It may seem like the classic chicken or the egg scenario. Degree or experience? Experience or degree? What comes first? What will help you get ahead in the pecking order?
It can be plucking frustrating when you have the piece of paper but no work experience, or loads of experience but no letters after your name. Let’s look at the pros and cons of what will get you further.
For earning more money long-term: Do a degree
If you complete a degree, you will earn more money than non-degree individuals, 15% more according to Graduate Careers Australia. But it’s not quite the Gangsters’ Paradise scenario with wads of cash blowing in the wind and a model under each arm.
Having dedicated three to four years as an undergraduate and living below the poverty door allows for you to apply for low-level, or entry positions into your area of choice with an average salary of $45,000.
Bottom line: A degree is a long-term investment and involves continuous upskilling.
For life lessons and earning money straight-up: Get to work
If a job opportunity has come your way and you’re a restless sort who can’t stand studying, you can’t go past the experience at the University of Life.
Ditch the lectures and tutorials and instead learn invaluable life skills in the real world workforce. Work will also help you clarify how you want to spend your time and what career path you want to go down.
This experience and self-awareness is regarded highly by employers. Earning money while engulfed in the workforce is also handy and can help you establish your independence early on. You’ll also avoid the hefty degree debts of $20 – $40,000.
Bottom Line: Even in the workforce, you’re learning valuable skills
For a specialised career: Stalk your heroes on LinkedIn
Just as you use Facebook to suss out the best parties, use LinkedIn to find out how careers work by stalking your career heroes. This is especially useful if your career of choice isn’t quite your bog-standard nursing or teaching.
Career success stories can seem daunting, but like you, they started off pondering the experience or degree problem and probably had a fairly empty looking LinkedIn page. Find out whether they studied, did a traineeship or something completely different. This can help you set some goals and direction.
Bottom Line: You can always learn from others
Hedging your bets: Degree + Experience = super applicants
You didn’t really think that it would be so easy to go for one or the other did you? Employers are demanding creatures. They want the piece of paper with letters. They want the life experience and your skills (preferably knowing a hundred different computer software programs). But they certainly don’t want a know-it-all either.
So, what to do? If you study, make sure you take advantages of the opportunities available. Volunteer, do extra projects, look for jobs in your area, undertake a degree that involves an internship semester or year. If you’re working, do a night course or some short courses outside of your work hours. Put your hand up to do extra on-the-job training.
Hedging your bets is the only way to give you the best start possible.