Which Is Worth More, Education or Skills?

March 10, 2012

In a previous post, I talked about what skills I look for in our new hires at Software Engineering Professionals. But what happens if you have all of those skills, but don’t have a formal education?

When the question comes down to which matters most — skills or education — we have to break it down a bit more. It’s hard to downplay one or the other; obviously a balance is good.

We don’t specialize in one technology or one product here at Software Engineering Professionals. In fact, I have already mentioned that variety is not an option; it’s a requirement. If you don’t have a good foundation for learning new things, it would be difficult to keep up with the variety at SEP.

In the book Apprenticeship Patterns, the author focuses a lot on how to “empty your cup” and learn new things.  This is where education plays a role.  Education is a great foundation for you to fall back on.  Most colleges/universities require you to take many classes that are not related to your core focus – software development.  I studied Computer Engineering in college, and I really only knew one programming-language before I started working here. But if I hadn’t pursued the education I did, it would have been harder for me to learn new things and understand the new technologies I’ve learned since joining SEP.

Formal education won’t get you everywhere, but it’s certainly a good basis for learning new things. There is a lot of professional maturing that happens once you enter into the workforce, but being in school to build that foundation and learning how to learn is the most important first step.

So in the matter of skills versus education, I say that both are important…but education comes in first.