Do You Need a Degree to Be a Professional?

Which is more important: education or experience?

Education is an important part of our world. Without an education, you lessen your chances of a good, stable employment in a given field. Many people don’t have formal education and do very well, but those that do have formal education do better.

I stress the point often to my oldest daughter, and she’s well aware that her future includes university. School isn’t optional in our family, and my daughter accepts schooling as a necessary part of life. Good.

But experience is important, too. Without experience, people with all the schooling in the world lack facets in their knowledge that they can’t get from textbooks. Plenty of education comes from our peers, experiences and surroundings. We learn the hard way, as they say.

Which is more important between education and experience, though? I believe a good dose of education is a must, but I also believe that a rich life experience may outweigh education.

I often see applications of hopefuls who want to be a part of our team. Many people email us a list of their degrees, certifications, and qualifications. Those emails do catch my attention.

There are just as many hopefuls who send me an honest, open email indicating they have diddly squat in formal education but have plenty of experience in writing. Those applications get my attention too.

I have no degree. I finished high school went to CEGEP (the Quebec equivalent of college). I aced my Creative Writing, English and Social Studies classes.

I went on to university (after a decade or so hiatus from school due to work), and I’m currently a second-year student majoring in Psychology. I have taken critical thinking and academic writing courses, but I don’t have an in-depth formal education in writing.

Does that make me any lesser than the next writer with a major in English literature and a degree in journalism? Not at all. In fact, I’ve seen some pretty piss-poor writers who have both degrees under their belt.

The basic skill of writing generally isn’t taught beyond high school. Once you hit college and university, you won’t get training in proper punctuation, grammar, or sentence structure. Higher education in writing focuses on mechanics, philosophies, specific areas of writing, application, and criticism.

The writer with a degree in journalism and I have the same skills, basically. We both write just as well as each other. What makes us different is that a journalist probably knows more about the inner workings of his particular field of expertise. That’s okay. I don’t work for a newspaper.

A formal education is good, yes. It demonstrates a certain level of ability. Without solid skills and talent, I couldn’t string a sentence together or be able to use resources for composing term papers on the physiology of the brain.

An informal education is just as good. Because I am resourceful, I have learned many things through my own experiences. I have worked in plenty of fields of employment and I’ve self-taught myself many new skills through observing, trying and doing.

When faced with a challenge, I do what comes naturally: I learn – through experience or through formal education.

I don’t have a piece of paper that says I can play a guitar or train horses to jump a course or carve wood or manage a business or do accounting. Yet I can do all those things and much more, because I have expanded my experience and increased my education.

So which is better, experience or education? Neither – they’re both exactly the same.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.