Education vs. Experience — How To Get An Awesome Job

With the option of post-secondary education virtually cost-prohibitive for many young people, students are asking themselves how they can go about finding a great job without spending a fortune studying at university. Student loans can help, but with an ever-increasing cost of living, it’s getting harder and harder for people to get out of debt after their college days are over — even with a hard-earned university degree.

There are opposing views on the connection between post-secondary education and good employment — if you have enough experience in your chosen field, do you really need a degree to back it up? And are there ways to get an education without taking on an enormous financial commitment? Maybe, with a solid plan and a bit of hard work, you can benefit from the best of both worlds.

  1. Getting an education

You don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and go to school for years and years to get a solid education in a field that interests you. Instead, consider pursuing certification in a trade, like a surgical technician or an HVAC installer. Often, technical schools can train you for a fun, well-paid career — without requiring a huge financial investment like a university. A certification from a technical school will give you the skills necessary to enter a trade with a high demand for qualified staff members.

By choosing vocational training over university, you’ll be finished with your education in only two years — compared to the four years typically required to earn a bachelor’s degree. That means you’ll not only be able to enter the workforce earlier than your college-educated peers, you won’t be forced to take extra classes just to get all the credits you need. Technical schools provide more streamlined, hands-on training, and are a great option for someone who is eager to get out of the classroom and into their chosen industry.

A common argument against trade school as an option is that graduates will typically earn a lower salary than someone who holds a bachelor’s degree. While that may be true, it typically takes almost three years worth of income to pay for the cost of the average college degree, according to 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of an average technical school education, however, could be paid off with only 11 months worth of income, based on the average annual income for entry level positions.

2. Getting some experience

While attending a trade school or university will provide you with tons of information to help you prepare for your future career, nothing beats actual on-the-job training. If you are fortunate enough to have a marketable talent or a head for business, you can teach yourself to become a web designer, programmer,freelance or paper writer, or a self-made business owner.

Admittedly, there are certain jobs that require you to have an education. Science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical fields require you to have a relevant degree, but you do have the option to carefully examine your skill set to see what you have to offer the job market. Some of these options might require a bit of an investment to start up, but even this is minimal compared to the cost of a university education.

Lots of employers in more creative fields like graphic design, publishing, or visual effects are more interested in what you can produce than your level of education. Instead, they look for a level of expertise and relevant experience. If you are interested in pursuing this option, consider taking internships and working a part-time job to help cover your costs while you gain experience and build a portfolio.

For the more entrepreneurial-minded, the options are virtually endless. A real estate investment could lead to opportunities in property management or commercial development, a solid idea for a sellable product could take off with the right marketing, or you could turn a lifetime passion into a business venture.

There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to both options, so there’s really no easy answer. Students can pursue an education in a field that interests them if they so choose, but during their studies, it’s advantageous to pursue opportunities that will help them gain experience in as many different areas of employment as possible. The goal for any student is to find a balance between doing what they love and doing what can earn them a living — and combining studies in a chosen field with valuable on-the-job work experience is the optimal choice.