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Is workplace experience more valuable than a university degree?

Australian workers are placing a premium on work experience over formal education, with up to seven out of 10 attributing their career success to experience.

Career Reporter 07 August 2019
— 1 minute read

In an online poll of 2,552 workers in Australia, 70 per cent said experience has helped their career advance the most.


The poll, conducted by recruiter Hays, also found that 21 per cent said continuous informal learning has had the most impact on career advancement, with just 9 per cent saying formal education had been the most beneficial.

“We all know that your skills must continuously grow if you are to advance your career, and the reality is that most people need some combination of experience, education and informal learning to progress,” said Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand.

“But as this survey shows, experience is by far the most effective of these.

“On-the-job experience allows you to develop your skills in a way that provides relevant and quantifiable evidence that you are ready for advancement. Rather than saying you’ve learnt a certain skill, experience allows you to prove it.”

Accounting firms have long valued on-the-job training, with the profession losing faith in tertiary educators to push out “job-ready” candidates.

However, the universities have hit back, arguing that while degrees cannot fully prepare a graduate for the rigours of a rapidly evolving workplace, they help lay the groundwork and develop skills that are transferable in the workplace.

“Professional work is evolving very rapidly and professionals have to have a mindset and the ability to evolve. What that means is when you do a university degree, it is still fine to study a discipline but what you take away are things like critical thinking, ability to make evidence-based decisions, ability to problem-solve, and those skills are developed in a discipline context,” Deakin University pro vice-chancellor and professor Dineli Mather told Accountants Daily previously.

“The most important skill that you take into the workplace is the ability to learn new things.

“[For example], if you study IT and want to work in IT, the programming language you learn would be obsolete or would be fading out by the time you get out, so the most important thing is you got those first principles and apply that to build new knowledge.

“The longevity of those sorts of transferable skills is what holds a university degree apart.”

Is workplace experience more valuable than a university degree?
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