Q: I have been working for 15 years in one profession but only have an associate’s degree. I was transferred to North Carolina for a job several years back and am trying to return to Massachusetts. Do you think employers would be willing to take my years of experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree?
A: You raise a common question in the world of career management: experience vs. education. Usually experience, and relevant experience, wins out. However, some industries still have expectations, and even requirements, around degrees.
In the field of education and higher education, degrees matter and a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or even higher may be required or preferred. In many knowledge-rich industries like biotech, life sciences or health care, degrees are also important and in some cases may be required. In many consulting roles, the firm employing consultants would like to be able to tout “MBA with 12-plus years of experience in pharmaceuticals” or “BSN with 10 years working within Boston’s finest health care institutions.”
Conversely, there are some industries in which degrees may be preferred but related work experience often trumps the degree. These industries would include manufacturing, retail or construction.
Massachusetts, as a state, can be a challenge for those who don’t hold bachelor’s degree. Massachusetts beats out all of states when comparing the percentage of residents who hold bachelor’s degrees. Almost 40% of Massachusetts residents hold a bachelor’s degree.
It would be wise to start networking in advance of your relocation back to Massachusetts. Connect with friends, family and colleagues and let them know of your plans to return. Often times a vibrant professional network delivers valuable information that could lead to job leads or at least intelligence about your field (i.e., who is hiring and who is not). Job boards can provide information about hiring trends and skills which are in demand.
Visit www.boston.com and click on the jobs section. There is information on hot jobs in Massachusetts, job postings, interview tips and other career resources.