Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Steve Jobs are successful entrepreneurs; they’re also college dropouts. So why is Erin Notturniano—who has her bachelor’s degree in public relations—having such difficulty finding a job?
“I'm currently on my third internship, because I can't find a job with my B.A. in PR,” she said
. “I need to start making money!”
There’s great debate over whether experience or a college degree is more important in a job search. Some argue that experience makes up for the lack of a degree; others say a degree provides something that experience can’t. Is one more valuable than the other?
Last week, we asked our PR Daily Facebook fans, “Which matters more, experience or a degree?”
“I don't know how anyone would get a job in PR without a degree. ... You can't earn experience until you have earned a degree to get you a job,” says Molly Carver
. “People who get an education will always have a fresh and continuing knowledge of the field.”
In Christi Giannone
’s experience, “A B.A. is the new high school diploma. … A lot more companies are requiring it for an entry-level job.”
She’s right. A recent study shows 25 percent of employers value a bachelor’s degree more than they did five years ago, according to The Chronicle and American Public Media's Marketplace
. Thirty-nine percent value a degree about the same.
But half those employers had trouble finding qualified graduates to fill positions at their organization. They said bachelor's degree holders lack basic workplace skills such as communication and problem-solving.
No one disputes that a college degree opens doors. Many argue that it's not the degree that's important; it's what you learn and how you apply it.
“I've hired people with and without degrees, and the folks with more life experiences and a little wisdom on their side helped me more than anyone else,” says Tammy Garner Brewington, of Race and Grace
. “You can't buy or teach wisdom; it's learned over the years through experience.”
Adds Trish Fougner
of Foggygirl Communications and Marketing Consulting, “Young adults are coming out with degrees or certificates in marketing which is great, but this cannot trump those who have years and years of experience with both new and old marketing techniques,” she says. “Just because you have a degree does not make you an expert.”
Others argue that the two go hand in hand. “I wouldn't be doing as well in my position if I didn't look back on the simple things I learned in classes,” says Ame Cruz
. “Education is the foundation; experience is the construction of becoming greater.”
The real answer to whether experience or education matters more is that it depends—on the employer and the line of work. As John Lovell
pointed out, “If it’s surgery, experience counts. But a medical degree would still be a good idea.”
Make sure to head to our Facebook page to see all the diverse responses we received, and to add your two cents.