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Education vs experience: Which is more important?

University students making a presentation.
Gen-Z is having it tough with over 300,000 yearly graduates flooding the job market. (Source: Getty)

Every university student is confronted with the dilemma of education vs experience. Gen-Z is having it tough with over 300,000 yearly graduates making the job market harder and harder to stand out. So which is more important?

I've been on both sides - I dropped out of a university double degree after two years and today run multiple businesses so I have a very unique perspective.

Here is my view.

Is university education worth it?

I see budding-entrepreneurs across my social media feed blatantly stating that University is a ‘scam’ or that it only creates rat-race workers.

I have a very different view.

The education system definitely isn’t perfect but in my experience, for 90 per cent of individuals it does the job.

For careers such as medicine, engineering and architecture, degree qualification is required and no amount of experience will replace that.

However, for careers in business or the arts, it is very different.

I would argue that in just the first six months of trying to run my first company, the highs, lows, failures and successes were unequivocally a better education than the two years I spent in classes and exam halls.

Experience can be more valuable

A phrase littered throughout my education experience was ‘those who can't do, teach’. As much as I believed this to be a fallacy, parts of my education experience and most certainly specific educators, fell short.

A few bad eggs ruined the batch.

My most prominent example was in 2019 when I was involved in a marketing class which saw myself and a group of students building advertising campaigns for fake businesses.

Conveniently, I had already started on my entrepreneurship journey so I used all the practical knowledge I had experienced and applied it to the university assignment.

I applied out of the box approaches to make my work stand out and soon after found out that I was in line to fail the class. Keep in mind, I was no stellar A+ student but I had never even come close to failing a class before.

Why?

The student teacher I had, who was studying their final year of a masters degree and hadn’t actually worked in the industry, felt I had a lack of understanding around marketing principles and an unsound application of the skills taught in the class.

Less than six months later (at 19-years old), I launched one of my earliest ventures in the first month of the COVID-19 lockdown and earnt $70,000 in 28-days… using those same skills.

On the other hand, I've had about three educators in my entire schooling experience who actually made a genuine impact on my learning.

Not to say I haven’t learnt from others, but these three stood out, they were deeply passionate about their jobs.

So which is more important? Education or experience?

This is a question I constantly have asked myself. How much experience or achievements do I need to have to counteract a University degree?

Depending on who you ask it’s either an impossible amount or actually quite achievable.

Some employers still live in the past and believe a formal tertiary education is the only way to learn discipline or indicate your intelligence.

On the contrary some of the smartest entrepreneurs I’ve met along my journey never even went.

As a business owner who is beginning to expand his team, I will always favour the candidate that has the experience of having done something before, versus knowing theoretically what to do.

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