Education vs. Experience – Events Edition

Throughout my three years as an events management student I have had various friends and family members and even a few strangers question the legitimacy of my degree. What I didn’t realise, is how much of a debate events degrees caused throughout the industry itself.

Events management is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries, its fast-paced, it’s exciting and there’s lots of different areas to work in, but the question is, which is the best route to that dream job, education or experience?

Events degrees are no longer new, having been offered by a small number of universities since the early 2000’s when they were considered to “give you an edge” in the jobs market, however, nowadays it seems to be the opposite. As of 2016, there are 233 event management related degrees to choose from, making event graduates more common place so it becomes practical event experience that sets candidates apart in job interviews.

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Image source Via Creative Commons

The experience side of the debate argues that practical work in events, through volunteering and internships, is valued over everything when it comes to getting jobs. However,  in this national post article, Mireille Silcoff points out that the more that people undertake unpaid work to gain more experience to become more qualified for a job, only to find that companies are offering less jobs because they can hire an intern to do the job for free.

However, all the importance placed on having experience  by the industry doesn’t take away the value of a having university degree. University allows students to learn much more than their subject of choice, through assignments and presentations graduates  develop a number of transferable skills that make them capable of transitioning into a professional environment (The University Blog, Go Think Big). Event degrees are no exception to this as students develop strong written, communication and team work transferable skills, as well as an understanding of the broader events world (Event Magazine), which will no doubt be of value when interacting with colleagues and clients in the future.

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Image source via creative commons

Events management degrees do offer more than just transferable skills though, Rob Davidson, former events lecturer, argues that event students are taught the “bigger picture” of the industry, such as how events impact economies, societies, cultures and the environment. I think studying events in this way, is going to be beneficial to future me, as I will be able to base my eventing decisions on the knowledge I have gained from evaluating  various case studies to ensure any events I am involved in are positively impacting. I feel it’s important to say that an event course is all textbooks, theory and essays. In my university programme, 25% of the second year is practical event creation, students have the option to take a full time work placement between second and third year, and our lecturers encourage and provide us with volunteering opportunities.

Whilst I’ll never say that events degrees are worth nothing in the job hunt, I am under no impression that I would walk off the stage at graduation and straight in to a job on a degree alone. Degrees are great, they’re just not enough on their own, especially in the events management world where experience is beneficial in order to do the job effectively.  Throughout my future career, I will be trying to show those that disagree that an events management degree is an asset rather than a hinderance. Industry recognition of the value of a degree is especially important if the subject continues to grow in popularity amongst universities and students alike.

The education vs experience debate is bound to go on, but who’s to say you can only have one? From my experience, I have had companies interested in what I have done, and others interested in what I learn at university, therefore I have two top tips for people looking at going to university but are worried about being taken seriously by the pro-experience industry.

  • Do an Internship/Volunteering/Part-Time Roles
    A degree shows a commitment to the industry and experience will reinforce that commitment throughout the 3-4 years you’re at university, as well as giving you some much desired experience for your CV.
  • Shape your course to match your areas of interest.
    Most universities will have set modules and additional modules you can choose, this allows you to create a tailored degree programme to your interests. This may help with applying for jobs as your education is more specific to your preferred sector.

 

So, education or experience? At the end of the day; what you need most is passion, hard work and the desire to learn. As Mary Angelou puts it best: “nothing will work unless you do”.

 

 

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