What Employers Mean by Equivalent Experience

Man in headphones using laptop at table
Hero Images / Getty Images

When an employer mentions “equivalent experience” in a job posting it can mean experience in lieu of some educational requirements, or non-paid experience, like an internship or volunteer work, in place of paid work experience.

If you have the required equivalent experience, you will be considered for employment without the required Bachelor's or other college degree, or certification. For example, a job listing may state a required certification or a college degree and/or some defined experience in the field.

Examples of Job Listings With Experience in Lieu of a Degree

In many cases, while a degree is preferred, some combination of coursework and experience, or extensive related experience is acceptable for candidates.

  • Six (6) months of experience as a unit secretary, ward clerk, medical office assistant, or nursing assistant will be accepted in lieu of the required coursework.
  • BA required, MA preferred. In lieu of degree, 10+ years of relevant experience.
  • BA/BS degree preferred, although long tenure as an Executive Assistant at a top firm can offset this.

In Lieu Of Work Experience

In addition, experience other than on-the-job experience may suffice for work requirements. For example, an employer may state that they will consider a degree in a related field, coursework, leadership experience in clubs, volunteer work, internships, or community service in place of formal work experience.

  • A minimum of 6 months work experience in sales, customer service or management, or equivalent experience.
  • Two years secretarial and office administration, or equivalent experience with Microsoft Office, Powerpoint, Excel, Word and Outlook.
  • Bachelor's degree in Finance, Accounting or Business Management, or the equivalent coursework in a related specialized field, and two+ years of related experience; or a Master's degree.

    How to Mention Equivalent Experience When You Apply

    When you apply for jobs, it's important to clearly state in your applications, cover letters and interviews what constitutes your equivalent experience. Emphasize the components of your experience which are most related to the job and prove that you have the core competencies to excel in the position.

    In your resume, be sure to put the experience most closely matched to the posted requirements at the beginning, if possible. You might consider using a resume summary statement to highlight the pertinent skills. Your cover letter is an excellent place to elaborate on how your experience matches the requirements of the job. Of course, if you land an interview, you will have the opportunity to make your case in person, and you should make sure that you are prepared to talk about all the hard and soft skills you have that make you a fantastic candidate for the job.

    If you are interested in the job, always give yourself the benefit of the doubt as you assess whether or not you possess the equivalent experience. Don't screen yourself out, leave that decision to the employer after you have made the best case for your candidacy. Just make sure that you can make a plausible case for how your equivalent experience applies.

    You don’t want to waste your time applying for jobs that are clearly out of your reach and not a good match for your skills.

    More About Education Requirements: Education Levels and Employment | How to Decide When to Apply for a Job