Thursday, 10 July 2008

Will higher education or work experience get you ahead faster in your career?

A higher education is a key to success both within and outside of the corporate world. Some qualifications are highly sought after and rewarded. A professional degree is particularly valuable. An accounting degree leading to the professional chartered accountant qualification is particularly valuable. An MBA degree has been known to propel individuals from middle management to executive level in record time.

Work experience can and does help to move a career forward. Sometimes it is highly recognised, and there are times when an academic institution will award a degree for work experience. We've all heard about the office-boy that makes it to CEO, but this is the exception that proves the rule.

Education has almost become a necessity to advance a career. A bachelors degree, masters degree or MBA have become prerequisites for a range of jobs or occupations. A hundred years of working in the medical field is not enough to make you a doctor.

A friend and colleague worked his way through the corporate ladder to a position of Assistant General Manager over the course of twenty years. Once the company showed signs of being in trouble he was one of the first to be retrenched. He struggled to find alternative employment.

By contrast, an actuarial student entered the same business and even before completing the qualification began a rapid career rise. Within a year of qualifying, he was a general manager.

Of course a qualification in itself is no guarantee of career success. The corporate world is a very political place and you need to be a political player to climb the ladder. Other factors are at play. Performance on the job is crucial. But as a rule, those that are able to use their education effectively in their work are more successful than people that simply rely on work experience.

The value of education as a key to success is sharply evident when we look at the various professions - accountancy, law, actuarial science. A newly qualified chartered accountant can earn double the national average salary within two years of qualifying. Actuaries are amongst the highest earners in the world.

Perhaps the most important consideration is in the transferability of the skills. Twenty years experience and climbing the corporate ladder in one country does not make it easy to obtain another job. A professional qualification is a much greater help.

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