With the increasing costs of tuition across the country, this question has become increasingly relevant for those considering the pursuit of a higher education. At the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, there really is no “right” or “wrong” answer. Each person and industry is different.
We can still look at the statistics, though, which show that those with a college degree are employed at a higher rate (only 3.7% unemployment) than those without one (8.1% unemployment).
But what about the IT industry, where experience is especially crucial? Can experience overcome a lack of a degree?
As a general rule, education (degree and/or certifications) still carries a lot of weight, especially for someone trying to break into the industry. Each job will require a different set of qualifications, and each employer will value these qualifications differently, which brings us back to the original answer of “it depends.”
With that said, a degree and/or certifications certainly can’t hurt you, so if money was no object this question wouldn’t be much of a question at all – of course you would want to further your education.
Given the large investment that is college, though, ROI (return on investment) is ultimately the best measuring stick for the value of a degree, and an IT degree ranks especially high in this area.
As Michael Goul of InformationWeek points out, the IT industry is proving to be the exception in today’s economic environment, with both job opportunities and salaries expected to rise in coming years. While Goul focuses on master’s degrees, these encouraging projections certainly make it easier to pursue a bachelor’s degree or certifications in IT (http://goo.gl/uSISK).
With that said, a degree or certification isn’t absolutely essential. If you establish a good reputation within the IT community and/or have a strong network, you will definitely have a leg up on the competition. One way to get your name out there is to write a “white paper,” assuming you have enough knowledge on a specific topic. A white paper includes an extensive review of a particular (IT-related) problem and a proposed solution to said problem. A very specific specialization can also set you apart, though finding job openings suited to your skills will be more difficult.
In the end, if it is financially feasible, go for that degree (or certification). It will open more doors down the road, at the very least. Combine that degree with relevant experience, and you will be setting yourself up for a bright future indeed.
- Cobey Culton, Digital Marketing Intern