CXO

Study says employers value MCSE more than four-year degree

Are MCSEs more successful than employees with four-year college degrees? A recent study by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution reveals that many employers think so. But Erik Eckel says think twice before dismissing the importance of academics.


Just three years ago, I read that MCSE accreditation would become more valuable than an MBA. While I was a little skeptical, that’s what I wanted to hear. Certainly, I enjoyed hearing that the time and money I was investing in earning an MCSE wasn’t for naught.

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TechMail
IT Certification Corner Paperchase Digest is now Erik Eckel's IT Certification Corner. As always, you'll find certification tips and news in your inbox each Friday. Just go to the TechMails page and sign up to ensure that you keep up-to-date on the latest certification tips, shortcuts, news, and more!

Now, there’s new evidence you may have missed that an MCSE provides more value than a four-year college degree. A study conducted by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, a nonprofit think tank based in Arlington, VA, shows that many companies believe employees with MCSEs are as successful or more successful than employees holding four-year degrees.

The study
The results of the study, titled “The Impact of Technology Training Programs, Case Study: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer Training,” were published in December 2000. The nonpartisan organization contacted human resources staff by these segments:
  • 135 Fortune 500 companies
  • 135 Inc. 500 companies
  • 134 technical start-ups

The study was conducted via telephone in November 2000.

The results
When the human resources staff at all of the company segments were asked if MCSEs are equally or more successful than individuals with a four-year degree, 53 percent responded yes. In other words, the human resource personnel said that employees with MCSEs provided as much or more value than employees possessing just four-year degrees.

Some 70 percent of Inc. 500 respondents, compared to 44 percent of tech start-up and Fortune 500 respondents, said MCSEs were equally or more successful than employees with four-year degrees. The Inc. 500 companies also reported the highest population of MCSEs—60 percent said they had MCSEs working at their firms—compared to 59 percent at tech start-ups and 47 percent at Fortune 500 companies.

The study’s Inc. 500 company segment also led in the number of organizations accepting MCSE qualification for employment. Sixty-four percent of Inc. 500 companies accepted MCSE as a qualification for work, compared to 58 percent for tech start-ups and 47 percent for Fortune 500 companies.

The study discovered that 92 percent of the Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 companies (as opposed to 87 percent for all three company segments) that accept MCSE qualifications for work felt such employees were equally or more successful than individuals possessing a four-year degree. More revealing is the fact that only 8 percent of those Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 companies (as opposed to 13 percent for all three company segments) that accept MCSE accreditation for employment qualification felt MCSEs were less successful than degreed employees.

However, among those Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 companies that didn’t accept an MCSE as a qualification for work, some 77 percent (as opposed to 83 percent for all three company segments) felt MCSEs were less successful than employees possessing four-year college degrees. Only 22 percent of Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 companies (as opposed to 17 percent for all three company segments) not accepting MCSE qualification felt their employees with MCSEs were equally or more successful than degreed employees.

Eckel’s take
It’s obvious from the study that human resources personnel who have worked with MCSEs find them equally or more successful than employees possessing four-year degrees. It’s also clear that human resource managers that haven’t worked with MCSEs believe such employees are less successful.

Thus, it appears Microsoft has some marketing to do. It appears it’s time for some testimonials.

In the interim, I’m not convinced anyone should enter the workforce without a college degree. Who knows what value an MCSE will offer three or four years from now. It’s relatively safe to say that, once the tech sector growth explosion slows, as it appears it has (just ask Cisco), four-year academic educations will shine again.

Therefore, my prescription is simple. Build your career using three elements. Earn a solid, four-year degree. Prove your systems expertise with an MCSE or CCNA as time permits. Then test your mettle by gaining hands-on, real-world experience. You won’t be sorry.
We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding the study. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.

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