Should I Go To College Or Pick A Certification?

Old 2 Comments on Should I Go To College Or Pick A Certification? 49

Have you ever compared your own career to someone else’s and wondered why they are more successful than yourself? At some point in every person’s life they find themselves comparing the path they took, whether it was through university or entering into full time trade employment after high school, and wondering which path was better in the end. Everyone can see where they went wrong or where they succeeded when looking back, but it would be great to apply this knowledge when it could actually be useful. If you are currently considering a career in the technology sector, this might be one of those times.

There are three basic paths that techies in the highest paying technology jobs take to achieve their final career goal. The first group of workers will go to university and get an education of at least 4 years, moving then into a low level systems role and working their way up the ranks over the course of years to the highest level jobs. The second group go to work in an entry level position in a computer related field and work their way up the ranks over several years to gain their desired job, usually as a penetration tester. The third group go to work for themselves and start offering their services to small businesses in the local area. After establishing a solid client base and maintaining their systems for several years, they could decide to stay working for themselves or would also be able to attain a penetration tester job at any large company. People do not always stay on the same path of course, so any combination of the three is possible.

Jobs in the information technology sector are pretty lucrative, starting at around $50,000 – $100,000 per annum. The high starting pay is mainly driven by a lack of available skilled workers, meaning there are still many more IT jobs out there to be filled. This is definitely an industry that is currently booming; as we never know how long the good times last until they are over, it is best to get in early. Since the end result of both going to college and getting certifications is to learn everything that is necessary to qualify for a job in the information technology sector, then it really comes down to your ability to learn through self-teaching or if you feel you need an instructor. If you can self teach through reading books, participating in online forums, learning the lingo and gaining practical experience with the programs you will be required to use.

Some people are unable to teach themselves and still others feel more affirmed that they have mastered knowledge when someone agrees with them, so there will always be people who fare better going to college. In the end, you need to be confident and educated. You are the only one who would know which path is right for you personally. Also, speaking in terms of the value of a college degree, the fact is that all degrees are not equal and the weight that they may hold with future employers will vary based on the person’s major, the institution they went to, what level of degree had been attained and what your results were. As well, some companies will ask for any degree, so an applicant with an IT degree and little practical experience won’t stand a chance against the applicant with an arts degree and plenty of experience. So within the college choice there are several factors to consider as well. No matter how you look at it, each choice has both pros and cons initially, but in the long run will lead you to the career that you always wanted, so they are all worthwhile paths.


Michael Mulcreevy

Michael Mulcreevy is a writer and researcher and studied sustainability. He has special interests in technological advancements in the computer age and writes on all things current and future based such as systems for community resilience.

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  1. Verrm February 14, 2014 at 4:31 am

    IMHO if you can find determination enough to learn yourself PLUS you really know what you want to do then go for no-college route. Problem is – very few know at this point where in technology they find their fun. I for example needed 5y of college and 2y of working during studies to know I want to become a sysadmin. If you don’t know what you really want to do by all means go to college.
    But if you DO… Then it’s easy. Want to be developer/PM/Business Analyst? Get a job as tester. Or maybe an admin/network/voip geek? Go become a tech support. Most of these job require on entry level at most MTA (+maybe ITIL knowledge).
    So.. you got your first IT job, huh? Go learn & get certified. Employer will be satisfied. After at least 1y of working AND with certificate(s) prooving your knowledge you can start seeking your first dream job.
    Benefits? Let’s say you wanted to become a sysadmin.. you got MTA in 0,5y then went to tech support for 2y, during which you made MCSA: Windows Server 2012. Now you can easily become junior administrator after 2,5 years. Very fast, don’t you think? At the time you worked for at least 1y as administrator seeing your exp and certs no1 will care about lack of university degree. If they do then they’re kind of people you don’t really want to work for probably.

  2. Branden Martin February 27, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I agree with Verrm on how to become a systems admin. however, for me I didn’t want to become a sysAdmin. I would like to become something like a programmer and then get into management above programmers. So here is what I am doing to achieve those goals. I am currently working at a non-profit organization as a Technology Coordinator(3yrs). I do a lot of PC repair and A/V work for them. This is a full-time job that doesn’t pay too much, but it is set hours and allows me to go to school at night. I bring that up for a reason, I could have taken some Certs and/or trade school classes to become a web developer or something along those lines. But, I chose to get a degree for a reason. With wanting to become a manager at some point, it is important for me to have a background to support it. Therefore, I am not a Computer Science major, I am a Computer Information Systems Major with a Computer Science minor. This is important because of the requirements. I am not bashing either major, this is just simply what I want to become.
    So, let’s pull together what I am doing and a reason. With me taking classes at night, I am able to continue a steady flow of income for my household. I also will be able to show experience in the field I am studying. This is a two fold positive thing. My current employer loves the fact that I am able to troubleshoot better and have a broader knowledge of our setup. Second, I have the ability to write a demo program in my own time and test it at my work place. This program will be useful for landing a job with a company, by showing them how my knowledge is being used in my spare time.
    Now, I put all of this out there from my experience only. I can not tell you what to do nor would I want to. This is just some info for you to use to find your calling. Also, check with some companies in your area. They may pay you to go back to school for a degree. That’s something you can use anywhere. I hope I have helped some of you reading this. Just remember, anyone can land a job with the education or experience, but your attitude will allow you to grow from that job!

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