Education

IT education poll results in

We did a poll last week in which we asked about the educational backgrounds of TechRepublic members. Here are the results.

We did a poll last week in which we asked about the educational backgrounds of TechRepublic members. Here are the results.

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Last week in this blog, I asked What kind of background does it take to succeed in IT? and presented a poll designed to get a snapshot of the educational background of TechRepublic members.

Nearly 1,000 people took the poll. Here are the results:

As you can see, the predominant scenario is a 4-year degree in an IS-related major. Interesting, but not surprising, is that the second most common scenario is no degree/with certs.

I'd like to drill down further for those who answered Other. If you chose that option, could you explain a little about your background?

Note to readers: We will be featuring a new Friday twist to the Career Management blog. Every Friday, we will present a true-life member-provided career or workplace scenario that needs a resolution. All scenarios will be anonymous and we welcome all feedback. If you have a career or workplace issue you'd like help with, e-mail it to me by clicking here.

About

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.

115 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the degrees and certs split by the fields they're in and then also list the people by the field they're in. I've seen IT degrees that are all theory and no practical, and IT degrees that are all hardware and no software, and some that are all software and no hardware, with some simply on particular areas of the IT spectrum. I've seen people with IT degrees saying they can write applications in Cobol, Fortran, and SQL being given jobs to manage IT units where the bulk of the work is network administration - not exactly qualified for that, but as far as HR are concerned, they're an IT degree holder and can do the job. The industry is full of such mismatches between training and work, especially in the middle management areas.

dudumoh
dudumoh

I have read it here that people with Degrees actually take credit for what the techs are doing (my interpretation). I agree that you need the skills to do the work but if you want to grow fast the degree will help you. At a certain point you grow to leave the real work thereby progressing into management. It is at this Management level that you start taking credit for what others are doing. At a certain level you need to know how to run presentations, write reports and negotiate to push your information to other people.This, ladies and gentlemen, is what learn in school plus the confidence to stand up to others opinion. Yes, degreed IT people take the credit for the work of others and most employers will prefer degreed and skillful IT people. Who wouldn't?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Agreed. Management = take credit for your techs, possibly, but that means you are a poor manager. In fact if you took a management degree they would tell you not to do that but to recieve credit for setting things up so your techs can do well. Please explain what esoteric piece of knowledge you can only pick up in a degree, that teaches you both how to present and gives you the confidence to do it. You should also bear in mind many techs have absolutely no desire to move away from what they enjoy and become managers. It's not a career progression, it's a career switch.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]...many techs have absolutely no desire to move away from what they enjoy and become managers. It's not a career progression, it's a career switch. [/i] Many, particularly those in management, don't see it that way. The first thing most managers want to do with an experienced tech is take him out of the field, put him behind a desk, call it "Level 2" (or 3) support, and tell him he doesn't need to get his hands dirty any more. They will then wonder why both his attitude and job performance change for the worse.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

f**k him. He just didn't want to think about the fact that despite being way more qualified he was wrong.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

To some extent I do understand the HR argument. Once you you take it on faith that proof of education = educated = ability, then they have no choice. Of course that's not an assumption I make. I can even see why those with formal education, no matter who paid for it, feel a bit short changed at having to compete with someone like me who did not 'put the effort in'. I don't give a crap admittedly. My circumstances gave me no real choice in my path to the 'dizzy heights' I currently enjoy. Choices were limited by expectation, mine and others, as much as anything else. Anyone who thinks I can't do my job because of my lack of paper is welcome to come try take it off me. I like competition, which is why I don't agree that I've obviously lost before I've started, and bow it before the start. I'm not known for making it easy to beat me. I keep mulling around the thought of maybe going back part time, or even finishing off my correspondance degree, but I really don't feel any driving need to. I think if I do go back it won't be IT, that I do. History is probably the most likely choice.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I was told in another discussion that nobody wants to hear from a 50+ help desk tech with only an A+ certification. Against my better judgment, I find myself fearing for the future prospects of such a blinkered individual.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I mean, honestly, how can you possibly know ANYTHING with ONLY experience...What's wrong with you? Ok, removing my tongue from my cheek, I've never quite understood HR and their fixation on degrees and certs when someone has experience. Sure a degree is a way to prove you have "experience" when you haven't been in the field very long, but honestly, what does it prove past that? Sure a degree gets you to think and be more creative with your solutions, but so does experience. Before anyone goes off on my for being against education, I have a BS CS, MS CS, and I'm *STILL* working on a PhD CS. So there...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

we are failures at some point. Usually one, who just claimed credit for our success, five minutes previously. One day some one will figure out that the skill sets for tech and manager are disjoints.

gurugeekster
gurugeekster

nuf said

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

but I'm far more glad that I have the skills, ability, natural talent, drive, ambition and a really really large ego. :D

dmatthew
dmatthew

What! An IT person with a large ego, tell me it isn't so.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Back to the "What do you need to make it as an IT professional? " post A really big ego. :D Makes you wonder if masses of experience, and or lots of qualifications are the result of being a big head, rather than the other way round.

Chet0729
Chet0729

You cant tech the basics of IT either you have it or you dont. Focused education can help with new technology but the basic skills can not be taught. It is like a carpenter, you need the basic skills first. I have been in IT since 1977 and most of the best people I have ever hired or worked with did not have degrees. I have fixed computer equipment for professors how taught in an IT program. There is no replacement for experience and natural ability and neither can be taught !!

j-mart
j-mart

One did not have a degree, the other did. The tech without a degree started his career in 1980, for Boroughs. To work for Boroughs in those days they had their own system to select potentual technical staff, a series of tests to sort out if you had the aptitude and had a mind that worked the right way to make a good tech. If you passed this selection proceedure they would then provide the in house training to enable them to become good techs. There are many who will go off and spend good money on an education and qualifications fo a career the are not suitable for and that they will never be much good at. Of course the education and course providers don't give a toss as they are only in the buisiness of running programs as sources of revenue. This leads me on to the other outstanding tech I have had dealings with. He went down the degree path and graduated with a BSC in geology, took about a month to realise he had absolutly no interest of making a carreer in this feild and fell back on his hobby interest in electronics. He has become a guru with micro controllers, fix anything, design and build them from scratch and has built a sucessful career in this feild. Maybe a degree in geology is a great prerequisit for a tech. I think the first requirement for a good tech is an aptitude for this type of work and an iterest in this type of work are the most important things to start with. In todays world formal qualifications may be required to get the start along the way, but in the end to be a long term player in this feild having the right stuff is the only thing that will keep you there in the long term.

rtillotson
rtillotson

Passion and Entrepreneurship vs. Degree I have a non-IT degree, but have worked in IT-related functions for over 20 years. The most ambitious, talented, skilled and most willing to adapt to change co-workers I have met did not have 4-year degrees. Many of the 4-year degreed folks became less passionate about learning new skills than those who truly loved the challenges they faced.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

I tell anyone who wants to go into IT to do something else because recently it's become a money pit with no guarantees. You rack up $30k in debt getting a useless degree only to find out that in order to get even a shitty help desk position you need two years experience (chicken or egg anyone?) and spend thousands more on certs just to get a decent wage. Then after you get the job, in short order you're replaced by cheap offshore labor. If anyone's in college doing IT, you might as well change majors and go into something with a brighter future. The barrier of entry is too high due to an out of control HR hiring process and an industry with few standards.

zhenchyld
zhenchyld

Of course, because everyone knows that ROI is the only factor to consider when choosing what you'll DEVOTE YOUR LIFE to.

elvis_shields
elvis_shields

I believe a degree is the starting point and not the end point to successful career! I personally have hired staff who are finishing their degree while continuing to work. I like that, it shows motivation, initiative and ability to learn not just technically but in the business world as a whole. Persons with just technical certs are proven technically to recall and present technical issues but today's requirement of IT operations, security and software development the organization needs more! Put in terms and meaning for the business, the organization not just the box you are configuring or supporting! It is time that IT personnel step up and realize they are more then just a back room operation!

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

It was an unfortunate experience of mine to be overlooked for IT positions because I didn't have a degree with certain institutions. As a temp I did more and better work than my more educated counter-parts with just certs and experience alone. Make no mistake! A degree will get you farther in life despite having very little experience. It's what a lot of companies want.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

...they are better prepared to manage techies. Four year degree holders typically have an edge when it comes to soft skills due to having to write technical papers and give technical presentations. That makes them better prepared to interface with upper management. Face it, the geek is dead and is seen more as a necessary expense more than a valuable asset. Necessary expenses can be cut or outsourced. Folks with a 4 year degree shouldn't be too concerned with doing the "grunt-work" but should be reaching out for management and Business-Intelligence roles within an organization. These are considered more valuable and aren't easy at all to outsource. I'm still doing gruntwork but I have a 5 year plan to get into a management or BI role which would put my soft skills to use. Anyone with a 4 year degree shouldn't consider being a techie as a career. It's something to get your foot in the door, learn the field and then use those skills as a compliment to your soft skills to help use IT as a cost-reduction and revenue-generating enabler.

RayJeff
RayJeff

I have to disagree with you on this one. If the 4-yr degree holder has an IT/IS/Computer Science degree with or with out actual experience, they are better capable of managing techies. The ones who dont have an 4-yr degree in IT/IS/Computer Science or have some or no experience at all are the worst at managing techies. The reason why is that they don't have the understanding of technology in practice. They may have read or reseached, but have no practical experience with using technology. And then, not trusting the judgement of the techies that they have working under them. I'm not saying that the techie should have the final say so all the time. But, if you are someone who ahs no technical experience and you are soley relying on the techie who has the experience,. then their thoughts should be taken with more than just a grain of salt. Me personally, and it's just me. I have 8 years in the field and an Associate's degree and a certification. I'm working on my Bachelor's in Computer Science. For me, I want to be the techie..I love doing the grunt work because I love everything about the field. At this point in my life, even when I started down this path, working my way to upper management never appealed to me. I think becuase I've seen too many bad examples of bad IT managers who have no IT background and make bad decisions and not listen to their more technical-experienced workers.

Kevin.Dearing
Kevin.Dearing

I agree that soft skills are taught in College - more so for business majors than IT/IS. But soft skills are also taught in meetings and day to day interfacing with the and associates. Just another thing that IMHO doesn't matter whether a person is schooled or not. School can help build on skills but won't create a working server out of cardboard and glue. If a person "has it", then they'll be able to build on it in school, or they'll be able to build on it by doing it. --KTFA

santeewelding
santeewelding

Lawyers make for terrible, blood-shedding revolutionaries, too.

joshuabj
joshuabj

I have a Comp. Sci. degree. However, that isn't the end all. I also gained experience during school by doing web development and network administration to help pay my way. Once I graduated I got a new job where I learned that my degree helped my in one main way. It trained me to think correctly i.e. learn while working towards a solution and gave me a this can be done attitude. I may not know everything (and I don't think I need to) but if there is a problem then I beleive there is a solution to that problem that I can find. Because of this I have done far better than a lot of others who I graduated with. I still am planning on starting to go for certs just so I don't have to continually convince everyone that I have the skills I need and more training never hurt anyone. I don't know. Most of computing is common sense stuff. That's the problem with computers, they're just so gosh darned logical and they'll do exactly what you tell them to. Maybe a good portion of my generation just didn't learn to think for themselves.

colby77
colby77

I just started going to school for my IT degree and what I read overall makes complete sense. This can be stated in any field that if you can not think logically you are not going to succeed. I would like to think that I am fairly logical person but I have yet to prove myself in the IT field. I have done a lot to learn by myself but as others have stated to work for a good employer that pays well, the degree is just a key that opens many otherwise closed doors!!

a.avallone
a.avallone

I am finishing up my Master's now and am finding a lot of employers are looking for the more than book knowledge...so I am continuing having to prove that I have more than the degree. My next step is going for certifications...like the CISSP and CFHI. Would a Master's and Certifications make a difference? This category didn't even make the survey. Thanks!

IT-b
IT-b

Keep in mind that the poll only asked what degrees TechRepulic subscribers have - and didn't actually evaluate how effective that makes us. I've actually been most impressed over the course my my app dev career with the folks that got a 4-year degree, but well after high school...after they figured out the value of one, and what they really wanted to do. Then they worked their tails off, usually while working fulltime otherwise. These are typically productive, driven employees that want to keep learning. The others are hit or miss. Aside from the degree or no degree, it's important to have the geekiness gene, and then also learn how to communicate. There are lots of effective combinations. I've worked with 2 people (not extensive experience here) that went on to get their masters. In both cases, they were our least productive employees, spending most of their time figuring out how to get more money for the degree than actually putting the degree to work in the office. And no - I'm not knocking the master's degree.

sduran
sduran

What I don't get is why people with degrees are treated (and some even act) as if they're superior. OK, so you spent your money to take classes and get a piece of paper. How great for you! I'm sure it was hard work especially if you did it as a working adult. (I'm not being facetious.) To me, it would be a waste of my money and time to get a degree. I've been in the IT field for all of my adult life - nearly 25 years. I communicate both verbally and in writing better than the majority of people I work with who have framed degrees on their walls - some Masters. I make a decent salary and have a job I love. Could I get a degree and make more money in this field? Probably. It would mean sitting through boring classes that would have no reflection on the real world of IT work. Again, a waste of money. If I'm going to spend money on a degree, it won't be in the IT field. So, looking forward to the next phase... early retirement from IT, HELLO

tww112477
tww112477

Well the biggest thing I see with your Statement is the number of Years you have been in IT. Anyone new to IT in the last 5 years can't get a job unless they have a Degree, unless they have Certs up the Arse. I went looking for a IT position years ago, and they said you need a Degree, I got a Assoc. in Programming, I knew Cobol, C++, and JAVA, (only class room, not work related studies) went applying for jobs, they I heard you need a Bachelors, so I get the Bachelors, and guess what the .dot com Bust happened while I was getting that, (working fulltime, and raising a family) took 2 years from getting my Degree to land a Job. Now I got a job, and my company has been looking to hire people. My CIO, won't even schedule an interview if the person does not have Bachelors degree. He has gotten burned on the immaturity of people with the determination to get their Degree. I see people with the Degree going farther up the ladder, and sticking with Companies, Those people who skip the degree get the Certs. Those people are your Techies and your jumpers. They Jump to the next company offering 2-5k more, also those people don't want to climb the ladder, they don't want the added responsibility nor do they like Business policies.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

are more mature and show more loyalty. Do you think that the academic hurdles and the real world delays you experienced getting your career off the ground, in anyway influenced this outlook. Is it at all possible that someone who with no degree put 19 years in with his first employer before they binned him as surplus to requirements, might find your attitude ever so slightly insulting? Mainly of their intelligence, only a complete pratt is loyal to a company, you never get it back!

RBFeddersen
RBFeddersen

If you do a programming type job, then hands down, a degree is the way to go. Systems admins do not require a degree and the ones that do have them are generally not very good. Except when they have years of experience and/or certs. An admin who gets a degree has 2 scenarios: either you will learn older technology that is being phased out or you will get stuck doing newest technology (vista and server 08) which hardly anyone is using. One of the best ways to get in the field is in the military... 4 years experience, you'll actually do admin stuff, and learn from some trult skilled peers. 4 years experience + entry level certs (MCP and/or CCNA) will net you a decent admin position. As a bonus, no student loans to pay off...

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

you will be shoved off to War in foreign countries where perhaps you may not return. Edit -Typo

propellerheadus
propellerheadus

I see replies from folks who think that being smart enough to be searching Google for Tech details during problem solving means that we don't need degrees. I have to disagree. Sticking it out and getting a well rounded education means you can probably stick it out in the career too. Getting a degree is about more than knowing just the facts you need to solve a particular class of tech problem. It is about demonstrating that you have the ability to think analytically about any class of problem. I'm getting far enough along in my career to be having the kids pass me up in tech skills if I don't work to keep up. When I started PC'S were nearly non-existent, and RS-232 based UUCP networks were all the rage for small offices. My answer? I'm going for a software engineering degree at the Master's level. That's keeping me up with the kids because it gives me the open door to run software development projects. I have the long experience, the maturity and the proven track record. Now I need the grounding in new methods. Nothing is more important to my career than this degree I'm going for right now. Otherwise I turn into a dinosaur.

RayJeff
RayJeff

That is one of the questions I think about ALL THE TIME. Not everything follows a script, but our fellow workers seem to think so, or shall I say the nw breed.

Kevin.Dearing
Kevin.Dearing

"For me, I love the challenge of a problem; that's when I really go to work. To think, really think. I guess that's why House is one of my favorite TV shows. " ========================================= Same here.. I get my kicks out of helping people move away from their monotonous tasks so they can do the same thing. Funny thing is that lately I've been finding people who WANT to do the monotonous tasks themselves. My guess is that they just don't want to think or do something more challanging.. Yeah, House is cool.. --KTFA

RayJeff
RayJeff

"You said, "Getting a degree is about more than knowing just the facts you need to solve a particular class of tech problem. It is about demonstrating that you have the ability to think analytically about any class of problem." And, while that is true with some, the grads I've come across are not able to think analytically - they have some book smarts but no "street smarts". They follow "scripts" instead of logically analyzing the problem at hand. " =========================================== You are so right, Kevin. I have seen that ever sicne I've started down my path of education. Even talking to collegues of mine who work with college graduates. They come in boasting how they have experience in this and that. But, when it comes to a problem they have never see before, they choke up or my favorite..pass it along to someone else and play it off that it wasn't a problem. Now, I know that the classroom doesn't prepare us for everything. I've have definately come across my share of problems, whether it debugging program or creating a database. But, it never stopped me from trying to analyze the problem and finding an eventual solution. It's almost like the current crop of graduates are just lazy and basically buying their time until they can get that comfy 5/6 figure salary as an upper manager. For me, I love the challenge of a problem; that's when I really go to work. To think, really think. I guess that's why House is one of my favorite TV shows.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

What like working shifts, raising a family, doing correspondance courses, to get your IT career start, in 1987. That the sort of thing you mean?

Kevin.Dearing
Kevin.Dearing

I understand your point about having to work hard so the recent grads won't pass you up in tech skills.. But then again, that's the nature of the business.. New technologies come out all the time. These technologies won't be taught right away (soon, but not right away.) And from what I've seen they take a couple years to become the standard technologies.. What I have done (and continue to do) is to read about new technologies that apply to my areas of IT that would or could effect my career. When something looks good and looks like it may catch on - I dig in deep learn it by creating a project to use that technology. True, I google and hit F1 a lot but I've found that this kind of resourcefulness and initiative has kept me at least "even" with the kids but usually well ahead of them.. Remember when XML started getting a lot of media hype? For about 4 or 5 years I was the only one who had used it in a practical way (in my circle). Then college grads started showing up who had done a project or two in school. They were still coming to me for help with transformations or whatever. You said, "Getting a degree is about more than knowing just the facts you need to solve a particular class of tech problem. It is about demonstrating that you have the ability to think analytically about any class of problem." And, while that is true with some, the grads I've come across are not able to think analytically - they have some book smarts but no "street smarts". They follow "scripts" instead of logically analyzing the problem at hand. And again, there are always exceptions - and I am only talking about my small vantage point so my experiences are going to be different from others, I'm just saying that overall, I've seen grads demonstrate that they can NOT do this. On the contrary, self-taught individuals (in my vantage point) have been resourceful and very analytical. Heck, just staying in the "game" suggests that they are able to think analytically in various areas of life. But as another poster stated, I think some people just have more analytical minds. Others don't. Doesn't matter whether they went to school or not for that.. I agree, skills can be built upon, and in some cases it happens. But again, not in my experience! --KTFA

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

How about a master's or higher degree past the typical 4 year degree. That may be the source of "Other" education. I was at a conference recently, and of the six of us at the table, I was surprised that 4 had PhDs (and the other two had Master's degrees).

mbutenko
mbutenko

I responded as "Other" to the survey. I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering and after doing engineering related work, I had the opportunity to do some software-related work. I started doing programming again (for the first time in many years) and decided to get my MS in Computer Science to make myself more marketable in the software industry when I changed jobs. I have been doing strictly software for the past 10+ years (with a couple year stint in management). I think that the degree merely opens doors that might otherwise be closed. It in no way means that you are "qualified" - whatever that means. But, in this respect, IT is no different than other areas I have seen. I have seen engineers with 4-year degrees who weren't very bright, too!

juliebeman
juliebeman

I have a BA in Philosophy with a minor in Women's Studies and will be starting an MFA in Creative Writing in September 2009.

jacewbal
jacewbal

I also have a degree in Philosophy as well as a BS in Information Systems Management and will this fall start on a MS in Information Technology Management. I also obtained my IT degree after working self-taught as an IT Jack-of All-Trades network administrator, security administrator for over 7 years and a website designer off and on for over 10 years. What it comes down to is the abilities of the individual and necessity of the job requirements.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Why do you have / need: Philosophy as well as a BS in Information Systems Management and will this fall start on a MS in Information Technology Management. What is the reason?

Kevin.Dearing
Kevin.Dearing

I can relate here - well, in my last position too!

zhenchyld
zhenchyld

True, but you've proven you have the discipline to finish what you start and an ability to learn. Many jobs require 'a degree' just for those reasons. The real value of a degree is that it shows maturity of character. What you learned is secondary.

juliebeman
juliebeman

...is that my degrees are irrelevant to IT. In fact, you might as well say that I have no degree at all. Nor do I have certifications. :-)

jacewbal
jacewbal

I work in Washington DC, a market where much of the IT work is government contract related and where there are strict education requirements if one wants to advance. I should add that in my current job I have again needed to resort to self teaching to assume the responsibilities of a SharePoint 2007 Site designer and administrator. But to move to management, where my aim is, then education and a MS are required.

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