“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:
- Project Management Professional
- CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professionals)
- CompTIA A+
- CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
What about you?
Which IT degrees and certifications do you have? Which ones do you want to get to advance your career?