What do employers value more in a veteran hire — education or experience? The answer truly is both. Any person with a higher degree of education needs some experience in order to be properly placed in an organization. Conversely, experience without education can allude to a lack of dedication or discipline in terms of personal development. This is why you’ll get hired with education and experience.
Depending on the type of position that is available, education may be necessary for you to be the best candidate (i.e. you have the same level of experience but have more credentials).
To employers, education is not always just a box to be checked, but a way of telling who may be most serious about a particular field. Software engineers who have worked in cryptography but have never had the technical certifications that are transferable would be at a disadvantage in the hiring process. For leadership roles, on the other hand, there is the possibility of more leniency in education, as long as the true ability to orchestrate management principles is present (and can be explained in the interview process).
With extensive education opportunities being offered to military members, not seeking to pursue those benefits offered may be viewed as non-committal. Perception can become reality in the eye of the hiring manager, and thus being a candidate who has shown forward progression (military member or not) is critical.
Having tuition assistance and the GI Bill available, military members have more opportunities than the common civilian to pursue advanced education. Even in deployed locations, members can pursue education online to work toward their advancement.
Employers are not necessarily looking for a degree from Harvard or the Air Force Academy, but are looking for a bachelor’s, master’s or certification of any sort to show that the member can match up to the expertise level of others in the mix. When competing for a graduate hire position that is based strictly off education, community involvement and career trajectory, there may be a different story. More often than not, the military member is not in the running for the new grad roles.
The experience of a military member in both the technical and non-technical fields is typically vaster than their civilian counterparts, so being able to articulate those facts is naturally important. For those areas where you feel you lack formal education, you may be able to compensate by articulating with key words in your resume to reference some of the experiences you’ve had.
The best recommendation to set yourself up for success is to look at the intricacies of the role for which you are applying. If the position specifically asks for a degree in a field because of the technical aspects required for the job, perhaps the open role is not for you. If the position for which you are applying asks for a degree as proof of professionalism, then coming up with a way to articulate how your experiences provide you that same competence and expertise may suffice.