Like most things in life, getting certified comes at a cost. Yes, there is a financial cost associated with getting certified, as well as the time it takes to study for your certifications. But what about the opportunity cost? What else could you have done with that time, and how does getting certified compare? We’ve already covered some of these differences in a previous blog, but in this one we’ll be focusing on the timeline of return on your investment in education.
In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at the costs and opportunities for certification training as opposed to pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
Part 1: Getting IT Training
First, we’ll take a look at the timeline for these training options.
Typically, a bachelor’s degree requires four years of study to complete. In these four years, students will complete 120 semester credits or around 40 college courses.
While this is the longest of any of the four options, it’s also important to mention that a bachelor’s degree program aims to create well-rounded graduates who learn about history, language, math and literature in addition to their chosen area of study. Usually only 30 to 36 credits or 10 to 12 courses will be in a student’s major area of study.
According to collegeboard.org, for the 2017-2018 year, the average cost of tuition for a semester at a public 4-year in-state college or university was $9,410. For four years at that rate, one would expect to pay $37,640 for tuition.
The Computer User Support Specialist program takes five weeks to complete the courses (or 10 weeks if taken part-time in the evening). Students will need a few more weeks to study the material, take practice exams, and prepare themselves for their certification exams. Most students will need three months to complete all of their courses and get certified.
Our certification courses cost around $3,000 each (varies by course), with the total cost of our Computer User Support Specialist program coming in at $13,875.
Part 2: Getting Hired in IT
Once you have your certifications and training or degree, how hard is it to get hired in IT?
With your bachelor’s degree in hand, you’ll find a large number of entry-level positions that you qualify for. Depending on the focus of your studies, you may be able to get a head start in the specific IT field you’re interested in. However, with more and more high school graduates attending college, the value of a college degree has begun to decrease.
While a degree will help you qualify for more jobs, it’s by no means a golden ticket. As you can see from this Quora thread, you’ll still need to look for internships during college, network with other IT professionals and employers, create a great resume and work on your online presence.
If you can’t show potential employers that you have the hard skills they are looking for, a degree may not mean much to them. They’ll want to know that you worked with the systems and hardware that they’re currently using. In fact, many of our graduates have combined a degree with certifications to help them compete in the job market. For more on this, check out the success story of Michael Cost who got an Information Assurance degree but still wasn’t able to find work until he added a Security+ certification to his resume.
Certifications like CompTIA Security+ are ideal for employers because they provide third party verification of the worker’s skills. For most IT jobs, skills are far more important than college degrees. Employers want to know that you’ll be able to configure a router, rebuild a computer or help secure the company’s systems. Because of this, the four certifications offered in the Computer User Support Specialist program are an ideal gateway to working in the tech world.
80% of our graduates are hired within six months of completing their studies and certifications. This is because our training is an ideal way to meet the increasing employer demand. According to CompTIA research, nearly 4 in 10 U.S. IT firms report having job openings and are actively recruiting candidates for technical positions. For those who wish to continue their education and expand into the cybersecurity market, they’ll have an even easier time getting hired. In fact, The Cybersecurity Jobs Report predicts there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.
The final component to our employment rate is one-on-one Career Service support. Each campus has a dedicated Career Services team, ready to help you optimize your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, and practice your interview skills. When you’re certified and ready, they’ll connect you with local employers that are looking to hire.
Part 3: Where Will You Be Five Years Later?
After five years, a bachelor’s degree student would have only been in the working world for about a year, or possibly less given the time needed to secure employment. In an entry-level position like Information Technology Specialist, one could expect an average salary of $48,063. Working for one year in a role like this, the bachelor’s degree recipient would have incurred $37,60 for tuition and would just be able to start to pay that off.
Assuming three months to complete training and certification, and five months to find a job in the industry, a LeaderQuest graduate would have been working for four years and four months. Considering the average salary of $48,063 for an Information Technology Specialist, the LeaderQuest graduate could have already made as much as $194,398 in the same amount of time that the bachelor’s degree holder was just getting started in the working world! If you factor in the potential for promotions or pay raises, they might even be making more. And they’d be gaining valuable industry experience that can help them get ready for the next move in their career—instead of just starting it.
Looking at the table above, the benefits of accelerated training through LeaderQuest are obvious. Get trained, get into the field, and start earning experience and money!
College or LeaderQuest?
You don’t have to choose! The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®) has recommended 14 LeaderQuest courses for college credit. ACE CREDIT® recommendation means you could get trained with entry-level certifications, quickly start a job in IT, and still have college credit if you decide to go back to school to specialize. Really, the only thing better than certifications or a degree is certifications and a degree!
LeaderQuest also has an articulation agreement with Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) which makes our Computer User Support Specialist program worth about as many credits as a semester of classes. In addition, LeaderQuest students can take advantage of a 10% tuition discount at CSU-Global. This means you can use the training and job relevant skills you learn at LeaderQuest in high demand career areas of information technology, cybersecurity, and project management, and apply it toward your continued education and career advancement with CSU-Global.
Are you ready to get started on an IT career today?
If you are, it might be time to talk to a Career Adviser and schedule a tour of one of our campuses. During the tour, you’ll get a free career consultation with one of our Career Training Consultants to help you determine if IT is a good fit for you, and what field you might like to work towards. They’ll also talk to you about funding, training timelines, employment rates, and anything else that’s on your mind.
Getting into the IT industry doesn’t have to be time consuming. LeaderQuest can make it easy to take the first steps on a new career path.
We’d like to introduce you to Ambrose Boswell, a successful LeaderQuest graduate. Ambrose spent years working in the hotel industry, but found that the salary they offered just wasn’t high enough. After working closely with IT staff in another job, he decided to take the leap and see if he could find a place in IT for himself.
Check out his video below, and read on to learn more about Ambrose’s successful transition to an IT career.
Finding Work after High School
After he graduated from high school, Ambrose worked in hotels like Sheraton and Disney for over 7 years. It was an interesting industry to work in, but just didn’t pay enough.
“When I jumped out of highschool it was an easy career path to take. Hotels were always fun. I got to meet a lot of different people. It was always changing, you check in new people every day and have different conversations with interesting people. But the money wasn’t there, so I decided to go elsewhere.”
Leaving the hotel industry behind, Ambrose worked in Sales for Enterprise for two and a half years. He also worked for an IT company, but not in an IT position. Through all these jobs, he developed a background in sales and customer service. Ambrose realized that when it comes down to it, he loves helping people and solving problems, and in IT you get to do both.
Coming to Colorado and Exploring IT Training
Ambrose moved to Colorado Springs in 2018 for “the mountains, the views, and the cost of living.” He was eager to get out of Missouri and escape the humidity and bugs. As soon as he moved to Colorado, he quit his Sales job and decided he was going to go for IT full time.
“I Googled how to get an A+ certification and LeaderQuest came up as well as one other school. I called both of them, got the info I needed from both of them, and came in for a one on one interview at LeaderQuest. Sarah went over all the courses and how LeaderQuest works. She was very informative about it being a boot camp, and that you get a lot of information at once.”
“You can resit the classes any time. It’s not like you pay for the class, you sit in it, and if you don’t feel like you got the knowledge, too bad you already paid. Instead it’s, ‘No, we’re LeaderQuest. We’re here to help you, you sit in as many times as you need. And we also have tutors we offer.’ And that was the selling point. The other campus didn’t offer that.”
Ambrose enrolled in our Computer User Support Specialist program, which is our most popular program for those who have little to no IT experience and want to get started in the industry. This program includes ITIL, as well as CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+. Students emerge with a strong foundation for an IT career, whether they decide to go into networking, cyber security, or IT support roles.
“LeaderQuest offers a lot of different outlets for information. It’s not just sitting in front of a teacher and having them read you slides or explain what they are doing. They actually give you a lot of other tools. One of them is TestOut, a website that gives you a hands-on testing environment where you can take practice tests before you take the exams. You can work physically on building a computer by clicking, and that’s not something everybody can do at home.”
Ambrose told us his formula for success in his classes at LeaderQuest:
“Making sure I showed up to class on time, asked all the questions I needed to, and then studied after class. Security+ excited me the most because you can get so many jobs once you have that certificate. I’m a visual learner, so it helped that they have huge whiteboards in the classroom and they’ll draw exactly what they’re talking about. It was a lot of information to take in at once and it wasn’t easy, so that’s why I’m still studying [before taking exams].”
Starting an IT Career
Ambrose landed his first IT job after completing just one of his four certifications. In January 2019, he was hired by the Gazette, the second largest newspaper in Colorado. It wasn’t long before he got a better offer and moved on to another IT role.
“I’m in my second IT job since starting LeaderQuest. Everything I learned in each course I took I put on my resume. When the employer saw my resume and had a conversation with me about it, I said I am at LeaderQuest, I’m still studying to get certified. They liked that I was dedicated and was wanting to learn and move up in the industry. Right now I work for Colorado High Tech Solutions, we’re a managed service provider mainly for medical offices.”
“The Colorado Springs Employment Development Manager ran resume writing classes during the lunch hour between classes. He helped me structure that information which helped me get my resume ready to put in front of an employer so they’d really look at it and not just go on to the next one, and that’s what really helped me land my job was the resume.”
Many people who are interested in IT are worried that they just won’t be able to get hired without a 4-year degree. But what employers are really looking for is a candidate with the right skills.
“Coming from sales, and not knowing anything about IT, I knew that employers are very particular when they are hiring people for IT. They want the skills, they want the knowledge, they want the years of experience. But when you’re brand new and you have no experience what do you do? LeaderQuest helped me find out what I could do to get that experience. Aside from getting certifications, just getting these skills on my resume and being able to talk the talk is what got me to be able to walk the walk.”
Looking Back on His Time at LeaderQuest
We asked Ambrose about what made his experience at LeaderQuest a great one, and there was one specific person he wanted to thank.
“I’d like to thank Sarah for all her hard work and everything she’s done for me in my tenure here at LeaderQuest. From meeting with her on day one through everything up to today, she has stayed in communication with me. We’re always talking, she’s very excited that I’m on to my next IT position and I just feel like she’s really in my corner. So thank you, Sarah, for everything that you’ve done for me. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without you.”
Ambrose also had some advice for those who’re interested in training at LeaderQuest:
“LeaderQuest is not for everybody, but it really is for the right individual who is really motivated and willing to work their way up in this industry. If you’re really passionate about IT, and this is a career you want to start, then absolutely dive in and sign up!”
Are you ready to start an IT career?
If you’re interested in training at LeaderQuest, get in touch! We’ll give you a call and schedule a time to go over our training options, what kind of career you’re interested in starting, and what kind of funding options might work for you.
“At my company, I don’t even know which of my employees has a degree or not—it makes no difference to me,” said Ilya Pozin, Founder of Pluto TV on LinkedIn.
“I’d much rather hire someone who has been freelancing as a web developer for three years than someone who has a master’s degree in computer science,” he went on. “They’re bound to be more passionate, driven, and profitable in the long run, as they know what it takes to impact the bottom line.”
Lots of today’s business owners and managers are realizing that the old system of a job seeker earning a four-year IT degree from a traditional college and landing an entry-level position where they expect to gain ‘experience’ may not be what’s most worthwhile for them as a company.
Things that were cutting-edge four years ago are hardly relevant today.
In fact, in the beginning of his article, Pozin said “Getting hired in entry-level positions requires experience and fine-tuned skills, not a 4.0 GPA.”
So… Are IT Degrees Worthless Now?
Even though lots of IT business owners have said things like Pozin, it’s be a bit short-sighted to completely discount the value of an IT degree – but it’d be equally as silly to assume they’re somehow ‘better’ than specialized IT certifications.
Because while there are a lot of forward-thinkers like Pozin out there, a lot of companies still require IT degrees for certain positions, particularly if you’re new to the field and don’t have a lot of experience.
IT Degrees: The Pros & Cons
Let’s address the elephant in the room: getting a degree takes a lot more time and money than earning a certification.
For starters, bachelors degrees usually require passing credits from at least 30 classes, while certificates rarely require more than 10. Using overly-basic math, that means a degree is thee times more expensive and takes three times as long as a certification.
If you don’t have time or money on your side, an IT degree probably isn’t going to work for you.
But what about the upsides of an IT degree?
To give you an idea, the employers who seek degree-holders usually do so because it means the person has spent a significant amount of time steeping himself in the expertise of his desired profession, has a functional overview of the industry as a whole, and has a more well-rounded education that can’t be completed with an IT certificate.
The time spent studying the industry and the more well-rounded education are the main factors why IT degree holders are often seen as ‘more qualified’ upfront than IT certificate holders.
IT Certificates: The Pros & Cons
On the upside, IT certificates seem to be a more efficient use of your time and money since they focus specifically around one job role and don’t take the time to teach you things you don’t need to know yet.
They can be completed in a matter of months or weeks so you can get moving quickly in a new career path in the job role of your choice.
But since they’re a quickie solution for job experience and training, they may yield a smaller starting salary than someone that’s spent the time steeping themselves in learning for four years.
But if you’re going to work for a company where your initial job role will be pretty narrow, a certificate might be all you need to get started.
“Certificate programs taken alone are similar to associates degree programs,” said Study.com. “They take less time [than associate degrees] because general education courses are not required.”
To make it easy, you can look at weighing the pros and cons of an IT certificate in the same way you’d weigh the pros and cons of an associate’s degree in IT. It’s great to have, but might not be quite as good of a qualifier as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
IT Certificates vs IT Degrees for Career Expansion
One of the best things IT certifications can be used for, sometimes even more so than helping you start a career in IT, is to expand the education and experience you already have to take your career to the next level.
For example, let’s say you’re a web developer with a bachelor’s degree from 10 years ago.
You’ve probably got things HTML, CSS, Ruby and PHP down pat.
But you notice that your company (and the companies whose job postings you like to keep an eye on) have been mentioning responsive development with increasing frequency.
Because you it wasn’t something you needed to know ten years ago, and because your company is just now catching onto responsive development, you feel like you’re a little behind and want to catch up so you can remain an A-player in your company’s development team… or at least keep your options open.
Rather than going back to schools for a new degree (which seems silly for just one skill set), doing an IT training course that teaches responsive development and getting a certificate to prove your new knowledge can be a great way to move ahead.
Choosing the Most Effective IT Degree or Certification
According to CIO.com, some of the best IT certifications to set your resume apart from the rest, even if you do have a full-blown degree include: