Which degrees are not worth it

University degree or work experience: which is more relevant when applying?

What is actually more important when applying? University degree and training or work experience? Anyone who has already applied knows that job advertisements often ask for both. But what do the decision-makers really value? We'll tell you.

Is an application worthwhile even without the appropriate diploma? Or should I do further training to get closer to my dream job?

Application: good grades or extensive experience?

Do you remember Gert Postel or Christian E.? Two medics who weren't. And yet both were quite successful. Don't get me wrong - what you did was morally reprehensible and highly illegal. Nevertheless, Christian E. was presented with an employment contract despite missing (and falsified) qualifications and he was able to gain experience in surgery. Nobody noticed this in practice. So what am I getting at? Not that you shouldn't value a (university) degree, but that more than just good grades are important when applying. Because, depending on the job description, good grades can range from extremely relevant to almost negligible.

What speaks for a (university) degree or training:

  • In many job advertisements, training and university degrees are seen as a basic requirement for an application
  • Due to increasing digitalization, the focus of the positions is shifting from craft to knowledge work
  • A university certificate also often implies a willingness to learn, the urge to constantly improve, and ambition - this goes down well with applications
  • Depending on the department, final grades can be an indication of future performance

Why work experience is so important:

  • Most job advertisements require job-related professional experience. In addition, surveys of personnel decision-makers show that they prefer relevant experience gained in the course of internships or with previous employers to purely theoretical knowledge
  • Knowledge of theory or practical knowledge from case studies alone is no guarantee of success. Other influencing factors come into play in the job, such as the ability to work in a team, dealing with criticism or working under time pressure. These traits are best learned through on-the-job training
  • Depending on the position, experienced employees can often become productive immediately and are therefore given preference over graduates who still have to be laboriously trained
  • Take the area of ​​design or other creative professions: degrees or solid training are certainly a good foundation here, but it mainly depends on experience and talent

There is no one-size-fits-all solution

Rely on a combination of both when applying. It is not for nothing that job advertisements ask for “a university degree in department X or comparable qualifications with relevant professional experience”. When I talk to HR managers about this topic, a similar picture emerges.

You will benefit from a combination of both in your application, especially in interface positions. In order to become a successful sales representative in the electronics industry, you don't always need a flawless business administration certificate. "I'm more likely to teach an engineer how to do a break-even calculation than an economist how we manufacture and use special parts," said a production manager in the electronics industry.

But it looks differently z. B. in the legal area. Without a law degree, you will simply not be eligible for many jobs. Tax advisors are also not allowed to practice as such without the degree.

Not conventional, but lateral: career changers

And what does the other side look like? What do lateral entrants say? Would previous knowledge from your studies have been helpful for your last application? Many of my colleagues are career changers. Some without a university degree, others with degrees in areas that are certainly not relevant at first glance for a job in recruiting.

The answers to my question about what would have helped the most in the induction process were similar: my experience from the internship, work experience from the previous job (which sometimes had nothing to do with staff) or on-the-job training . Not once has the answer been: a degree in economics.

© pathdoc - Fotolia.com

Interface options and niche jobs

It is certainly the case that an employee in recruiting benefits greatly from so-called people skills, which you can rarely learn at a university. However, there are also positions in which it is essential to be able to present a subject-related diploma when applying. And I'm not just talking about doctors or lawyers.

For example, you will find certification requirements in almost every job posting for IT project managers. "Scrum Master", "PMP" or "Prince 2" are catchphrases that make HR hearts beat faster. For example, you cannot fill in the role as a “competent person” or “qualified person” if you do not have one of the required university degrees (e.g. in human medicine, pharmacy, chemistry). If a company is looking for an auditor, it is not possible to be hired without the appropriate degree.

The situation is different in sales, for example. If you have experience in the specialist field or have solid professional experience with celebrated successes, it usually does not matter whether you have completed an apprenticeship in the administrative area or completed a degree in business administration.

The same applies to various areas in engineering. In the development environment, it is often irrelevant for employers whether you have completed a degree as a construction engineer or completed your training as a technical draftsman and gained extensive professional experience. The line between an experienced test engineer and a perhaps less experienced test engineer is mostly fluid.

Knowledge for applications

What conclusions should you draw now? If you are interested in a professional field, then research in advance whether you absolutely need a university degree or whether you can get closer to your dream job in other ways. Also, look for relevant training and invest time, if that is the only way to get an employment contract.

For example, if you have completed an apprenticeship and dream of one day working for a large OEM such as Audi or Porsche, but a university degree is required, then proceed strategically. Either apply for positions within the company that are similar to your desired position and do not require a diploma, and pave the way for your dream job through commitment, diligence and skills. Or you can apply to suppliers or development service providers, for example. You will gain experience there and then apply for the position in which you can also score points with experience. And finally, there is also the option of completing a course of studies or taking an evening course.

In the end, this also applies to your career: Your attitude and your will to succeed largely determine the path you will take. Those who know what they want and work towards it in a targeted manner often achieve their desired goal successfully.

For more career tips, visit our career center.

About our colleague Katharina Hain

After completing her degree in business administration at the Ludwigshafen University of Applied Sciences and working as a product manager at a medical technology company, Katharina Hain started as a recruiter at Hays in 2007.

Here she took over the areas of construction & property as well as engineering in recruitment management as supervisor and finally department manager.

At the end of 2014, she moved to Hays Canada for one year as part of a parental leave replacement to set up recruiting management in Toronto. Katharina Hain has been back in Germany since January 2016 and continues her role as a senior department manager in the engineering department.

Our colleagues

This is where Hays colleagues blog who are not regular blog authors. The employees come from the most diverse areas of the group and express their personal opinions - the topics are as diverse as the people themselves.