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Experience vs qualification – what is more valuable?

A continuous debate between employees and employers, that doesn’t seem to be ending, is what is more valuable; a degree from university or experience from a range of businesses? Both areas have advantages and disadvantages over one another and so to help break this down, Simon Houlton, CEO of IScreenYouScreen, a referencing software, has outlined the differences to help both employers and graduates have more of an understanding.


The first advantage of attaining a high-level qualification is having the up-to-date knowledge of any recent changing laws and regulations.

If you’re a recent graduate looking to work in law for example, it is vital that your knowledge covers all aspects of the industry. Employers will look straight past you if you do not have the correct qualifications to match the job, therefore giving you an advantage over those who only possess experience. With the teaching curriculum tailored to cover all recent changes, as a graduate, you can have the confidence of knowing your stuff.

This also reciprocates in the eyes of an employer. Very little teaching will need to be involved, allowing them to put you in the deep end of work as they know they can trust your abilities. As well as this, employers understand the troubles and long hours that is put into earning a degree. They’ll know you’re prepared to go the extra mile on a project, showing high levels of work ethic and attention to detail.

Second is the fresh perspective you bring to a company having studied a single topic for several years. Being focused on gaining the highest level of qualification in a specific field allows you to bring new ideas to a business, some of which the owner may never have thought of. Your end of university project is a brilliant way to share a case study or lengthy piece of writing, explaining how it can be applied to the particular job.

Showing an employer that you have knowledge of the skills required to fit the job description, via your degree, already demonstrates an understanding of the work. Completing similar tasks to what you’ll be doing on a daily basis, shows you can be trusted to deal with any situation that rises. This also brings an advantage from the employer’s perspective, as they know you’re good enough to tackle any work load.

However, it doesn’t solve the problem of experience in a working ‘environment’. The tasks may be similar, but many graduates won’t have experienced a 9-5 day, 5 days a week, where they’re constantly under pressure to meet daily deadlines. The work space can be an intimidating place at times and rather than working from home on your bed with a laptop, there are far stricter rules. Qualifications will only get you so far when searching for a job, which is exactly why this debate is constantly on going.


On the flip side, having experience has its benefits for both graduates and managers and is often the key to determining whether someone is hired or not. The main advantage to having experience is the transferable skills you acquire in a similar field of work. If an employer has seen that you’ve completed tasks similar to those of the new role, it’ll not only save the time of training, but give them the belief that you’re capable of tackling tasks. Demonstrating that you’ve already been in a working environment indicates your knowledge of how a company works and what is expected of you. In return, a business owner will know they’ve hired a hard-working individual who understands the importance of keeping a company’s reputation.

Another important factor to bare in mind from an employer’s point of view is that offering work experience can cost very little, if nothing at all. Young employees want to come to work for you despite not paying them for the duration, so having an extra pair of hands to help out can make all the difference. Offering to pay for their transport or lunch is a popular gesture and shows you appreciate their time and effort. Having individuals partake in work experience also gives you the opportunity to ‘choose from the best’, should you be thinking about hiring a new employee in the near future. Instead of having an interview stage, offering several applicants who stand out a weeks’ work experience can be more beneficial, allowing you to see first-hand who is the most suitable.

In order to gain work experience, graduates will usually be giving up their free time for unpaid work. This willingness to learn and make an impact demonstrates that you’re prepared to work hard, something that will be attractive to a future employer. As much as this seems completely positive, it’s important to remember that experience isn’t always tailored or relevant to a future job. For example, working in a hospital will have very little correlation to that of a ‘handy man’ job. It’s important to complete work experience where the industry is similar to your desired job. This not only allows you to get a feel for the job role and decide whether it’s something you wish to pursue as a future career but indicates to an employer that you already have experience in the field. In turn, this shows just how valuable work experience is to attain, and why filling your CV with it is crucial.

Simon Houlton, CEO of IScreenYouScreen. www.iscreenyouscreen.com