Acquiring Work Experience with Age

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Written by: Rebecca Chenevert and Daniel Litwok

In the workplace, we expect age to be an important factor in how much people are paid—as we get older, we gain experience and our value to employers increases. However, that expectation may not hold for those who leave the workforce for an extended period of time, for reasons including raising children or getting additional education.

We can study the link between age and experience through the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which asks people detailed questions about their current and past employment. The answers respondents provide make it possible to see how age, education, experience and earnings relate to each other.

Figure 1 shows work experience by age separately for men and women and for levels of educational attainment.

Figuring showing work experience for men and women and level of education

We can see that women have similar levels of experience as men early in their careers.  However, on average, women accumulate experience more slowly starting around age 25. This information comes from the 2008 SIPP and  is consistent with mothers staying home with young children more often than fathers do (for additional information on the ages of mothers and those who stay home, see  America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007 and Births: Final Data for 2008).

We also found that working-age people without a high school degree (or equivalent) spend less time working than their peers. High school graduates of every age group have more work experience than people without degrees in the same age group. The difference grows as they age; people without a high school diploma gain an additional 4.6 years of experience as they age from 22 to 30. Those with a diploma gain an average of 5.9 years of experience.

The SIPP data have rich information about earnings.  For information about how work experience and length of time with a particular employer is associated with earnings, please see www.census.gov/people/laborforce/.

For detailed statistics by age, experience and job tenure, please see www.census.gov/people/laborforce/publications/employment_history.html.

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5 Responses to Acquiring Work Experience with Age

  1. produse cosmetice says:

    This study reflects the reality. It is true that getting older should be synonym of having more experience. But I would say that some people can gain a lot of experience faster than others because they spend more time in learning. I would link this aspect to the difference between people without high school degree and high school graduates. Today, in some fields like computer sciences, I see young people of 25 years old that have more experience than some at 45 because they spent days and nights learning, experimenting, creating news technologies. In conclusion, experience is also coming (faster) from hard work.

    • Tom says:

      I agree, time working does not reflect one’s ability to do their job. I would imagine most people work with someone that has done their job a long time and is still terrible at it (I know I have); others, though, may work a couple years and greatly exceed the level of skill of 30 year veterans. I also appreciate the hard work reference. If someone never really dives into their work they will never gather a full understanding of the big picture or even how and why problems occur.

      • B says:

        Interesting they assume women do not gain work experience while staying home with their children. Yet, many of us volunteer our time at schools, local charities, which all adds to the ‘work’ experience resume. Many of them handle household budgets, doesn’t matter the size of the budget, they still have to budget. They learn buying and purchasing careers, as they learn to buy food and clothing for their growing families.

        They learn home care as they tend to their families during illnesses.

        They learn some type of restaurant/hotel management skills, as they learn to cook for more mouths as their families grow or decline as their children leave home. Some even learn carpentry skills as they make their own home repairs.

        They learn to maintain schedules of the all of the family members, scheduling various appointments, and educational endeavors. They maintain their skills of teaching, and educating their children from learning to feed and bath themselves to teaching them to drive, teaching them life skills that they will carry with them when they finally do leave home.

        Some of them teach their children how to maintain a budget and fiscal responsibility.

        So if a stay at home mom wanted to update her work resume there are many jobs she has the skills for, she just needs to look at how and where those skills apply in the work force.

        When I began staying home, household computers didn’t even exist, yet, I taught myself how to use one, and all the various programs, I’ve even taught myself how to scrub a hard drive and rebuild one.

        It’s not that women lose job skills, they merely forgo the a company paycheck to do so.

  2. Jo Benn says:

    you just nailed it

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