A long time ago in a galaxy... ok, it wasn't really all that long ago and it was probably right down the street. The story: A high school diploma was the minimum necessary education required to earn a good wage at a good job. Higher education was not a necessity, although it certainly helped one achieve positions in the higher echelons of an organization. My parents are both high school grads - neither had the opportunity to attend college - and both did well for themselves. That was then.
More recently, but still not that long ago, a Bachelors degree or, in some cases, an Associates degree, became the new entry level requirement for many more desirable jobs. During crazy boom periods, such as during the dot com boom, simply having a pulse and a few letters after your name would suffice, but in general, employers wanted to see some kind of formal accredited credential in the form of an undergraduate education of some kind.
Today, the bar is slowly but surely being lifted yet again. Although I'm not looking for a job, I still see a lot of job postings. In most of the announcements for positions with any kind of management responsibility, seekers must have a Bachelors degree. However, most of the job listing describe a Masters degree as a desirable trait and many more make the Masters degree the minimum requirement. I expect that, over the next few years, we'll continue to see this desirable trait moving into the required category.
Personally, I'm in the Bachelors degree crowd right now with an eye toward starting a Masters degree program in the relatively near future. Frankly, I'm very lucky to have obtained my current CIO position without that graduate credential. Although my employer preferred to locate an individual with a graduate credential, I was fortunate to have a strong enough background that the lack of the credential didn't disqualify me. But that won't always be the case.
There are a lot of paths one can go down when it comes to continuing education - in both program and delivery mechanism. As for delivery mechanism, that one is easy. I don't think I have the patience anymore to sit in a classroom and be talked at... I'm probably going to go the online route. I actually think it's a little harder to go the online route sometimes simply due to the fact that there isn't a set class schedule. I've done classes both ways, though, and prefer the distance method. I do lose out on the in-class discussion that takes place, though.
As for program, I've gone all over the map on that one. I could go deeper into Information Technology and get a graduate credential in my chosen field. Or, I could go down the educational technology path. However, I'm more than likely heading down the MBA route (possibly with an IT concentration) in order to better round out my experience. For me, I think an IT concentration would be sort of a waste of time; I can learn whatever I need in that realm. Further, although I've learned a lot about finance, I want a better, broader understanding of all that goes along with it. I think this will provide much more value to me personally and to my employers, both present and future.
What about you? How do you feel about the Masters degree credential? Will it become a necessity or is it already? What did you or would you choose as a program concentration and why? How do you feel about classroom lectures vs. distance education?
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at email@example.com.