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Why is an MCSE less respected than an MSc?

By dotxen ·
I have always had grave doubts about the usefulness of university degrees in IT technologies. My reason for this is my own experience of working with, teaching, and interviewing degree holders. To be blunt, all (yes all) of the people that I have come into contact with who had university IT degrees, have been less than cute in IT technologies. They seem to be very sharp at management tasks and talking about this application or that application, but, if a systems fails they start yelling for a 'blue-collar' techie. You know, one of the little people from the village. So why is an MCSE less respected and valued than an MSc?

My argument is this, university degrees do not offer anything for those who want to work in IT infrastructural environments. That is, working with the operating systems and the incredibly wide and deep technologies that are involved. No they don't!

Universities seem to have two main criteria for running IT courses. The first is 'bums on seats'. University courses can attract funding, yes even these days. The second is industry's voracious appetite for managers (viewed by many as the intellectuals of our industry - spare me!). My experience of managers is one that many will share. They are good for nothing. You can't rely on a manager when anything goes wrong. They spend most of their time in meetings or taking trips to some exhibition or seminar (to sharpen their dull wits no doubt), if not that, then they are on a well earned break. If systems go down, the most important task for any manager is to find someone to fix the problem. And for this they get paid more pro-rata than the person with the skills and knowledge to sort out the systems. So why do universities spew out thousands of these intellectually muscled 'experts' every three years or so, who have little understanding of the systems that they are to use?

Those who work with the complex, and ever increasingly sophisticated network systems that the world depends on, have to gain their expertise, in most cases, by evolution. Some will take private/commercial training in particular technologies, some will achieve MCSE or similar status, but they will never be appreciated as much as those who have attained university degree status. Why not? The technologies they have learned about and work with every day, are equally as sophisticated and complicated as any that a university student will ever have dealt with. It's because university is seen by society (count employers and recruitment companies as part of society) as the apex of intellectual prowess and home of the intelligentsia. A university degree, no matter how pointless it is in terms of usefulness (Indian Head Massage is important, I know this), will always trump an MCSE or any of the certification that is offered by the IT training companies and are now part of the world of IT. I include Cisco, Microsoft, ComPTIA and the many other vendor and non-vendor certification. None of these names, nor the technologies they represent are even heard of in a university course.

The question we need to address is why don't universities offer degree courses in the infrastructural technologies that people who take an MCSE (for instance) are interested in? Universities turn out fresh-faced young hopefuls to be IT managers of various flavours, research and development personnel, application makers and various types of analysts. Fine and good, we do need these people. But we also need technical people to run the global systems that everyone relies on. We have them, but the perception is that they are second-class citizens in the world of IT, when compared with someone who has a university degree. We need to develop degrees for technical systems people. So that they can share the extra perks and respect that a degree brings with it.

Why don't we have such degrees? Universities have a problem offering this kind of degree course. Who will teach it? The salaries paid to university tutors are not particularly exciting. Someone who has at least ten years experience in IT technologies, and is currently at the top end of their pay scale, is unlikely to give up a well paid job to work in a university. That is the problem that universities face. That and the fact that they don't seem to have anyone advising them about the IT industry outside of application led technologies.

This does need to happen because the many jobs advertised every day in the IT papers and on recruitment web sites, state that a degree of some sort is required. I have seen job requirements that ask for a degree even if it is not directly related to the actual vacancy being offered. They just figured that if that person has a degree then they must be special. Maybe they just wanted to be able to say, "Hey look, we have a person on our staff who has a university degree. That's gonna help our sales!". Why is this the case? It's because of that lingering perception of the kind of person a degree holder is. It is a false perception and extremely difficult to change. Therefore, we need degree courses in technologies concerned with network infrastructures. We need to go 'beyond' the MCSE, which is seen as a blue-collar certification. A sort of high-level vocational certificate. we need to raise the profile of our certication to degree status.

It's interesting to note that, in the UK, the advisors to the government on matters of IT technologies, development and training, are all ex-university types. That is, probably, the reason why IT training in the UK is less than abysmal and bears little, if any, relationship to the requirements of the industry. It just spews out the same old rubbish about how important it is that everyone on the country goes to university, or something along those lines. This creates a gap between those who get a university degree and those who get some other kind of certification. I would like to see an end to this perception by encouraging our universities to offer courses that are the equivalent of the MCSE and such-like. This would enable our industry to move forward with fairness and not in the current two tiered structure, where those who have a degree are treated 'more' fairly and those who have an MCSE/MCSD (for instance) are treated 'less' fairly in terms of perception, respect and salary.

It's not that an MCSE is less important or not useful. It's that a degree will always trump it. And that is unfair and unjust. By having the opportunity to achieve a degree in the same technologies as those dealt with in the MCSE or MCSD, we will be raising the perception levels of our industry to recognise our importance. After all, we keep the systems running, secure and efficient. Currently, a university degree holder merely uses that system and knows nothing about it.

I realise that many people have both a degree and an MCSE or something along those lines. That's great for them and good for the industry, and I know there will be exceptions where employer's perception is concerned. But these are minor and do not balance my argument globally. We need to move our current certification structure from the vendors to the universities. That doesn't mean that we should lose the MCSE/MCSD etc. It means that we institutionalise it. In doing so we will increase our kudos and change the perception that employers have of our current certification in relation to the university degree.

What are your views, experiences and opinions on this subject?

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

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Can't argue

by CG IT In reply to Why is an MCSE less respe ...

Can't argue the points you make. I've seen similar instances where a degreed person will get a job in IT and know nothing about infrastructure management and have to rely upon the "blue collar" tech who may not have a degree but knows the network.

A degree in a particular field of study really represents credibility to a prospective employer much like letters of introduction and references used to do in the old days [before University]. Certifications do much the same thing.

One of the really bad aspects of certifications is that there are tons of retraining "schools" who get federal $$ for welfare back to work training use IT certification programs. Microsoft certifications are one such area these schools use. That has degraded a MCSE and nullified most single the Microsoft certification program to mean welfare recipients taking the classes to meet welfare requirements. No one in their right mind would hire someone to work on their network that the companys operations depend on simply because they hold a welfare work program certification.

Cisco certifications on the other hand require someone to have actually had hands on experience with their equipment AND the text book knowledge to go with it. Microsoft is going this route now in their certification process by requiring actual configuration step by step in their testing process. This is good. Bad for welfare to work recipients and the schools theat churn em out, good for the IT industry.

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Unfair for you to say about welfare recipients...

by RayJeff In reply to Can't argue

That's very unfair to say. They need work just like everyone else. If Microsoft is willing to offer help by allowing them to gain an edge they would more than likely not have, then so be it. it's no different then if someone with little IT background off the street were to go to the look Barnes & Nobles or Books-A-Million and and get the entire MSCE study set and then they take the exams and pass. Do you still down them because they have no practical experience, even though they aren't on welfare?

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Degree versus Cert

by JamesRL In reply to Why is an MCSE less respe ...

The role of a univerity is not to train people to walk into a job. A university trains people to understand a field of study. Its the difference between strategic and tactical. Universities will teach the principles of networking or software development, and while you make get some exposure and experience in specific technologies, its not the univesities purpose to be as up to date as a cert. A university degree should provide more bredth of experience rather than technical depth.

BTW not all managers are useless. Some of us are former techies.


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Not Special projects is it ?

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Degree versus Cert

Couldn't resist.

Management is a technical skill, lots of people can be good at more than one thing, all they have to do is remember that because they are good at some things this does not mean that they are good at everything.

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Many issues

by jkaras In reply to Why is an MCSE less respe ...

Unfortunately there is no real fix to the situation. I too am frustrated that I "jumped on the bandwagon" for a better life. After years of striving in retail and other professions to a better tomorrow I went back to school and chose computers. Why? The average posted wage on starting, median, and pinnacle were attractive to meet my goals. I have always believed that every job can be taught, if you have people who are willing to invest in you anything is possible.

So I listened to everyone else telling me to back to school because without that pedigree paper I was nothing; that was my glass ceiling. A friend explained to me that the mantra behind a degree was that a B.S. is the proof that you know how to find information, and the higher degrees are the proof that you know the information. He explained that as silly as it is it is a right of passage that you are willing to do anything for that better life, that you invested in yourself. Does that mean that the guy who went to the school of hard knocks didnt pay his dues, no but society sees things differently. Case in point, dressing to impress and clothes makes the man. You and I both know that putting on this or that doesnt increase knowledge just a better looking wrapper to a product, its a superficial stereotype that doesnt guarantee professionalism, just an image. Enter school debt, and crazy balance of life. I went to these classes at nights thinking I would get training on how to do this or that paying $200 a semester just for lab fees, not counting tuition costs/books so I could sit infront of a computer and not use it. The truth was it was 98% theory and only an occaisional book lab that the adjuct teacher wouldnt test to make sure it worked. Low and behold they always failed. I was taught mind dumping skills, acrynoms, and silly definitions. they now instituted open book tests to guarantee enrollment to make hte school more profitable, retain the adjunct teacher from being fired for incompetancy/droop out rate, and reduced free lab time because the influx of classes, and required each student to have a personal removable hdd for each class. Before we could use the various pcs to practice networking, now it was far more difficult.

Three quarters through my education I finally got a phone center job. I learned more there than I did in school, however it wasnt all good stuff either, just get by troubleshooting and hose and close tricks, no networking etc.. I found myself in my current job as a help desk personel and progression has stopped. I've looked for other jobs that pay barely $3k-5k more (we are talking barely $30k). These employers for first level support and hardly second level support want a higher degree than the A.S./A.A. I have, at least more than 1 certification, more than 5 years experience doing more than any first level support (tape backup/account creation and maitenance, management of servers, UNIX experience), website hostin/maitenance experience of at least a year. Why? Because I am the poster child of what almost blew up our industry, all book, no practical. Experience gets the job, not the paper. The paper is just the window dressing to justify hiring and HR screening. Apparently the market got flooded with people like me and companies were having difficulty training newbie with a commanding salary. The result now is the employer can pick a choose and get more quality for less and only pick a few newbie to mold into quality empoloyees. I cant tell you how frustrating it is to get the thanks but no thanks postcard in the mail from a job that you were over qualified on the basic level beaten out by sone poor guy or gal swallowing their pride and taking anything that they could get accepting a huge paycut. Despite my current predictament and uncertainty of continuing an education in a field that looks grim, I do know that I am fortunate to be working, my life could definitley be worse, but it sure isnt the greatest. So I am thankful for what I have even though it isnt what I want.

What do I think needs to be done to fix the problem? I feel that we have to take responsibility for our field and have a renissance of professionalism, by creating the opprotunity through training and mentoring rather than hording knowledge in the fear that we will lose our competitive edge. To compete we need to invest in eachother to repair the reputation. I see way too much snobbing going on, "I learned because this or that, figure it out your own, survival of the fitest or your not my responsibility". We also need to put pressure on colleges that use our field as a pr campain to increase attendance to their schools to infuse training, not just theory in their teachings. Case in point, how come when someone wishes to become a doctor, lawyer, firefighter, cop, mechanic, CPA, or what have you they get trained how to, not so much how come. They get that training to understand definitely, but they consentrate on the skill performed for proficiency. Why not in our industry? WE have these boot camps that teach you how to pass MCSE tests not how to control a network. Curious I dont know the term MSc that you were referring to? What was that? I too fell your pain, just on the other side of the fence, there are multiple problems that one answer cant fix, good points.

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by The Admiral In reply to Why is an MCSE less respe ...

I have a BS in Information Technology and I can tell you that it was easy to get with 10 years of experience.

So perhaps your hanging around the 2.0 GPA group? 8-)

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Too true

by stephenboddy In reply to Why is an MCSE less respe ...

I left Uni with a HND in Multimedia. I gained a placement with a company and I never had a clue.

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by haragy_force2002 In reply to Why is an MCSE less respe ...

University Degrees like Bacheloar degrees concentrate on the Basics of the technologies , they teach you what is the meaning of Network , LAN , or WAN for example. They teach you how to think in programming or how to begin's just Basics you should realize to go ahead in specific field like Networking or Programing or whatever.Masters degrees is an advanced way in learning , if i want to Learn alot of networking for example i can study for a MSC in Networking , i'll not learn in this Master degree how to manage VLANs or Microsoft Exchange servers , but u can learn alot about how to deal with a huge Network envireonment with diffrent said that the frist thing that IT managers have to do if the system down is to find the Technical who can fix it,you are right but this is not easy to find the the required employee how can trust to fix a technical problem, you can study along time to know how to choose your staff if you are IT managers.of course if the IT manager has a good background in the technical issues inside his evirenoment it'll be better.MCSE for ex is totally talking about a Microsoft application and how you can deal or fix a problem with it ,right? but it's not talking about what is going behind the seas , it's not talking about what is (network message and its components)...etc

Every one in IT departement has a job ,beginig from the technical ending to Manager.

tell me how can you deal with complicated Oracle or Ms SQL server Databases if you don't have the Basics in realational DB which we study in College ?

by the way im not IT manager , im just a web developer ,i took MCSE courses just attendence , MCDP and JAVA...etc ,at the end im looking for a MSc in Stratigic IT Management.

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