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Mass. can be tough if you don’t have degree

Q. I have been working for 15 years in one profession but only have an associate’s degree. I was transferred to North Carolina for a job several years back and am trying to return to Massachusetts. Do you think employers would be willing to take my years of experience in lieu of a bachelor’s degree?

A. You raise a common question in the world of career management: experience vs. education. Usually experience, and relevant experience, wins out. But some industries still have expectations, and even requirements, around degrees.

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In the fields of education and higher education, degrees matter, so a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even higher may be required or preferred. In many knowledge-rich industries such as biotech, life sciences, and health care, degrees are also important and may be required.

In many consulting roles, the firms employing consultants like to be able to tout “MBA with 12-plus years of experience in pharmaceuticals” or “BS in nursing with 10 years working at Boston’s finest health care institutions.”

Conversely, there are some industries in which degrees may be preferred but related work experience often trumps the degree. These industries include manufacturing, retail, and construction.

The Massachusetts job market can be a challenge for those who don’t hold bachelor’s degrees. Almost 40 percent of Massachusetts adults over 25 hold at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest percentage among states.

It would be wise to start networking in advance of relocating back to Massachusetts. Job boards can provide information about hiring trends and skills that are in demand, but a vibrant professional network often delivers valuable information that leads to jobs, such as which companies are hiring and whom to contact at those firms. Connect with friends, family, and colleagues and let them know of your plans to return.

Also, visit and click on the jobs section. There is information on hot jobs in Massachusetts, job postings, interview tips, and other career resources.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.
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