Please upgrade your web browser

These pages are built with modern web browsers in mind, and are not optimized for Internet Explorer 8 or below. Please try using another web browser, such as Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, Internet Explorer 11, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari.

How can I convince potetial employers that my military experience and my 20+ years of work experience are better than a recently graduated 4 year degree person?


Craig Harvey Fair Oaks, IN

I consider myself to have above average inteligence and a diverse background in business management but employers wont even give me a glance because I dont have that piece of paper hanging on the wall. What is it they believe a 4 year degree gives a person that 20+ years in the workforce doesnt privide?

13 September 2015 10 replies General



Jen B Petaluma, CA

I agree that you should get the degree because as soon as I was able to finish my bachelors degree along with my experience and certifications they came knocking! If you want to get into non-entry level work its almost mandatory. The GI 9/11 will pay you to go to school plus I hope you filed for compensation with the VA as you served over 20 years! And thank you for your service.


John Kalusa Alpharetta, GA

Shipmate, I was in a similar position when I first came off active duty. People would say they wanted to hire me but the company policy was to have a degree. As an AW, my abilities and experiences weren't directly related to any civilian careers, so without a degree or specific, marketable technical skills I re-enlisted. The next time I got out I was prepared..... or so I thought. I worked in broadcasting as a traffic reporter in San Diego for 2 years before I got out and had planned to move my family to my hometown, go to school and work in radio (already had a job lined up)

4 months before I got out, I met a guy at a wedding. We had a great conversation and the next day he asked me a question.... "I know you said you wanted to go into radio, but would you be interested in a position in sales, selling fiber optic cable?" I told him that people always said that I'd be good at sales, but I don't have a degree.

He said he didn't care. The company was AT&T. I completely changed my career path by understanding my goal, setting a path to achieve it and then being flexible to consider alternate paths.

Started going to college at night and weekends and finally got my degree in marketing after being out for 10 years and progressing into senior marketing and sales leadership roles.

Is a degree necessary? It depends. Yes as It sets the base level of expectation for a potential employer and helps to qualify candidates so that the most qualified rise to the top.
No, when you have an advocate in the company you want to go to work for.

My suggestion? Get the degree.


Craig Harvey Fair Oaks, IN

Let me just say thank you for all the great responses and input. Most has been positively uplifting and of course the negatives bring the reality to things I must address.

Joe, thanks for the spell check input. I have discovered more lessons about online postings. Never trust the spell check on a smart phone. I went back and checked, it was wrong in my dictionary (now corrected) as well as being more aware of typing posts like this on a tiny keyboard of a smart phone, I did not realize the level to which post can be scrutinized for those small details.

Bob, want to thank you above all, I believe you have enlightened me the most in realizing that big corporate may not be the best destination for me. Small businesses have served me well over the years and can continue to provide those family feel environments that big corporate lacks and I gain the most satisfaction performing in.

Again, thanks to all the inputs and your service to the military community. l


Louis Schwarz Somerville, NJ

Focus on yourself, do not compare. That makes you a commodity, and there is no difference in commodities, except price. Follow the advice from all your respondents. A degree provides formal education on how it should work, experience is just getting it done. Everyone want the formal process, because process is what will stabilize the organization and reduce cost. Can- do attitude is valuable, know it all attitude is not something you want in your organization. What does your experience tell you about attitude? Become smooth, stable and controlled, not reactionary.
Good Luck!


Bob Molluro Wilmington, DE

Great advice from the others who responded. Let me give you a slightly different perspective. Most of the business that I have done over the years is by someone who has introduced me to the right person. For example my little company has done over $3M in revenue with MetLife. I was personally introduced to the CEO over ten years ago and that was how I broke down the barriers.
You have a similar challenge. The degree is over rated and is a cope out to weed out many qualified people. Have your experiences enabled you to demonstrate that you are a responsible person who is accountable for your results. When challenged with a problem do you devise a plan, implement it, fail, correct learn from your failures and work at it until you get it right? Are you disciplined? Realize that good businesses are built on systems that are followed and improved upon. Do you have leadership skills and can you direct others to follow you because they believe in who you are and they respect what you know and also your work ethic?
If you can answer yes to what I have outlined you need to realize that these are the real difference makers and that is why you already have demonstrated experiences that are far better than most of the college grads who are put on a pedestal when they really haven't done anything of significance.
Network with people who can open the door for you and allow you to go face to face with people who are decision makers. Even though I have two degrees as a small business owner what my clients want to know is do I understand their problem and can I show them solutions they may not have considered. No one asks me what college did I go to.
Here's what I would do if I were you.
1) Have a one on one discussion with people you trust and respect who will tell you what they feel you are really good at and what your short comings are. I am willing to bet you will be pleasantly surprised.
2) Look for opportunities is the small business market. Large corporations are no longer all they once were. You can work for them for years and tomorrow morning you are thrown out with the dishwater when your executive sponsors get fired.
3) Get your story together and practice it until you master it. You can learn to become a great interviewee.
Let me share a strategy that I have used for years. Once I developed good references I used them to open new doors. I was having a half hour meeting with two corporate executives that I had been referred to. At the conclusion of the meeting since they expressed interest I suggested that the next meeting be 4-5 hours and that they invite their three top field managers to the meeting. They asked," why". I said, "If I can't answer the questions they have and show them I can help why would you want to hire me?" They agreed. The meeting was held the following Thursday and four days later I had a signed contract for $1.45M to get started. Eventually that led to about $5M.
In summary you need to know what you know, have a way to get to the right people to tell your story and be able to back it up. I spent half my life leading a successful corporate life and the other half in small business. Corporate gave me great experiences. Small business gave me a great life. I would skip corporate if I were you.


John Green Cary, NC

Hi Craig -

You are closer than you think to a degree. Most of your work experience in the US Navy will count towards credit for various degrees, depending on the school you go to. Most of the basic courses can be quizzed out of, so you can attain credit for the class simply by taking an exam.

The most important aspect of obtaining a degree is the skill you learn, especially if pursuing a technical job. If you want to earn the big bucks, management is not the place to do it. MBAs are dime a dozen. That's not to diminish the effort that people put into getting 8 years of school. In my opinion, the world doesn't need more MBAs today; what we need are bright and creative people, with talent in a specific skill.

For example, what did you do in the Navy ? What was your skill ? What are you interested in working on today ? Have you dabbled with software development ? Our country needs great software developers that have a drive to achieve more.

As you are working on completing your schooling, start building some personal brand credentials like your own website for example. Marketing yourself is as important as the credentials you bring. What this means is creating differentiators then highlighting those differentiators in unique and creative ways to make you standout. When interviewing, have both printed resumes and business cards available to drop on a desk. The business card would point to your website.

Shop for your website theme at themeforest dot net. If you are not inclined to build it yourself, you can get help at upwork dot com.

Also, you may still qualify for GI benefits to help pay for your college.

And to help you choose what specialty , check out the Robert Half salary guides :

For example a good software developer can pull down $150k, or $200k, depending on work location.

Good luck,


James Hassett Jefferson, PA

Comparing yourself to young out of college grads is wasted effort. Build you skill and achievement level. Do accounting work for a non-profit. Look for entry level positions in smal mom and pop companies. Look at local, state and federal entry level positions in the area you want to work in. Take college level classes to demonstrate your movement towards that degree. If that is what the market place wants then hey give it what it wants.


Phil C. Fort Worth, TX


Thanks for picking up the sword, brother. Have you ever considered how your background and experienced would do with a relevant and useful degree? Given that you consider yourself of above average intelligence I would say you would learn a great deal from your college experience. Your military and professional accomplishments will allow you to absorb and process what you are taught in college better than a 20 year old kid who has zero life experiences and has their parents solve all of life's problems for them. When you learn in an academic setting, you will likely think about how you can apply it to the REAL world. The kid, on the other hand, will just think about how it can help him/her solve problems that already have an answer key or solutions in the back of the book. This will give YOU the edge. Your background, paired with a "useful" degree, will be extremely competitive on the job market. College for military veterans shouldn't be just about making grades and producing a peace of paper. When I started college I was pulled into an entire community of veterans that sought to better themselves while continuing to serve their country minus the boots and rifle. This helped motivate me and let me know I wasn't alone. Think of a college as college something more than just homework, quizzes, , tests, and projects. Envision all the networking possibilities, things you will learn about yourself, friends you will make and impact you can have on an America that is increasingly distant from the group of warriors that protect it. In most cases, you will need college to advance yourself professionally. Get out there, register for classes and start building a better future for yourself. You will get a return on you investment.


Charles (Chuck) Postma Muskegon, MI

As a non-degreed person working in a degreed position I know your frustration. I can also tell you that your resume will never make it past the human resources department to a hiring manager because the staff is required to send that manager what he asks for which is a 4-year grad.

I have found two ways to get degreed positions without having one. The first and easiest way is through a temporary job service. There are many. When they ask for references I give them a list of at least 20 names with contact information. A hiring manager who can't find the right person will take a chance on a temp just to get the work done. If your performance is stellar, you will always get an offer. In my career of 42 years I have worked as a contract engineer for all, but 15 of those years. The 15 were as a direct employee engineer.

The second way is to offer to speak at the monthly meetings of management societies. I speak to engineering society meetings on project management challenges for people in technical positions. I've garnered several long term self-employed contract positions in this way.

I agree with, Joe. Spelling and punctuation are critical communication skills that must not be overlooked. Even these dialogue boxes will underline a misspelled word. Attention to detail, sir, is important. Every manager knows that the "devil is in the details" and so is the profit.

Good luck!



Joe Paschall Madison, AL

Degrees are extremely prevalent so we generally take for granted that we can get employees with degrees- even among former enlisted members. You are clearly going to be at a disadvantage without a degree so you should use GI Bill to get one as soon as practical. In the interim, you will not be able to qualify for jobs where degrees are required, but could certainly project your best imagine by editing and spell-checking your posts better. You really undermine your own argument above by mispelling "Intelligence", not to mention other mispelling and lack of proper punctuation. True, no one is grading your homework here but you are projecting an image to potential hiring managers and trying to make the case that you are as professional as someone with a degree, but the errors undermine that premise. Make sure you project the image you wish to convey.

Your Answer

Please log in to answer this question.

Sign Up

You can join as either a Veteran or an Advisor.

An Advisor already has a career, with or without military experience, and is willing to engage with and help veterans.
Sign Up as an Advisor.

A Veteran has military experience and is seeking a new career, or assistance with life after service.
Sign Up as a Veteran.