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Higher Education vs. Work Experience in Health IT

The question of whether to prioritize work experience or education has long been discussed, with critics and supporters weighing in on both sides of the argument. While we seek out a definitive answer, we find out the truth is elusive. It appears that there is no either/or.

For aspiring health IT professionals, both higher education and work experience are important for standing out amongst other applicants for a job.

What Do Companies Think?

Companies across multiple sectors, including those in healthcare and IT, are beginning to value practical experience more heavily. This doesn’t mean that education is unimportant. Rather, prospective employees may not be able to rely on their degree alone to get their foot in the door.

In 2014, the Glassdoor Employment Confidence Survey noted two statistics that illustrate how difficult it is to claim the value of one over the other. 82% of U.S. college graduates noted that their education had been a boon to their career while 72% believed that dedicated training for specific jobs skills was more important than a degree.

Timing also matters. This is particularly true in technical professions, where work experience using up-to-date technology is highly valued. While a degree is just as important for technical professions as in other areas, a degree obtained many years ago may not showcase expertise using newer methods and processes. Health IT is a field where it is crucial to be able to display both classroom training and experience with new systems.

What Do Professionals Think?

Recent survey findings also suggest that higher education has significant value for those in the health informatics field. A 2015 survey conducted by Bisk Education and USF Health found that additional education credentials roughly double the chance of a worker earning an annual salary greater than $130,000.

The survey also shows a strong correlation between level of education and job satisfaction for health IT professionals. 89 health IT professionals with master’s or doctoral degrees reported being very satisfied with their careers, compared to 55 who were somewhat satisfied. There were only 4 very dissatisfied respondents.

What’s The Real Answer?

When considering whether higher education or work experience is more important for a successful career, consider that the best answer may be that they’re both important for different reasons. Work experience is certainly important, but should not be seen as the only component to a successful job hunt and satisfying career. Education provides not only a greater chance to earn a higher salary, but also higher reported rates of overall career satisfaction as well.

With online education, you can maintain the flexibility and time to continue gaining work experience while simultaneously obtaining your degree. Putting the debate to rest for a moment, if we acknowledge that both education and experience are important for aspiring health IT workers, it would be beneficial to develop both. Online education offers the opportunity to do exactly that.

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