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Education or Experience: Which One Qualifies You?


By Dr. Randall Hanifen
Contributor, EDM Digest

I had a conversation with someone a few days ago who said, “You are qualified and reputable to complete this project because you have a Ph.D.” I asked, “What was I qualified to do the day before I graduated?” He looked puzzled and answered, “That’s a good point. I do not have a good answer, but you will do well on the project.”

This statement made me wonder: Was it the education or the experience that drove this person to believe I would succeed? I could not teach at the level I do without a doctoral degree. But because the project did not involve writing a dissertation, I could not believe that success would be based solely on a doctoral degree. However, the project did involve learning and education. My experience would be an asset to the project.

As a society, we place great emphasis on education and a societal hierarchy based on degree levels. But how far does that education go?

How Far Does Education Take You?

A great amount of student success relies upon networking and the sharing of thoughts with other classmates, often accomplished on their classroom’s online discussion boards. Students have often told me they gained as much knowledge through the discussion boards as they did from the course’s content.

Many students will tell you they still call upon their classmates to help during tough professional situations. It is clear that those relationships are important in their success.

However, if we do not teach students key concepts and the importance of critical thinking, we will not bring new employees up to speed and solve tomorrow’s problems. We must ensure our students receive the right balance of education and experience.

Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.