Colleges report increase in computer science enrollment: What does it mean?

With computer sciences being touted as a job growth area, is a degree the best way to go? And where do certifications fit into the mix?

According to, leading universities report that enrollment in computer science and engineering courses is up significantly this year.

According to a source interviewed in the story, this growth is driven by the job market because the government has indicated that computer science is a growth field.

But the same old questions remain: Even if computer science is a growth field, must one have a degree in it to get a job? And what role does tech certification play?

I asked Brandon Seltenrich, an IT Product Manager, to comment on this:

"Speaking from the trenches as someone who let their MCSE certification slip nearly a decade ago, and as someone who's had to hire and fire a good number of developers, sys admins and ops personnel, my view of certifications has really changed over the last 15 years, for two reasons primarily: Their applicability in the enterprise and the quality of college CS courses.

"If you're looking to populate a stable of call center level personnel who can walk through predefined scripts, then certification makes sense to a potential employer.  However, if you're looking to staff out a heterogeneous back-end infrastructure, then experience in integration is more valued. That is to say, I don't care if you've aced certification exam 70-whatever for Microsoft, but I do care if you know how to make my Microsoft SQL server play nicely with my MySQL cluster.  The promulgation of open source technology in the enterprise is really the driver behind this.

"Similarly, in 2000, if I wanted to high a new guy to maintain a small network, I couldn't readily reach out to a recent college grad because the odds were that none of his coursework had prepared him for that.  Thus, I needed someone who had demonstrated through certification that they could do the job.  Nowadays, though, college CS programs have caught up with the industry and are teaching more relevant skills, from sys admin skills to developer ones.  Therefore, if I'm looking to fill a Java developer position, a guy with a Sun certification won't measure up as well as a college grad who's learned not only Java but general OOP skills as well."

Of course, if we get more granular with the cert issue. Some certs have higher value in the marketplace than others, like MySQL DBA certs, according to John Potter, VP Software Engineering at CBSi.

As is always the answer to the question of a degree vs. certs and their value in the workforce: it depends. It depends on the person who is doing the interview and the needs of the specific corporation.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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