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The Value of Education/Experience Equivalencies


Be sure to check the bottom of this page for printable user guides.

At OU, wherever possible, we use education/experience equivalencies. This means that, for most positions, we consider educational attainment and job-specific experience to both provide the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to be able to succeed in a position. As we discussed in our article on designing qualifications, the qualifications for our positions should be based specifically on the candidate's ability to perform the essential duties. So except for a few fields where specific educational attainment is required for certification, like law or medicine, one year of relevant job experience is the equivalent of one year of education.

Suppose I post a position for a Media Specialist I in my department. This employee will help plan, write, and run technology for media productions in our office, like podcasts or online video. Generally this position requires a Bachelor's degree in communications or media studies, along with one or two years of experience. But online media is an open field, and it's not uncommon for individuals who never attended college to get a great deal of experience managing these productions.

We can see at a glance the usefulness of these equivalencies. A candidate with a high school diploma or GED and six years of experience managing media may be much more able to perform the position's essential duties than a candidate with a Bachelor's in communications and only two years of experience. Four of the first candidate's six years of experience are considered equivalent to the education requirement, and remaining two years meet the two-year experience requirement. So long as their experience is in a relevant field, it can be just as good as formal education.
Examples of Acceptable Substitutions
Bachelor's degree in Accounting Four years of work experience in Accounting
Master's degree in Social Work Six years of work experience in Social Work
Bachelor's degree in Information Technology, plus two years of experience Six years of work experience in Information Technology
Master's degree in Planning plus four years of experience Ten years of work experience in Planning
Note: The work experience should be in the field specified in order to be considered for substitution.  

Why would we want to use experience equivalencies?

You want to find the best candidates and diversify your candidate pool. Accepting equivalent experience is a very easy way to do that. Many available job seekers grew within their profession, but may not have been afforded the opportunity to pursue a formal education, for whatever reason. When you require a degree, you are depriving yourself of these very experienced candidates.

What kinds of positions are appropriate for accepting equivalent experience?

The most appropriate positions have a knowledge base that can be learned on the job. Most all positions at the University are standard administrative/professional staff career opportunities. Exceptions are for those positions that require an advanced degree, such as the legal field or the medical field.

Won't accepting equivalent experience cause a flood of job seekers submitting their resumes for the job?

Accepting equivalent experience will likely increase the size of your candidate pool and your opportunities for finding the best available candidate. What it will not do is water down your candidate pool. You will benefit from the depth and choices available to you. Taking advantage of Taleo's candidate management tools (documentation coming soon) is the most effective way to ensure the most qualified candidates are at the top of your list. However, if you find that your candidate pool gets too large, your HR Recruiter can help you focus on the top candidates.

We are a higher education institution, shouldn't we prefer job seekers who have a higher education?

As a respected institution of higher education, we are committed to and value the benefits of a higher education. As an employer, we also actively seek to diversify our workforce and select the best candidates for each open career opportunity. It would be incorrect to assume that candidates without a post-secondary education lack valuable skills and experiences that would benefit the University. Limiting our candidate pools to only those with a higher education isn't usually the best approach to fill our open positions. Remember, one of the job perks of working for the University is the opportunity to continue your education.
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