Careers/Jobs

For IT Professionals, Is a College Degree a Necessity?

TV series, books, and movies have shown us time and again about child prodigies who grew up with technology and became experts in information tech before they finished high school. Adding to that the remarkable growth of tech firms founded by college dropouts in the last few decades reinforces the opinion that a degree in information technology is only optional. So is going for a college degree necessary for all the tech jobs these days? Are there any alternatives to getting an IT  degree? Well, this classic question has been out there for years, and the answer depends on what you are looking for. You might have come across job postings which ask for “equivalent experience” in lieu of a college degree while some others look for “a four-year degree in Information Technology with five years of experience.”

Having experience beats paper any day

There is no doubt about this. There are companies in the IT industry which will prefer a candidate who skipped college and spent four years knowing the flavors of IT in and out. Some hiring experts say that they look for certifications and experience when hiring people for contract level IT jobs. Similarly, help desk and support team jobs don’t usually require you to have a college degree. It might be a little difficult to prove that you have the relevant experience, especially in the formative years of your career but that doesn’t restrict you from finding entry-level employment. Be it Linux administration, web development or coding; you can get a job without a degree in information technology. And we have heard enough about those teenagers who started their own companies owing to experience with information tech.

Getting an IT degree opens doors for you

Yes, getting a college degree can offer a plethora of opportunities for you and make your profile stand out. Most HR experts believe that higher up you climb the IT ladder, more important your college education becomes. If you want to become an IT manager, a college degree in information technology is usually very important. And with more business graduates heading IT firms these days, competition for the top position requires a comparable degree. College education also demonstrates your critical thinking abilities, time management skills, your communication prowess which all add up to your arsenal eventually. More importantly going to a college provides you with immense opportunities to make valuable connections with recruiters and others in your field. Not to sideline the role which a university alumni network can offer you. Going to college for education in information technology does not replace hands-on experience, it augments it.

Are there any alternatives to a degree in IT?

Many people who go to college for an IT degree have to balance a part-time or sometimes even a full-time job to fund their studies. The growing cost of college education has made IT aspirants look for alternatives. Getting a diploma in IT has been typical all these years. You can also opt for certifications offered by some tech companies to hone your IT skills. Boot camp styled programs are also becoming popular as they train students on specific IT skills in a span of few weeks or months. There are also Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by top universities and companies which can provide you basic to advanced level training on a number of information technology subjects.

Getting a college degree can give a boost to your technical and professional skills, enhance the chances of getting hired and eventually assist you in climbing to the top of the ladder. It is also important to keep in mind that IT jobs require you to be innovative and inquisitive. You should always be ready to learn to stay updated on latest technologies. IT professionals may also experience burnout,  and in that case, a college degree will offer more flexibility for career growth.

 
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Eileen O'Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.

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