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What is the best way to convey that experience can be more valuable than a degree?


Mark Dobert Concord, NC

I struggle to find ways to highlight my military training and experience plus my professional on the job experience to match up against a college degree

25 July 2019 6 replies Interviews



jeff milam Longview, TX

Hi to everyone who reads this opinion!

I worked my way up from a radio electronics technician to network administrator of the Air Intelligence Agency. I was so far out of my career field the officers above me wondered how I even got the position.

I had no degree. Basic Buck Sgt (yeah, I was one of the last E4 Sgt) yet I was the administrator for the entire building of TS/SCI clearance computer network.

I worked every day and night to become the best there was at this new technology called Windows Server.

I have been in computers and networking ever since. That is over 30 years of experience in this field and sometimes get offended when companies require a degree to do the job (I send the resume anyway).

I think about it this way, if I had a masters or doctorates degree in 1996, how relevant would that information actually be now?

I have current experience in what is being used every day, not what a school taught me 20 years ago.

I continue my education every day, this is what makes experience more valuable than a degree.


Henry ("Dr. Hank") Stevens Fort Lauderdale, FL

Greetings fellow Vet!

I have a slightly different take on answering your question. First to the theme of my response: TALENT trumps experience and education EVERY time.

The "proper educational" requirement has always meant to me - as a life-long recruiter and vocational counselor - that the candidate CAN learn. The "right experience" means that there is SOME familiarity with the tasks that need to be done - but too often, "the way we do it here is different from they way you did it there."

What is of real value are the TALENTS you bring to the employer. For but one short/simple example: Introversion and extroversion are not attributes that can be taught. Thus, would you hire an introvert for a customer-facing position, regardless of his.her education and experience?

Point being - identify your TALENTS, embrace them, and use those attributes as talking points. Tell 'em about your talents, cite examples, and forgive your education, certifications, and experience as they may just not be relevant -your talents are.

Here's a link to a free resource that may help you identify and articulate your relevant talents:

If you need help interpreting the answers - feel free to contact me off-channel at

Dr. Hank


Steven Mathews Spring, TX

The three recommendations have nailed it. When you demonstrate the value you brought to your military organization, that experience surpasses the academics in a cert or degree.

The prime question in a Hiring Manager's mind is, "Will this candidate make me look good?" "Looking good" is defined as satisfying the Three Pillars of Success: Technical, Budget, and Schedule. When you demonstrate that you are more than qualified in meeting those three criteria, the job is yours to lose.


Emanuel Carpenter Alpharetta, GA

Mark - From a resume perspective, I suggest using a skills-based resume instead of a chronological resume. You can highlight all your skills without having to pinpoint which job gave you each skill. If you see common requirements for the roles you apply for and you have those skills, add them to your resume. The structure looks like this:

Work History

Go to Google images to find examples of skills-based resumes. Although some companies require the college degree no matter what, many companies still prefer skills over education. If you are in college, list the degree you are pursuing and the projected month and year of your graduation just in case the company uses machines to scan for keywords.

Hope this helps.


Jodie Prieto-Rodriguez Pittsburgh, PA

Thanks for your service and congratulations on changing careersThe answer to your question is a 50/50 split depending on your career field. I am in a career field that requires a degree; however, the degree requirement could be waived if sufficient experience is displayed. I believe this is a concern among many vets, especially combat arms and other fields that may not necessarily translate to civilian careers.

I was a medic in the Army and at one point in my career worked as the Flight Surgeon Clinic NCOIC. I noted that many of our maintenance troops were extremely talented, yet lacked FAA certifications and college degrees. One of them is a retired E-08. He left the service with no degree, and a few certs. He asked his network of aviation vets where he should apply; they recommended Boeing, Lockhead, Sikorsky, etc... He took a chance and applied to GM to be a program director for R&D projects (like a lot of aviation, he loves anything fast and powerful).

During his interview, the interviewer noted his absence of certs and degrees and asked him why he felt that he was qualified for the job; he stated his experience with managing multiple teams with varying deadlines in a safe cost effective manner. He rattled off his experience in managing maintenance schedules, inspections, culturally diverse teams, and gave examples of how he dealt with FAA crash investigations, employee conflict, and project leadership. They hired him to keep their R&D teams on tasks. His experience in aviation maintenance management; employee leadership, and product knowledge has allowed him to obtain, maintain, and prosper in his position. He tells people who question his ability to lead without a degree (he's obtained it since and GM helped pay for it <saving his GI bill>) that he knows engine systems, aviation process, culture, and standards, and when people are blowing smoke up his exhaust.

Point being; for what ever you lack in certifications, you should be able to make up in stating your experience in previous leadership positions and being able to articulate in a specific manner what steps you took to ensure safe mission success, or if you failed... how you learned from it and the steps you took to prevent the failure from repeating.

I currently work as a Healthcare Regulatory Compliance lead. My educational background is Business Admin, my MOS while serving was a combat medic (4NO series). My position requires a degree; however, my interviewer was less concerned with what my degree is and more concerned with my experience in regulation compliance, safety, and drafting/implementing plans of correction.

My combat arms, aviation, and recruiting colleagues have made a rather nice post service career for themselves in quality control, regulatory compliance, and program/project management. If you are having difficulty finding positions you are ideal for, use the three areas i mentioned in an indeed or linked-in search. The results may surprise you.


Scott Agnoli Clifton, NJ

Hello Mark,

First, I am, as are all Americans, indebted to you for your service, thank you.

As I am of the same age as you and have navigated the same challenges you are currently, let me please share what I can in hopes to help you.

I have found that experience is more highly valued than education with startup companies and established companies with younger teams. Typically, these are organizations that have great talent but can be unskilled in their workflows and customer service areas. These types of companies are typically on the lookout for the experience to show them how to avoid the pitfalls of the "learning curve". With many start-up tech companies and internet-based businesses, there could easily be a market for you in consulting.

From the corporate side, (I worked for a large bank for a dozen years), the experience is a tough tradeoff for a college degree. It is viewed as the proof point of your learned skills.

In the education arena, real-world experience is typically highly valued. However, without an advanced degree, it may be difficult to get in the door.

I have found being a consultant in my area of expertise and experience has opened doors to the higher education world. Educators are typically a wealth of book knowledge (other people's work and experience) and do seek out real-world experience to add to their curriculum.

I would take a look at some local colleges and universities, particularly ones which have programs in the area of your experience. See if there is the opportunity to present a workshop or seminars based upon your experience which would add value to their curriculum. In addition, working with a college could lead to you getting classes at a reduced or even free cost giving you the ability to close the loop on a degree. Getting one could lead to being a professor or gaining career opportunities in the private sector. You may even be able to get college credit for your experience and be able to opt-out of some classes leading to faster attainment of a degree.

In the end, with your background, private security or education may be the two places you can find an opportunity. Many of these private security firms look to hire veterans because of their service experience. A close friend of mine went from the Marines directly to a corporate security firm with no degree, just military experience. Post 9/11, corporations understand that practical experience gained from military experience is highly desirable when it comes to security and safety.

I hope this has helped. I am not sure it has but please reach out to me if you have additional questions.

Scott Agnoli

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