What’s more important: Degree or experience?


Deciding on which route to take after studying A Levels is possibly the most important decision we face as teenagers, there are many factors to consider – Is university the best route for you or should you start work straight away to gain work experience?

In relation to the Finance industry, particularly with inexperienced candidates, some clients request that candidates have a degree and some experience. Sometimes employers request candidates from a ‘Top Uni’, because it can open doors largely due to its reputation. – Are academics more or just as important as work experience?

There are some careers where experience trumps education and vice versa. Some occupations demand a degree, i.e. Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers. However, a vast majority of occupations could incorporate having various degrees and flexibility of opportunities. The price of an Undergraduate degree averages £9,000 a year, therefore you have already acquired a debt before beginning your professional career. You have to ask yourself are the benefits relative to the cost? Although it is not a necessity, due to the cost of a degree, it is wise to be certain of your career path before undertaking a degree in order to maximise usage of the degree itself. Likewise, it is worthwhile attaining a reputable grade for the same reason.

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When one attains a degree it simply means that the individual has understood the concept, whereas experiences enable individuals to apply their knowledge within the workplace. Apprenticeships can give you the essential, hands on work experience you need for your financial career – plus you gain more industry experience compared to those studying a degree. Henry Hurrell (Permanent Recruitment Consultant) suggests “you’ll learn on the job and if you’re already in the workplace, good employers will give you time and resources, to study for industry qualifications – minimising cost and maximising potential.”

However, with some employers, an Undergraduate degree is considered a ‘premium qualification’ compared to an apprenticeship. Matt Whitton (Senior Permanent Recruitment Consultant) says “apprenticeships may give you a head start at work, but over the course of a lifetime graduates earn more than non-graduates.”

Monster, a leading UK job board says “Truth is, it’s not as simple as education or experience. Greedy employers want both. A recent survey by recruitment specialists Universum found that 58% of leading employers value work experience among graduates more than grades or the name of their university.” UCAS also found that ‘two-thirds of employers look for graduates with relevant work experience because it helps them prepare for work and develop general business awareness.’ Overall a degree alone may not be particularly advantageous over an apprenticeship when it comes to your job search. Studying a sandwich course, which mixes hands-on training with academic study, may be more beneficial. If this is not an available option with your course, you can still find work placement that’ll help you become more commercially aware.

Next to work experience, that Universum study found that 48% of employers choose candidates because of their personality. Communication, critical thinking, problem solving and social skills are all desired skills that can be learned at University, at home or on the job. Andrew Murkitt (Permanent Recruitment Consultant) says “When it comes to experience versus education, there’s no clear winner. If you’re on the hunt for a job, find ways to strengthen the part you’re missing!”

By Bethany Robb – Senior Administrator & Marketing Associate