Qualifications vs. Experience: What’s most important?

30 Jan 2020

Job searchWith the number of university placements continuously on the rise and more people graduating with a bachelor’s degree than ever before, is it more valuable to have a string of letters behind your name, or years of experience to fall back on?  

Gone are the days when a worker would kickstart their career as an employee and work their way to the top, staying loyal to their employer. As people seem to choose prolonging their academic experience over gaining work experience in a particular field, it begs the question as to what is most important: qualifications or experience? 

The importance of qualifications 

For many, obtaining a degree is not just about adding more letters to the end of their name, but also about expanding their intellectual knowledge. Studying can help broaden perspectives and assist one’s development not only intellectually, but also on a social and personal level. 

Employers often specify the need for a tertiary level of qualification when looking to employ new staff, while in other cases, holding a bachelor’s degree can help you stand out from other hopeful applicants. 

Alternatively, one can also opt for a ‘sandwich’ degree, which consists of amalgamating the intellectual with the practical. This type of degree offers in-depth learning paired with hands-on practice, with the potential of producing a sufficient and equal amount of understanding and experience.

The labour market has broadened compared to more than half a decade ago, meaning intellectual qualities are highly sought after and can help you climb the ladder of success when taking on your future role. 

The importance of experience

While qualifications are always valuable, what is constant among all employers searching for staff, is experience. Whatever the industry, someone with two or more years of solid experience is an asset to the field. When compared to a newly qualified graduate who has not yet experienced a working environment, the hopeful employee with years of experience on his back, is likely to have the upper hand.

As more and more people obtain degrees, especially in recent years, having a degree has become less of invaluable trait to impress employers with, who generally now look more towards years of experience when hiring new staff.

While intellectual learning can help a candidate grow in numerous ways, work experience offers lessons which cannot be provided within classroom walls or lecture halls. Experience is a testament of a number of great qualities; including being able to work in a team and alone, coping with working under pressure, punctuality, determination, loyalty, and the ability to achieve goals in a functioning work habitat. 

Theory is great, but years of practice will result in the ability to adapt to a real-life working environment and the dynamics of operating in a workplace, whatever the job. 


Needless to say, the ideal candidate is the one who possess enough of both attributes. However, job opportunities from one industry to another will favour different qualities. If history has proven anything, is that successful people have emerged both with and without degrees.