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How much can work experience overcome education?



I have been reviewing what seems to be endless job postings, and I keep seeing "required skills" or "mandatory" including graduation from a 4 year school. How much weight does a military career in the field (in this example, Project Management) hold by comparison? Should I still be applying and try to flex on my experience as important as it brings real world trial and error, and actual experience to the role?

21 October 2019 7 replies Career Exploration



Robert C Lawrenceville, GA

Sargeant: Bear in mind that job advertisements are the employer's or human resource's idea of the perfect candidate. In this job market, with employment at an all time high most job advertisements have added the phrase "or experience equal" to open up the position to those with job experience in lieu of degrees. Pay special attention to specific licensing or registration requirements as those are really important. But with near 100% employment it doesn't hurt to send in a resume. Don't lie, but keep the resume vague. You don't want the resume answering all the questions - because then they don't need to call you in for an interview. Find out who is doing the hiring or who the position works for. Request an appointment. By pass the resume screener. This shows your determination to get the job and will often get you the job you want. I recall a guy who came to my office once a week for three weeks no degree and little experience. He wasn't rude, but really wanted the job. Guess who got the job? Frankly the folks with the fancy degrees bore me. Somebody who really wants the job is who I want working for me!

A few years ago my daughter was trying to get a job. She kept filling out resumes with no call backs. I told her to take up her next application and when she handed it in to only give it to the person who was doing the hiring. And when she handed her resume to them I told her to say, "When do I start?" The hiring manager hired her on the spot. No interview necessary. She saw my daughter's fire and personality. That's all it took to set her apart from all the resumes.


David Akre New York, NY

Real world direct experience is 10x more valuable than a degree. If a company insists on a degree either connect with a senior non-HR person at the company, or keep looking. Best of luck.


Prabath Boteju Euless, TX

Hi Cody,
I see you are in Lewisville TX. Please contact me when you get a chance.


Lowell Sandoval Seattle, WA

Cody, You have 12 years of experience and how you transition those skills into civilian jobs, tasks and expertise would require more review. What matters most to employers is your on the job experience, proven track record and ability to learn quickly allowing you to be successful in the targeted role.

If you want to share your current resume that explains your former responsibilities, I would be happy to lend advice on a reasonable path.

If interested, please email resume to

Lowell Sandoval


Ryan Thompson Saint Paul, MN

Cody, as a former Marine, I can tell you from all my work history, not once did being in the military help my career, at least at the mid to Sr level positions. Education and relevant work experience is necessary, most large companies filter out applications that don't meet these requirements automatically. Fair or unfair, employers are counting on that person they are hiring can jump in with little training and make an impact early on.


Paul Dietrich Staten Island, NY

Cody, thank you for serving. Most companies look for something that will prove that the person they are considering for a job like a project manager has a reasonable likelihood of success in that job. The education requirement is one way for that hiring manager to see that potential. A second way is to join the company in a more entry level position and then showing them your potential for increasing levels of competence or by starting in companies that have programs that will help you get your degree for example in project management. I would suggest that you also look at companies that handle hazardous materials such as flammables or explosives so you can highlight your proven ability to safely handle these items. Think of the oil and gas industries, demolition type companies and research those that are growing and will need Project managers in the future so you can grow into it. Also, push your leadership abilities that you had to develop to get dangerous tasks done through others as a result of your position as a staff set in the military. Good luck.


Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

A PMP certificate would be understood qualifications. You need to re-read the job postings and find what skills in key words they are looking for. If hard to find research the career itself by reading on updates on a professional association site or "group" through LinkedIn or Facebook.
Civilians unless you speak the language they use, will not translate or accept your experience unless they feel it meets the keywords or requirements. Many business positions require Bachelor of Science, not arts but science. Math, statistics, finance etc. Not humanities, social studies in an Arts degree.
I would also recommend some Informational Interviews. Research so you know how to approach companies and seek information about the career. It is a good idea to have a good smooth introduction that is requesting help in career research as a soon to be veteran. Do not ask for information about work-you will be sent to the WEB page.
I know this sounds rough, but you have to be prepared for the civilian market, it will not bend for you. Thanks for your service. God Bless.

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