#atozchallenge: education vs. experience

Tonight, I added a quick thought to a conversation that was taking place on Twitter, about grad prep programs and over saturating the market.  My comment was simple, but probably not shared by many of my colleagues (I’m actually surprised no one challenged me on it).  I wrote:

“You do not need a master’s to do what we do. Just saying.”

Ironically, I am working on my master’s degree as we speak.  However, the student affairs/higher ed masters programs in Canada are nothing like the ones in the US.  We’re just starting to scrape the surface and only a limited number of universities offer programs geared towards post-secondary administrators. Many programs in Canada also require a certain amount of professional experience in the field before being admitted to the program.

When I think about where I’ve learned more, as it relates to my career, it is the experience I have had over the last seven years.  Sure, my M.Ed program has helped me to further hone my research and writing skills, but a theory in a text book cannot give me the instinct on how to react to a student in crisis.  That has come from experience.

I enjoy learning.  I would even go as far to call myself a lifelong learner (as cliché or overused as that term may be).  I just don’t think that learning is done in a vacuum.  Learning is everywhere, in everything.   As interesting as my Supervisory Processes in Education class was, I was able to engage more fully with the content because I had prior experience with both good and bad supervisors, and could connect the theory to the practice in a real way.

I guess what I am getting at is that education and experience should go hand in hand – and education need not result in letters at the end of your name, although they sure do look nice on a business card don’t they?  Just ask yourself – who are you trying to impress? How impressive will it be if everyone has those same letters?

When people ask me about diving in to grad work, I tell them this: Make sure you do it for the right reasons.  Don’t do it simply because you see “master’s degree preferred” on a job posting.

What are your thoughts on this? What does education give you that experience can’t? And what do you gain from experience that education can’t match?


For more information about the a to z challenge, click here.