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A College Degree or Life Experience: Which is Better?

Getting an Education

Education, according to dictionary.com, is the process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge and preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life. The reason this definition is presented is to show the ambiguity of what constitutes a true education. There are many different ways to gain knowledge. Some are extremely structured such as a grade school curriculum where the administration mandates what student needs to learn. Others are through personal instruction, reading information about subjects and learning for you. Regardless of the method taken, a person can learn new, valuable information by putting an effort into their studies and developing their interests.

Finding a Job and in Turn, a Career

Given the state of our nation at present, there are a number of things that have changed in just a few decades. The United States used to be a manufacturing based economy where much of the workforce did not require a high level of education to gain financial and personal stability in their employment. Currently, the country operates mainly as a service-based economy where education is almost a necessity for a stable and rewarding career. Whether you choose to be an architect, doctor, or even an actress, the hiring manager at your interview will need to see that you have an education and strong grasp of the concepts required for the job.

A College Degree as a Validation of Knowledge

As stated above, employers require job candidates to possess high degrees of knowledge for nearly all professions. The question, however, is how can candidates prove that they possess this knowledge? A company receives hundreds of resumes and requests for interviews for one opening. Someone who claims to have life experience will be hard pressed to get the time to speak with an interviewer and tell about the experience. The resume is typically all that recruiters look at, and there needs to be a concise proof of your education there. A resume should be one page, and if your life experience is only one page long, that will not get you the job anyway.

College Degrees as a Path to Life Experience

Since employers require an education from candidates, one must possess a college degree to gain life experience in their field of choice. If a student never earns a college degree, he/she cannot enter the desired discipline and begin building a history of knowledge and further expertise. Currently, given the state of the American employment market, the only way to start gaining life experience in a career is to first earn a degree in the field.

Evidence of College Degree Payoffs

The benefits of a college degree are clear through research. According to a 2010 study by the College Board titled “Education Pays: the Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society,” the median earnings of full-time workers with bachelor’s degrees were $21,000 more than those of workers who only graduated high school. The premium has also expanded in recent years. Among those ages 24 to 34, women and men with college degrees earned 79 and 74 percent, respectively, more than high school graduates while a decade ago the premium was only 60 and 54 percent respectively.

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