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Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

Degrees vs. Certifications: Investing In your Future

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.

Bachelor’s Degree

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.

LeaderQuest Training

At LeaderQuest, we recognize that highly employable graduates aren’t created overnight. While each IT certification is a powerful addition to a resume, a single certification is not typically enough to secure employment in the industry. That’s why our Computer User Support Specialist program includes four of the leading IT certifications for entry-level work: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, and ITIL Foundation.

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?

Bachelor’s Degree

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.

LeaderQuest Training

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?

Bachelor’s Degree

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.

LeaderQuest Training

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.

Timeline Bachelor’s Degree LeaderQuest Training
Year 1 Studying, -$9,410 Training, -$13,875

Working, +16,021

Year 2 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 3 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 4 Studying, -$9,410 Working, +48,063
Year 5 Working, +48,063 Working, +48,063
TOTAL Total: +10,423 Total: +194,398

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.

Ready to Learn More?

Get Your Hands Dirty: PC Build Lab for CompTIA A+

Get Your Hands Dirty: PC Build Lab for CompTIA A+

When it comes to getting hired in the IT industry, we know how important hands-on experience is. That’s why we include hands-on labs in our curriculum. For our CompTIA A+ Core 1 and Core 2 courses, this hands-on lab is focused around teaching students to build and configure a personal computer.

What is the PC Build Lab?

The PC Build Lab requires students to build a real working PC computer from scratch! LeaderQuest recently made a sizable investment in acquiring components and a lab to support students wanting to gain hands on experience that they can translate to tier I careers in IT. There are plenty of hands on labs that simulate building a PC computer virtually. However, nothing replaces the experience of holding computer parts and tools in your hands as you successfully build a PC from scratch. All learners are different and the PC Build Lab adds a tangible/tactile component to the CompTIA A+ Core 1 course, enriching the student’s experience.

Build the PC, then Configure the Operating System

Students registered for the CompTIA A+ Core 1 and Core 2 courses will be assigned their own PC computer to work on during class.

The A+ Core 1 students are assigned a pre-assembled computer that they first test to ensure it is fully functional.  Once the PC is confirmed as functional, the students take the computer completely apart. All tools and parts needed to participate are included in the cost of the class. Once disassembled, students follow a step-by-step PC build manual, with the guidance of a live instructor and completely rebuild the computer. No build is complete without testing the build. To wrap up Core 1 and to ensure that all steps were followed properly, the students will connect to a monitor and see a BIOS screen.

Students will then move forward with more advanced software application in Core 2. As the students enter the A+ Core 2 class they will load OS and work on problem solving scenarios that they would encounter in the field. Troubleshooting operational issues is an important part of what IT support staff does to keep PCs up and running smoothly, and we want to make sure that students gain real, hands-on problem solving experience in the classroom.

Why is the PC build so important?

Along with live instructors, lectures, virtual labs and robust curriculum, the students get to dive in and get their hands dirty by actually physically building what they are learning. The accomplishment of these labs allow students to confidently walk into potential employers and show the skills they have learned. These skills can be added to their resumes and LinkedIn and help students secure employment in IT more quickly.

Get the Experience You Need to Start an IT Career

If you’re interested in joining the IT industry, we can help you get the training and employer connections you need to enter the industry quickly.

Our Computer user Support Specialist program takes 5 weeks of daytime classes (or 10 weeks of half-time evening classes) to teach you skills in IT support, networking, cyber security an IT service fundamentals.We’ll prepare you to take certification exams including CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ and ITIL. These certifications are highly in demand from local employers. That’s where our Career Services team comes in.

Each campus has a devoted Career Services team tasked with helping each LeaderQuest graduate find employment in the field. Your Employment Development Manager will work with you one-on-one to create a powerful resume, harness your online presence, and prepare for interviews. When you’re ready to go, we’ll connect you with local employers who are looking to hire our trained and certified grads.

With experience from your new job and four powerful IT certifications under your belt, you’ll be ready to launch into the next step in your IT career. So what are you waiting for?

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