Book Education vs. Job Training

I have a degree from university, for which I spent 5 years taking a variety of courses on several subjects. Taking about 10-12 courses per year, that works out to about 50-60 courses. That’s quite a bit of education when you think about it: about 2000 hours of education in class. As a rule of thumb, about 3 hours were spent out of class for every hour in class, bringing the total to about 8000 hours.

I then worked for an insurance company for three and a half years. At 2000 hours of work per year, that’s about 7000 hours of work. During those years, I continued to learn, though not at the same pace. The learning was different from school – while school tended to focus on theory, work focused on the practical. Where school focused on diversity of knowledge, work was concerned with specific topics.

The difference is very fundamental, and neither would suffice without the other. School is about teaching you how to learn, providing you with the basics in a given subject area to get you started. Work is about getting a job done, requiring more detailed knowledge in highly specialized topics. By having a solid education, you will learn how to gain the particular knowledge you need to complete a given job.

That being said, it would seem that I value school knowledge over work training.

That would be the wrong impression. I learned more from my on-the-job training than I did in school by a major factor. But it was significantly aided by the fact that I had a formal education. That being said, what I learned on the job is not taught in school, nor is there an easy way to do so. There is no replacement for hands-on training, which is, perhaps, the reason that there is such a focus on employment history and little on education when it comes to hiring.

Personally, however, I would prefer to hire someone with a formal education and little/no work experience over someone with the reverse. Why? I would rather have someone who’s been taught to learn over someone who may or may not be able to learn new skills easily.