life (personally and financially) with only a GED. He's one of the smartest men I have ever met.

My in-laws have a several businesses and employ about 75 people...they only graduated high school. Her Dad's best friend was just a 'dumb old roofer' who now owns several banks in Oklahoma and Texas...again, no college degree.

On the other hand, I have dealt with many military officers and aerospace engineers that are dumb as a box of rocks.

So...I tend to give a lot more credence to life experience than to higher education.

Sent from my mobile device so please excuse grammatical errors.
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:33 PM   #6
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Both. A degree is also more important as a credential now than it was many years ago. It likely depends on so many factors but in my experience both are important.
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:43 PM   #7
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Both for me. I got my current job with my resume, then I advanced in it with my degree.

I will say that, after teaching college for about 20 years, increasingly I had students who were after the paper, and not there so much to actually learn. That sort of 'education' eventually catches up with you...
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:45 PM   #8
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Without an engineering degree I could never have gotten a job as engineer. However, once you are working it is more important what you do and results of your work. What it really comes down to is what FlyBoy5 said, you have to apply intelligence. Some jobs have an entry barrier that is a degree of some type. Without it, you pretty much are unable to get that job. But you will not succeed or go far without being able to apply the knowledge and learn from the experience. Ability to continue your learning is important and there are many people that career have evolved into something very different than their original degree by OJT and their ability to adapt to new challenges.

In simple terms, I think it is both. Need the degree to get into the higher pay jobs, but then you have to make the most of that experience.
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:51 PM   #9
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I worked as an engineer in an academic work environment. A degree was a minimum requirement to get ahead. After that I would say that I kept my position as long as I did because I became very knowledgable in my field. I did, at one point or another, use just about everything I learned in college. Also, people skills were essential to get ahead as well.
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:19 PM   #10
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The degree, in my field, gets you in the door. What keeps you there is experience (and talent).

My degree was BSEE. Did I ever do electronics engineering - not much. (A few small board layouts - but that was it.) I fell into the niche of embedded programming (writing code that is machine/microprocessor/hardware specific.) That's not something taught very much at universities. I ended up doing a Masters in software engineering and the closest I could get to embedded software in my coursework was a real time programming course (but it assumed big computers, not small circuit boards.)

For me- education got me the first job. Experience got me the next jobs.
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:35 PM   #11
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I think success in many jobs starts with experience but later morphs into education. As the type of work becomes standardized, colleges develop degrees in them and the next generation of employees will need the major to get the job. Which may not really require those degrees. And which degrees could really best be taught by the first wave of workers, but they didn't have degrees so couldn't teach.
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:38 PM   #12
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During the 2nd half of my career I worked as a computer engineer for DOD. One of the big frustrations was having contractors work for us that had all (and more) of the needed technical skills and experience to do the job but because they didn't have the proper degree they couldn't be hired on when a permanent position opened up. Ironically, even though my EE degree was needed to get my job I don't recall ever using anything I learned from my EE studies in my DOD job.
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:39 PM   #13
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Communism - I owe it all to those Commies and their Sputnik.

Degree in Chemistry with emphasis on wood - instead got hired by Boeing - American SST - psst titanium - and on to Skylab, Mars Viking, Space Shuttle and then and then ER.

heh heh heh - stayed grunt engineer and was an overnight thirty year investing success - all praise to compound interest curve, time in the market and index funds aka Bogle's Folly.

P.S. Probably should give history a slight nod.
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Old 11-06-2014, 11:31 PM   #14
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I agree with those who wrote that the education got their feet in the door at the beginning but it was their work experience which made the bigger different later on.

In my field (actuarial/insurance), I made myself indispensible with my combination of education and specialized work experience (able to combine actuarial skills with computer programming expertise) in my division. I could do things that nobody else in my division could do and could do them correctly and usually quickly.

Having this unique combination of skills and expertise not only got me better than average raises (which translated into extra shares of company stock in the ESOP's infancy) but also gave me the leverage to demand a more favorable work arrangement (part-time, sometimes telecommuting) for the last 7 years of my career leading to eventual ER.
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Old 11-07-2014, 12:18 AM   #15
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Education was required to gain entry into the field. Gaining wisdom through experience enabled a long and successful career.
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Old 11-07-2014, 03:17 AM   #16
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I agree both a degree and job experience are important, but I"lol add having the discipline to continue education and learning is just as important Having a degree in a science curriculum was required for me to get hired, but not in any specific field. They then taught me with in-house training what I needed to know to get started. To advance I took additional courses and certificate programs to develop new skills in the IT world and learned what I could on the job. I also got an MBA along the way which helped me more in my investments than it did on the job.
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Old 11-07-2014, 06:16 AM   #17
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Great topic and I agree that both are important, how you weight one against the other depends of number of different factors. One thing that hasn't been mentioned and that is how a person interacts with others. I don't care how much education or work experience one has if they don't have the ability to work with others they will not go far.
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:15 AM   #18
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Perhaps at different times they each play different roles. When assessing an individual's potential to learn and grow, academic achievements are important, as they confirm a broad framework and systemic approach to acquring and building knowledge. On the other hand when judging whether an individual can carry out a new task or responsibility, prior performance and experience dealing with new challenges can show the qualities needed to succeed once again.
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:30 AM   #19
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Both education and experience helped me in my working career. Education helped more in the beginning and experience helped more in the end. My education provided me with the foundation of my career - the base knowledge and ability to figure things out. Experience provided me with a growing stockpile of info that I could rely on to best solve a problem and get the job done.
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:43 AM   #20
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it all depends on the person.......most often an education will open a door. Most mega-corps look, not only at a degree, but a degree from MIT or Harvard will open more doors than most. Then, once you get into the workplace, performance and politics pay off. To me, politally correct, means a person becomes a member of "the team" and is able to work with other members of the team.......many competent, educated folks find themselves at a mega corp where they just don't have enough in common to be accepted by the other members of a team.....really unfortunate. Now, for me, I lack an education because my Dad wanted me to be an engineer....I just couldn't do it.....and wouldn't pay for my general education....so I went and got a sales job, started my own company, built it over the years and made far more than I could have at any mega copr.......that doesn't me me better or worse than those that got an education.....I have kids......all have degrees.....in the fields they wanted.....all paid for by me, happily.....none wanted my business....OK by me.....none will ever make as much money......that's OK too. So, my advice is do what you want....work hard.....get an education.....but if you don't that's not an excuse not to do well. We're all different, we all have options.
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