Lack of a college degree shouldn't dash your dreams.
In a recent employer poll, 84 percent said that experienced job candidates should still apply for a position - even if they don't meet the education requirement(s) listed for the job.
If You Qualify Otherwise, Apply
"I never let not having that piece of paper stand in the way of my goals," says Cynthia Grimm, owner of Success! Starts Here, LLC, a small business / HR consulting firm in Southern Maine. Grimm has used her experience, on-the-job training, and continuing skills improvement to move her career ahead, and only recently completed her bachelor's degree after years of professional work as a controller, an HR manager and a retail manager.
Various Paths to Success
According to Grimm, college degrees show employers:
- A meaningful commitment
- A broader understanding of many concepts
- Exposure to people from diverse backgrounds, jobs, companies and industries
- Knowledge that you may not have gained if only working for a company
However, whether you're a fan of real-life experience, the traditional path of a college degree, or some combination of both, Grimm says you should use what you have to your advantage.
"Look at experience, skills, training, and formal education as different tools in your toolkit. No one has every tool, but you can show how you've made good use of the tools you have," Grimm said. "Companies like to hire people who are constantly working to improve themselves and add to their toolkits."
"The answer to this question is a solid 'it depends.' For example, I was interested in a position that required a Bachelor's degree in Human Resources, which was very rare when I attended college. I applied; pointing out that my BA in Psychology, SPHR (certification) and experience had given me the qualifications to successfully perform the job."
- Carol Harris, SPHR
Harris notes that, while some jobs require a specific degree, recruiters who apply education requirements as a blanket screening tool run the risk of missing some otherwise great candidates who could do the job well.
HR Manager Bob Canney says it depends on the job requirements in addition to relevant job history.
"An experienced job candidate - who would otherwise qualify if he/she had the right educational background - should know whether or not they are qualified for the position and should have their job experiences and references back them up. Someone who doesn't have the right job experience in addition to not meeting the educational requirements should not apply."
- Bob Canney, HR Manager
Staffing and recruiting agency president Edward McKersie said he would encourage candidates to apply anyway and to be up front about it.
"[Candidates could mention] in their cover letter that while they don't possess the education that the job posting required, they do believe that their professional experience and interest in the position and company makes them a viable candidate."
- Edward McKersie, Staffing and Recruiting Agency President
McKersie warns that being unclear about education level in an effort to get an interview will backfire on a candidate.
Supplementing Your Experience
Your decision to further your education after many years of experience will hinge upon your goals and how a degree will help you achieve them.