To the nth degree in IT

If you’re considering a career path in information technology, also known at IT, then you may want to research common education options and how they pertain to the IT field.

If furthering your education to advance in the technology field, you may find yourself trying to strike a balance between time and resources. Once you identify the specific area in IT that interests you, decide what type of degree or education you will pursue. Is certification enough? Will an associate degree get me in the door? Do employers require a bachelor’s degree? Is a master’s degree worth the extra time and money? Does a doctorate degree even exist in IT?

Let’s look at each to have a better understanding of how they apply to the real world.

Certifications can be applied during any point in your career. They serve as a competency litmus test and show you have devoted time and energy to familiarize
yourself on a specific subject. Certifications can be acquired in a relatively short period of time and are inexpensive. Certifications alone are usually not enough to qualify you for a position. Most employers will want to see some work experience to go along with your certifications.

Associate degrees are a good place to start if looking to enter the workforce sooner rather than later. Those who have earned an associate degree can expect to be considered for entry level IT jobs such as help desk technician, desktop technician and IT support analyst. While these positions may not be your end goal, they will allow you to gain valuable experience needed to be considered for that next level position.

Bachelor’s degrees are likely the preferred minimum education most employers require for mid to high level IT positions. Many employers are now revising job descriptions accepting an equivalent amount of work experience in lieu of a bachelor’s degree. Experience is valuable to employers and sometimes more than a degree. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree will position you to be considered for that dream job with a competitive salary.

Master’s degree programs are fewer compared to other degree programs. A master’s degree shows employers you are willing to take on extra in order to be qualified for advanced projects and executive level positions. A master’s degree may not equate to a better job or higher pay, but it affords you the opportunity to speak with authority on the given subject. If your goal is to be regarded as highly knowledgeable in a specific area of expertise, you may want to consider obtaining your master’s degree. Note that few jobs in the IT field require a master’s degree, and you need to be willing to dedicate the extra time and money to acquire it.

Doctorate degrees are rare. I know many people in the industry and few have a doctoral degree. Those who do usually pursue a career in academia, government or high-level research projects. It is not an easy or inexpensive route, but if you are interested in becoming a professor or leading a university’s research project, this may be the path for you.