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Education vs. Experience: Which Is More Valuable to Paralegal Employers?

Posted by Katie Fridsma

Dec 10, 2013 9:03:00 AM

The great debate

When employers look to hire a new employee, which do they believe is better—education or experience?  Does book knowledge outweigh hands-on experience?  Or would a “seasoned” employee be a better addition to the team?

Those on the education side quickly cite various statistics on the impact of education on a person’s future, employability, and earnings.  Yet, those who lean to the side of experience always bring up famous college dropouts like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.paralegal experience

Someone with a formal education and considered “book smart” may easily deal with real-world work situations. However, they may still have a hard time landing that first job if they lack experience.  On the other hand, the person with experience but lacking any formal education may do well in certain positions.  However, they may find it difficult to advance professionally in their chosen career.

So what is the solution?  What is the answer?

Here’s what I have seen to be true:  the debate should not be education versus experience. It should be education and experience.  Both are a necessary to help a person to obtain a job as well as map out their development for a better career and personal growth.


Many employers view the college graduate as a person with a proven academic record.  They have mastered complex subject matters.  The college graduate has gained the ability to think analytically and logically, and they have been exposed to an intellectually stimulating environment.  They can rise in the ranks within an organization, taking on more responsibility along the way.  College graduates are not viewed as someone who can only perform a single task, but are expected to bring to the table everything they have learned.  They then must be able to apply those skills and knowledge to help solve real-world organization problems.


Employers also value someone with that real-world, “already seen that, been there” experience.  Experience shows that a person can perform in a real working environment, not just in the sterile classroom environment.  Experienced individuals have performed certain tasks within an organization and understand how business works on a day-to-day basis. Individuals with experience may bring with them a sense of wisdom from having already performed tasks in a real-world environment.

The whole package

As jobs become more competitive, employers are looking for candidates that come with the “whole package.”  Employers are looking for talented individuals who demonstrate valuable and usable abilities, as well as an education that will enable them to advance in an organization.  Someone who possesses real-world experience and has earned their education credentials has a better chance surviving the resume cutting room floor.

How to gain both

Some education programs today offer a chance to gain real-world experience while attending school.  There are great schools, colleges, and institutes that offer students the opportunity to preform while at school, doing work in a format similar to what the graduate should expect out in the working environment.  Internships, externships, hands-on training, apprenticeships, and much more can add experience to a resume.  Center for Advanced Legal Studies is committed to offering its students opportunities to gain real-world skills and experience through our paralegal training and our externships.

With the right combination of experience and education, your resume becomes more relevant.  YOU become more relevant.  The more you can show you know, AND the more you can show you can do, the more employers will be interested in taking that closer look when hiring. Having the right education and establishing your experience will boost your resume to the top of the stack.

Topics: career, paralegal externship, education and training

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