Getting a degree versus getting experience

We’re all at university to get one thing: a degree. But when you’re looking for graduate jobs, how useful will your degree actually be? And do employers value work experience equally to or above your degree?

It all depends on the type of experience you’re getting and the type of degree you’re studying. Employers are always going to be looking for people with experience but this shouldn’t be at the expense of your degree. Work experience is like an added bonus for employers and just because you haven’t necessarily had any, it doesn’t mean that an employer will think any less of you.


For most of Concrete’s writers, a job in journalism is the main aim and writing, proofing or editing Concrete can look great on your CV. Taking the journalism module at UEA may also look great but it doesn’t guarantee you a job in the future. Extra-curricular activities are a great way of showing employers your experience, and they are just as valuable as ones in the workplace; it also means you don’t have to take time away from your studies on that week-long internship.

If you can find work experience then that’s great, but do try to make it coincide with your holidays – this shouldn’t be too tricky seeing as us students do get a lot of time off. Likewise, always apply for as much as you can. Lots of people will be vying for similar jobs and you are bound to get knock backs along the way. Applying is an experience in itself and will help you deal with later situations when looking for a job.

Of course your degree is important too. Employers are looking for candidates who can prove that they are dedicated and committed, and what better way to show this than by the fact that you have stuck at a course for three years. University is all about juggling your time between the academic and the social, but with the different societies and clubs available at UEA, you can most definitely mix the two without detracting from the time you need for your studies. Being part of at least one society gives you a little extra to add to the CV and it doesn’t have to be a chore to partake in.

There is no clear-cut way to say whether your degree or experience is more valuable and it definitely isn’t this black and white. Dependent on the job you are looking for and the subject you study, either could be more beneficial and only you can really decide. Working hard at your degree and adding at least one extra-curricular activity to your repertoire won’t hurt though.

The more you do the better for your future, but don’t feel pressured into having to do huge amounts at the expense of your degree or your life. Try getting in touch with people who do a similar job to what you’d like and see what kinds of things they did. It really is different for everyone but remember every little thing will help.


About Author


hollywade Holly has just finished her third year studying Film and English, but sadly she never did manage to procrastinate by watching every film in IMDb’s top 250. Aside from the fun of her degree Holly is known to spend an unhealthy amount of time in the LCR which she will desperately miss when she has graduated and is forced to do something adult with her life.

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Getting a degree versus getting experience”

  1. It’s clearly incredibly important to get both. There’s not an awful lot of point in deciding which is more important or separating the two. I agree with the author, a good job will require both. Although if you HAD to decide, you’re degree might just take the top spot. If you’re able to finish with a good degree, but no experience, you’re are unlikely to secure a good job. Nevertheless, you are able to gain experience opportunities later on. This will still detrimentally affect your CV however, as employers will question what exactly you have been doing in the meantime when your competition was getting a good degree AND experience at the same time. Yet, if your experience was plentiful, but your degree was poor (2:2 or lower), it’s likely that unless the connections you made could be exploited for the job you wanted, you might find yourself missing out on a graduate job. This is particularly the case for competitive careers in legal and financial sectors, although this practice is certainly not limited to these areas. A good 2:1 from a good university (our uni is just on the fringe of this ‘definition’) will keep you in the runnings for top jobs, but this is a ship without its sails. It’s possible to add your experience ‘sails’ later, but conversely, it’s pretty troublesome sticking the sails on a ship that won’t stay afloat. Moral of the story? Get both if you’re serious about getting a good job…but everyone knows that already, don’t they?

  2. Dear Editor!

    This article raises a number of interesting questions – and the point of view of the employer (as well as the Careers Team at UEA) might be also be a useful addition?

    • Your degree matters to employers
    A degree develops your critical, analytical, creative and strategic thinking, and provides specific skills and/or knowledge that may apply to a particular industry or sector – that all depends on what you are studying. In research undertaken here at UEA, that interest in what you gain from your studies (and how you might see it being applied in their organisation), was consistently expressed by employers. But….

    • Experience also matters
    There is plenty of evidence around to suggest that employers value work experience and volunteering – including the FutureTrack report that featured in Concrete in 2013. What kind of experience is an interesting one in itself: Many employers will want to see that you’ve just done something – that you can get out of bed, turn up, take the initiative and work with colleagues and customers alike. Holly talks about Editorial and publishing – a really good example where having good admin experience is going to work in your favour. Clearly if you are intent on particular career path, it’s possible to research how graduates get into that career, and what employers expect. It’s possible to use social media, recruitment fairs, events & etc, as well as talking to friends, contacts, parents and professionals here on campus.

    • Deciding can be tricky
    Only you can decide what you want to do and therefore how to go about doing it, but if you need help deciding what it is (and therefore how to go about it) then perhaps it’s time to access the careers resources here at UEA? We can help!

    • Applying is indeed an experience in itself – as is job research, interviews, assessment centres, presentations &etc.
    If you need help – please come and see someone!! We have an extensive career management programme (i.e. what you need to do in order to decide on, research, find, apply and interview for a job – and also where that might lead you next?)

    First years – there’ll be workshops about how to get the best out of the 2nd year and how to get a summer internship when you come back in October – maybe come along and get a plan?,

    Second-years – if you are thinking about what’s on offer in the way of graduate training programmes – then there are sessions on 6th June to ensure that you are making the right choice and getting strong applications together )https://mycareercentral.uea.ac.uk/students/events/detail/47973/preparing-for-2015-graduate-jo);

    If you’re a final year student and are really not sure what’s happening at the end of June, then maybe ‘From Here to Hired’ is one for you – intensive training and support to get students ready for the jobs market (https://www.uea.ac.uk/careers/graduates/heretohired).

    I absolutely agree with Holly that experience shouldn’t be at the expense of your degree and there can be barriers to gaining the experience you need or want, but if that raises more questions for you and you are struggling to get the experience you need – then perhaps it’s time to access the careers resources here at UEA? https://www.uea.ac.uk/careers

    Adrienne – Career Advisor for Art & Humanities