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College Degree vs. On the Job Experience

By PMercer ·
How many of you have a college degree relevant to your field of work? How many have a college degree, but it is for some other major outside the technical world? And, how many (like me) have gained the position you are in through self-training andon the job opportunities?

I am wondering how difficult it is out there to get into a position without a degree . . . I have worked at my company for 22 years and all of my opportunities have come from within this organization - so I don't really have an experience with a job search while lacking a formal college education.

I don't have any intention of changing employers, but I would be interested to hear folks' experiences and opinions on the subject of whether a degree is important, andwhether the lack of a degree has created roadblocks in your job search.


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Entry papers?

by bill-beaton In reply to College Degree vs. On the ...

I'm one of those without a degree (with 4 years of college over 30 years ago). I haven't found any particular difficulty in looking for new opportunities, nor in hiring folks without degrees, but ...

1. It helps to have a lot of breadth, along with a couple of areas with depth of knowledge.

2. Lack of a degree does negatively impact some areas of mobility; particularly with respect to working visas when crossing international boundaries (not insurmountable, but it does entail a lot more preparation (paperwork) and time delays.

3. The degrees (or even certifications) help people entering the job market. With experience, many employers are looking at how relevant the job fit is. Some companies (even those that advertise for degrees) may go to the extremes of granting the equivalent of a degree, while reducing experience by 5 or more years for the purpose of fitting you into their H.R. program profile.

4. 22 or 35 years is good, but a potential employer wants to see those many years of experience, not 1 year repeated 22 times.

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Hobby turned profession

by generalist In reply to College Degree vs. On the ...

For me IT is a hobby that got turned into a profession. I have a BS degree in a field that can be either administrative or design oriented, depending upon the emphasis.

When I got the degree, IBM punch cards, Teletypes, DecWriters and other older forms of IT hardware were dominant and networked systems using video terminals were just starting to be used. The 'big' personal computer platforms were the TRS-80 and the original Apple II.

I found that I liked playing with computers and managed to become the computer jockey for the department. I snuck in a bunch of computer classes as an unofficial major and enjoyed them. My senior project even dealt with information systems in the context of my major.

When I graduated my chosen profession was in a hiring freeze so I expanded my job search to the IT realm. It has worked out, more or less, for a little over twenty years.

Oddly enough, after my last move, my degreed profession became a hobby. Even more interesting, during a recent round of unemployment, I managed to get a high score on a civil service exam for an entry level position in that profession.

I will admit that I have had to go back to school to expand upon my technical skills. Learning by self study doesn't quite have the credentials as learning in a class. Furthermore, you need experience with what you have learned in order for employers to take a serious look at your new, but untested skills.

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I have a degree

by epepke In reply to College Degree vs. On the ...

Math, with an emphasis on computer science.

I can't say that it's helped or hindered me in getting a job after leaving academia. I tend to think that the process of getting a job is largely irrelevant anyway. It's just a game.

However, it has helped me significantly in doing my job. A good foundation in the basics is great.

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Degree Vs HND

by GuruOfDos In reply to College Degree vs. On the ...

A Higher National Diploma or similar vocational course is much better than a degree as it tends to be more up-to-date, more hands on and more relevant. I have a BSc (Hons) in Electronic Engineering and an HND in Electronics. The HND took me a year, the Degree took two. I learned more in my one year of HND study that was relevant to my field than I ever did on a Degree Course. However, whichever way you tackle things, learning on a day-to-day basis and keeping your skills honed is far more important than ANY piece of paper. No employer should ever hire someone on the basis of a piece of paper alone. It shows you can pass exams or impress some professor who's own skills are probably out of date. Proprietary certifications should also be treated with a pinch of salt. An MCSE is all very well on paper, but experience learned on the job counts for far more in the 'real' world.

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Good Employer

by ICE-tech In reply to Degree Vs HND

Your concepts are exactly how I feel myself. Many, if not most, higher education centers still do not teach current technology in the right fashion. So many colleges and universities still focus on Cobol, Fortran, RPG, etc.

On the flip side having a certification for an OS, software, etc is only as good as the person who will be applying it.

The real balance is "traditional" education (the three r's), specific technical education, applied experience, and ability. Toss in a dash of personality and you'd have what I consider to be the perfect employee. Major shortcomings in any of those areas really reduce the chance for a successful (and happy) career.

Sadly, though, many employers have a hiring process similar to a meat packing plant. Run 'em in, slap 'em down, grind 'em up, ship 'em out.

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Education out of date

by jason In reply to Good Employer

I studied a Masters degree course at a university (UK) in 1996/7 where they taught us basic Java and basic SQL. We sat exams and practicals for both. We never used them together. Go figure. Trouble is, a lot of the Java application structure becomesmore complicated when you start having to manage a UI plus innards communicating with a back end database or some other server. When your data becomes voluminous, then your technique needs to change so that the UI remains responsive, as well as looking after other design priorities. They didn't teach us any of that, and most of my classroom peers still haven't learnt it yet. The freshies joining us today aren't any different. So even if you employed purely on the degree, you wouldn't be gettingwhat you wanted/needed. My own experience of hiring people is that you just have to find out for real (as much as possible, that is) what they are really capable of. That's a tough one. I had classmates who were pretty clueless but still got higher marks than I did. It just shows better exam technique.

I do have to admit, though, that the piece of paper sometimes does open doors. My degree is nothing more than a piece of paper to me, and that it helps me sometimes.

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You need both . . .

by xxx123 In reply to College Degree vs. On the ...

IT is a very volatile field - - so the best option, not surprisingly, is to have both so that if your current employer decides they no longer require your services, you have the best chances of getting another job.

There are many companies that WILL NOT consider a candidate without some kind of bachelor's degree (doesn't have to be directly related to the work field but it helps.) If you don't have one, it gives the employer an excuse to say "There are no qualified candidates, I need to hire an H1-B."

Some people do get thru their careers without a degree and more power to them. But I think the world market is producing a high quantity of people with at least one undergrad degree so just be careful you don't get left out in the cold.

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I don't but wish I did

by Overseer2K1 In reply to You need both . . .

I don't have a degree and have been hired by good companies that understood the true value of some degrees and certifications. The bottom line is that degrees don't make a necessarily good employee and neither do certifications. i know many certified and or degreed individuals that I can run circles around. That is not to say that all people are the same...don't get me wrong. I have been offered positions with the big three in important positions (management) and they knew I did not have a degree. I do wish I had one to solidify my options should something happen to my present job, but good people can be found from both sides and it is becasuse of degreed and non degreed people that we have the technology that we do and the information that we share...

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I don't have degree

by IT Tech In reply to College Degree vs. On the ...

I do have 20+ years exp however. Have looked at programs i.e. computer sci, and Info systems, the problem looking at the course of instruction (COI) structure 98% is N/A for real world apps. Have worked for DoD, Lockheed Martin, and EPA. Was hired on exp alone. Would like to have a degree, but need to find one that would help not to just say I have one that I would not use. I guess I shoud do so before I retire.

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by glyptixs In reply to College Degree vs. On the ...

"Experience can only take you so fare."

These words have been said to me, more than any other since I started working in the IT field a little over 2 years ago. I am nineteen years old, and I currently manage an IT department for a steel corporation out of Tulsa, OK. I started as a contract help desk employee and now have my own 10x12 office making over 50K yearly. As for certifications, I only have an MCP, however I do plan on having my CCNA with in a month.

Within the past year I have fired only one person. He was a (Book) MCSE, with no actual job experience in the field. I have worked with a lot of techs and a lot of technical instructors (MCT, CCNA, CNE). And the very best techs I have ever met have absolutely no certifications.

I am not saying certifications are not good, exactly the opposite. Certifications will open great opportunities for you during your career path. But a certification does not always mean that you know what your doing.

Me personally, when I go to hire, I put experience over certifications. However I don?t usually find people unless they have some type of certification.

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