"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Experience Vs. Education** Which makes for a better writer?

It's an age-old debate that resurfaces in many different forums and forms.
The value of education as compared to experience.

In fact, Donald Trump, the real estate mogul, took on this topic a few seasons ago, in his hit reality TV show, (The Apprentice), when he pitted "school-of-hard-knocks" contestants against Ivy League graduates. 

So, what does this have to do with writers?
I'll tell you..in my periodic rounds of online popular job boards lately, I've seen a number of positions posted that required a Bachelor's degree for consideration.
Some have been listed at Craigslist, ProBlogger, Freelancewritinggigs.com and Blogging Pro, to name a few.

As a writer who has the benefit of both, it got me to thinking...
I'm inclined to believe that there are positives from both camps.

See if you would agree...

  • A college degree "theoretically" expands the knowledge base; this can enhance one's ability to speak on an array of topics.
  • A college degree often requires academic writing and "formal" expression, which can foster stronger communication skills and mastery of grammar and spelling.
  • A college degree adds to one's credentials and overall marketability.

  • Practice makes perfect. There are some things that can't be taught through "book learning".
  • Sometimes having experience allows one to know "protocol", editors' pet peeves, quality short cuts, names in the publishing business, technical savvy, and other intangibles.
Though I can see, from a professional perspective, why a business, editor or publisher might prefer a writer who is a college graduate, I'm not sure that it's absolutely necessary for all writing jobs.

What do you think? Which is better for todays' writer...a college education or writing experience?
If you are a writer who does not have a degree, do you think it has hindered your career?

Anxious to hear your thoughts on this.

Image Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net


  1. I think you make some great points here. I've noticed this trend lately as well. I understand that many seeking writers are looking to weed out the inexperienced, etc.. Sadly though, I think it eliminates many good writers.

    I know college grads who are sharp and talented, and others who slid their way through school, no better from the experience. In my opinion, experience and determination can be a great asset. Good topic!

  2. Ideally, you'd have both. But I've found that a college degree has helped me get work when I didn't have experience. So if you're just starting out with no experience, it helps to at least have a college degree. Perhaps it worked for me because I have an advanced degree in writing, but I also think a degree helps establish expertise. For example, you might be more likely to get a writing gig for an agricultural magazine if you have a degree in that field.

    In the end, establish expertise however you can, whether it's by working in the field or going to school. There's no such thing as being too qualified as a writer.

    1. Sarah,

      Thanks for weighing in on this. I think it depends upon the "type" of writing and the nature of the assignment. I fortunately was able to have a decent writing career years before I earned my degrees; though a college degree certainly doesn't hurt, no matter what the field. :-)

  3. Yes, indeed as I also already wrote about in a previous comment on your 'Shark Tank Post', just as in Business, you usually don't talk about this - or - that, and instead usually talk about - Both -

    Only I do believe that frequently having the right papers will make it easier to open doors, or better having them knocking on your door.

  4. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 19, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    I like that analogy, H.P., thanks so much for adding to the discussion. :-)

  5. I am an under-educated seasoned preschool teacher (no MFA or writing degree) who continues to self-educate in the writing field. Having faith in myself, I've proven many naysayers wrong. If you want something badly enough, you find a way to get it. Book learned or life learned? Both have their advantages.

  6. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 20, 2012 at 5:45 AM


    Thanks for chiming in; you've definitely been able to "prove the naysayers wrong" with your ever-growing list of publishing credits. :-)
    Much continued success!

  7. Great post. It should give pause to those who specify the absolute necessity of having one or the other in their job requirements.

    This is analogous to the nature vs nurture debate and there is no one right answer. Like you said "there are positives from both camps."

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 20, 2012 at 2:13 PM


      Great feedback. Great to hear from you today. :-)