Going to college is designed for students to learn a variety of skills. Getting prepared for a career is usually one of the top goals behind pursuing a degree. That's why it's critical for students to learn from instructors who have practical, real-world experience within a particular field.

Saint Leo University is considered a practitioner-oriented institution of higher education. This means the majority of Saint Leo instructors, both full-time and adjunct, bring a wealth of practical expertise to the classroom. Unlike research universities where professors do research on various projects, practitioner-based education is much more hands-on and focused on the student developing pragmatic skills rather than simply learning theories out of a textbook.

Here are some of the major benefits of learning from professors with industry experience:

1. They can help narrow their curriculum.

Take for instance a criminal justice course on counterterrorism. Such a subject is extremely broad and could incorporate dozens of subtopics, theories, and other relevant points that professors want to make to their students in this class. However, the true practicality of this topic might get left behind in the dust.

The good news here is that professors with industry experience can help narrow down the focus of this course to primarily teach the most practical and relevant pieces of the pie. This might mean explaining what it is like working as a counterterrorism expert, the duties of working undercover and how to remain stealth, the identification of potential terrorists and threats, and many other real-world applications of the material.

2. They understand the specific skills needed for jobs within a certain industry.

Whether a college instructor is working in his or her field by day and teaching by night or recently worked in a given field, students can learn specific skills needed for success.

Instructors with industry experience have the ability to teach students specific skills to get a job and then flourish in that role. This means bringing a toolbox of skills to a job interview and then putting these skills into practice. Training programs are certainly common for new employees, but it can still make a big difference when a graduate has skills under their belt that they've already learned before entering a new work environment.

3. They have a pulse on their current industry.

Professors with industry experience can share with students the current – or recent – pulse on a particular industry. For example, an instructor in an online social work degree program who also runs her own counseling business can inform students about what it's like working in the field, what types of cases and issues she deals with, and what the current state of social work looks like. This might include any trends she is seeing within her client base or what she's hearing about at conferences from colleagues working in the field.

4. They can teach you about potential challenges and solutions to those challenges.

Because professors with industry experience have been exposed to a variety of situations and challenges in their work, they can communicate these experiences and how they specifically overcame them.

For example, students majoring in a business administration program might not be aware of the challenges of managing a variety of personalities within an office. Instructors with experience in human resource management have likely come across all types of individuals in their work and have learned the most effective communication strategies to keep everyone happy and on the same page. Therefore, they can take this experience and express it in the courses they teach. It can be tough to find this type of firsthand knowledge in a textbook or online. So, taking a course taught by someone who's been through the ropes is second-to-none.

5. They can help you with professional networking.

There's a good chance a professor with industry experience has some connections to a particular field and, in turn, a decent pool of professionals at their disposal. Plus, professors typically want to help their students maximize their career opportunities. So, if you are motivated in your coursework and demonstrate a zest for success, you just might get some help from your professor.

Consider the following strategies to help in your professional networking efforts:

  • Connect with all of your college professors on LinkedIn.
  • Look for industry-related groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to get a glimpse into these fields.
  • Ask your professors for contact names of others in the field who you can talk to and learn more about what they do.
  • Encourage your professor to invite industry leaders to your classes (either in a traditional classroom or virtually) to talk with students about their work.
  • Ask your professors for letters of recommendation.

In Summary

The bottom line to getting an education from instructors with industry experience is that they are extremely knowledgeable about the type of work they still do or have done outside of an academic environment. As a college student, having access to these types of professionals has countless benefits and can help students narrow their career focus and pursue their desired career paths.