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It may sound like a chicken or the egg argument. Which is better when you’re applying for a job: Education or experience? Is it the college education that opens the door to management opportunities or will companies only look at concrete experience as their prerequisite? We have answers that may surprise you.

Education vs. Experience: Which is Better?

If you’re fresh out of college and applying for managerial jobs you may hear something like this: Book learning isn’t the same as on-the-job experience.

Or, if you’ve been on the job for years and are seeking to get promoted into management you may lose out to college graduates who are professionally trained in the latest techniques and technologies.

If you’re experiencing these situations, you are probably feeling some frustration. Another scenario is that you did receive a degree, but it was a decade or more ago. Given the rapid rate of change in technology, this may signal to an employer that your skills are out-of-date. The answer in this is an easy one; go after a more recent certification to brush up on your skills and modernize your experience. But is a two- or four-year college degree even necessary in a management job in warehousing or other types of physical labor roles?

Most of the time, a college degree does help you land a higher paycheck. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, “the more you earn the more you learn.” Another study by the BLS showed that people with a higher education also earned higher money. Workers with just a high school diploma earned the least of anyone while those with a graduate degree earned the most. Still another study showed that 82% of executives and 75% of hiring managers say a college education is essential for the soft skills managers need to be effective in their job.

But here’s the problem. College degrees are increasingly time consuming and expensive. Just one year at a public college is $26,280. Four years at a private college is approximately $219,512. But Flexjobs says that employees aged 25 and up with a bachelor’s degree has an unemployment rate of 2.2% but employees with only a high school diploma had an 3.7% employment rate. They also say that employers are willing to pay a salary that’s 11% to 30% higher.

At the same time, many managers are promoted internally strictly because of their on-the-the job experience. Sometimes, they simply outlast other candidates. Other times, employers simply prefer that the candidate has more experience in a variety of jobs within the organization before working into a management role. Every employer has a culture and a preference, so it varies by the job itself.

With all this said, it seems like a college education still offers benefits to employees seeking management jobs.

Staffing Agencies like Stellar Starring can help you find the right fit by placing you in the right job. Whether you’re starting on the bottom and working upwards or coming in at the managerial level, we work with leading companies to find the best candidates for the job. Talk with our team. We can help you find your next management gig.

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