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On-the-job experience trumps education

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 00:04

A proper college education was once all it took to secure a career and guarantee a nice life.

Yet with the economy still in the dumps, it has become even more imperative to have actual experience. Both proper education and appropriate experience are ideal for finding a hob, but if only one is possible, experience outweighs anything learned in the classroom.

There is obviously nothing wrong with getting a college education, but the biggest value of going to college is when students discover themselves and find out what they really want to do with life, not the actual attained knowledge.

According to a study done by the Center of Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, 40 percent of college graduates end up with jobs that don’t require a degree. That means two out of every five students walking around campus are practically wasting their time and money. Instead, they could be working, gaining on-the-job knowledge and making money.

College courses provide little to no actual hands-on experience of what the real work force is like. Some may argue that the most difficult aspect about relying on experience instead of education to carry one’s resume is getting that first entry-level job or internship.

Yet, according to an internships.com study, 93 percent of employers claimed the most important qualification for hiring interns came from “relevant internships or experience.” The lowest-rated qualifications were “attendance at preferred schools” and “high academic performance.”

Once one has a “foot in the door,” the on-the-job knowledge learned is invaluable. Opportunity to climb the corporate ladder will eventually present itself after time spent with the company.

Most have heard of billionaires and CEOs who never graduated college, including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson. It is not impossible for others to create a successful life for themselves without attending college as well. According to an employment study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics looking at the job projections from 2010 to 2020, 10 out of the 20 fastest-growing occupations will not require a college degree.

The economy has shifted and it is often difficult to find a job. But simply going to school to avoid taking the workforce head-on is not the answer. Being a persistent and smart job applicant can open basic entry-level doors, allowing opportunities for advancement.

According to a research study conducted by workforce solutions company Kelly Services, more than 75 percent of professional employees feel that having work experience is more valuable than a strong academic background. Having a good education is certainly an ideal quality, but students should consider on-the-job experience as more important.

Bobby Bishop is a senior majoring in geography.

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