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Which is more important; level of education or years of experience?

Recently an institution I work with has adapted a "talent management" system of determining a person's pay scale, title, etc. Many people who have held a job for years may have their jobs "down-graded" due to lack of educational degrees even though they are top in their fields with 15 or more years of experience. In a talent management approach, which is more important; talent gained through education or talent gained through years of doing the job?


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  • May 15 2013: I find this to be heavily dependent on area of expertise. I could foresee that someone who relies heavily on knowledge gained through education for their profession could place a greater amount of value on their college degree then another. For instance, someone who probably is a teacher would place greater emphasis on where/how they were educated over how much experience they have teaching. (that is my impression at least)

    In my chosen profession, education is seen as valuable but unable to cover 100% of everything (not even 25% for that matter). As an architect, there are so many things for us to learn and know through out our careers that it is impossible to learn all of it in school. As a result, most universities invest large amounts of time developing what we call the Schematic Design phase, or the part where we brain storm ideas and present them to clients. This part is important, but like I said, it doesn't even cover 25% of what we do. (Construction Document, Administration, etc.). On top of that, education can dodge more basic and essential office skills, like how to conduct yourself at meetings, interacting with clients and co-workers, etc. In fact, we can't even become licensed as architects until we've completed at least 3 years of actual work experience - there are things that you just don't learn in school that you learn in an office environment.

    I know the same is true for lawyers and doctors (I come from a family of lawyers and doctors). I still believe my education was extremely valuable - but if I were to weigh to the two in comparison to each other for myself, I would place greater emphasis on experience. That being said, I always attempt to continue to educate myself - reading, lectures, etc. - because I don't want to lose the capability to learn and gain more knowledge.
    • May 15 2013: Kevin, this is a very good point. My husband is an architect who was lucky enough to grandfather into the NCARB testing through his years as a construction worker and then 15 years as an architect with a small firm. He may not have had a formal education but he was exposed to a variety of projects over the years and is now a well respected licensed architect. This is my point. His work in construction has given him great insight into dealing with contractors. he has an excellent working relationship with them that includes mutual respect and his project seem to run a bit smoother due to this experience.

      In my work as a financial aid officer for a large community college there really isn't a degree program to train you for this work. My degree is in Psychology. We have people with English degrees, History....Nothing that actually gives you what you need to process federal financial aid. Yet if we have a degree we could be paid more than someone with 20 years of experience in the federal financial aid field. How can this be justifiable?
      As George QT remarked ...How can you measure talent by the way you got your skills rather than the skills themselves?
      • May 15 2013: Agreed. And I've seen similar things, where people working in a field come from various backgrounds ranging from English to Psychology. It makes it seem like degrees are no longer geared towards achieving success in one field, but rather attempts to prepare us to be generalists across a broad spectrum so that we can employ ourselves in most professions.

        The testing of architects for licensure is another issue I have, but that's something entirely different from this topic. Let's just say for now that I know or have met plenty of people who are amazing designers, know all the ins-and-outs of buildings, and have a vast knowledge that aren't licensed, and yet, they aren't allowed to practice architecture. Experience can out perform book smarts.

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