In a televised debate sponsored by WSB-TV in Atlanta, Deal questioned Handel's lack of a college degree.
"I think when you're talking about who's going to be governor of this state that it does send a message to the young people when we're all talking about the importance of getting an education," the former congressman from Gainesville said.
Handel, the former secretary of state, ticked off her experience in numerous corporate jobs and heading up the North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce.
"I think the voters are going to look at the breadth of my experience," Handel said.
"I'll stack my record of success and achievements in all of those jobs against a career politician any day of the week."
She said because she does not have a college degree she would be a strong advocate for other students seeking to achieve one.
As she has before, Handel assailed Deal's ethics, blasting his business dealings with the state on behalf of his auto salvage business. The arrangement prompted a congressional ethics probe and federal grand jury is looking into the matter, issuing a subpoena to the state's revenue commissioner to learn more about a meeting with Deal.
"This is a topic that the people of Georgia should know about," Handel said. "Ethics matter."
Deal fired back that he has done nothing wrong and is not a target of the federal probe.
"I have cooperated fully with everybody who wants to find out what the truth us. I think that's my obligation and I think I've lived up to that."
Deal and Handel split over whether elected officials should be able to conduct business with the state.
Handel said no, arguing she supports strong conflict of interest laws.
"I know it's uncomfortable perhaps for some, certainly for Nathan and maybe others out there, to talk about ethics," Handel said.
Deal said part-time state legislators must be able to make a living, and said so long as the business dealings are transparent they should be allowed to continue.
"As long as they report it, as long as it's above board ... I think the safeguards that are in place now are appropriate," Deal said.
They also sparred over how they would interact with the state Legislature heading into a tough budget year.
Deal has lined up support from the vast majority of state legislators, including House Speaker David Ralston, many of whom feel Handel has vilified them as corrupt throughout her campaign.
"We cannot afford gridlock at the state Capitol," Deal said.
Handel argued that the people of Georgia would serve as her board of directors.
At one point, Deal said Handel was trying to have it both ways, blasting him over allegations from a Washington-based group that has also attacked her most prominent backer, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"I don't believe her handbag is big enough to carry enough lipstick to cover that kind of hypocrisy," Deal said.
Both candidates reiterated their support for a tough Arizona-style law to crack down on illegal immigration.
Handel and Deal were the top vote getters in the July 20 primary. They're facing off in a runoff Tuesday. The winner will take on Democrat Roy Barnes in the November general election.