Home > Articles > Certification

I.T. Degrees and Certifications: Can They Help Your Career?

  • Print
  • + Share This
For more than a decade, I.T. professionals have debated whether degrees and certifications are necessary to build a successful career. Matt Moran, author of Building Your I.T. Career: A Complete Toolkit for a Dynamic Career in Any Economy, Second Edition, discusses the pros and cons of both positions. His answer? A resounding "Maybe."
Like this article? We recommend

One of the most common and pressing questions posed by I.T. professionals is the value of certifications and degrees. It comes up in these forms, perhaps more often than any other question I get:

  • Are degrees important/critical for my career?
  • Do I need specific certifications to get the job I want?

Or some variation.

My response is an emphatic "Maybe."

In today's competitive and fast-paced professional landscape, I.T. professionals are worried, and rightfully so. They want to ensure that they have the skills necessary to become or remain gainfully employed, or to find new employment should circumstances or desire prompt them to make a change.

Are Certifications and Degrees Valuable?

The most critical question to ask is probably this one: "Do I.T. managers value certifications and degrees?"

The 2011 CompTIA study "Employer Perception of IT Training and Certification" touts the following numbers:

  • 64% of I.T. hiring managers rate certifications as having extremely high or high value when rating expertise of candidates.
  • 89% of I.T. hiring managers say that I.T. certifications help confirm subject matter knowledge and expertise.
  • 86% of hiring managers indicate I.T. certifications are a high or medium priority during the candidate evaluation process.

Other studies rank certifications or degrees with relevant experience and training as being the most important factors.

These studies certainly suggest that certifications matter. Additionally, numerous studies indicate the value and increased earning associated with degrees. Certainly, having a degree and/or certification cannot hurt.

On the other hand, a bevy of recent articles have told story after story of new graduates who are unable to find jobs in their chosen field. This suggests that even earning a degree isn't a guaranteed way to ensure your ability to be hired.

So should you enroll in a degree or certification program immediately? Your circumstances may make such a change difficult. I think you need to consider other factors as well: your desire to learn the material and complete the course, your available time, and the nature of the opportunities you seek.

What Employers Really Want

I discuss this idea a lot. One of the most effective ways to increase your chances of being hired is to think about your job search from the employer's perspective. Contrary to negative stereotypes, employers aren't simply looking for a lowest-cost asset proposition. They aren't thinking, "Find me the cheapest, most desperate person possible." Get that idea out of your mind, because few things will permeate your job search with negativity more than viewing employers as the enemy.

Employers want valuable resources—period.

Also important to note is the nature of filling a position. Employers want to fill available jobs with known commodities whenever possible. Smart employers start searching for candidates in the following areas, in an ever-widening pool:

  1. Existing employees
  2. Former co-workers
  3. Former co-workers of existing "good" employees
  4. Connections elsewhere in the business world (referrals)
  5. Current employees' connections in the business world (referrals)

Finally, when all of these avenues are exhausted, they reach out to the most frightening and risky method for hiring employees—a want ad/job posting. This is the least desirable method of finding employees because it's time-consuming and a drain on resources. They might receive dozens or even hundreds of résumés. They could overlook someone who's great and end up with someone who's ineffective.

Yet this is where most potential employees start applying—via the employer's least desirable option.

But there are a couple of things you can do to greatly increase your chances for being hired for any job you want.

Getting Some Experience

Without a doubt, the most critical factor in the ultimate hiring decision is relevant experience. An employer wants to know that a candidate can hit the ground running as soon as possible after being hired.

The age-old dilemma is how to get experience without being hired into a position where the required skills can be developed. The "need experience to get experience" conversation comes up a lot.

However, there are some answers:

  • Part-time interning or even volunteering for a charity is often a great pathway to develop talent.
  • In the age of the Internet, training and tutorials—many completely free—are available all over the Web.
  • Community projects are also available.

All these options offer substantial opportunity to get experience prior to being hired into a position.

Do Some Professional Networking

The other method to bolster your chances of being hired is through effective networking. In fact, the aforementioned volunteering is one way to network. Another is to find trade organizations in your area—technology user groups and other associations have a cross-section of individuals employed at local companies. Get involved and become a valuable resource to the group. This action can open up opportunities for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, most I.T. professionals—actually, most professionals in any field—don't start networking until they're out of work. This can lead to a "panicked" approach to your networking. Rather than focusing on the value you can bring to those you meet, you end up focusing almost exclusively on how anyone you meet can help you get a new job. You need to fight that urge and strive to add value to those you meet, even in the process of looking for opportunities for yourself.

Round Out Your Strategy with Degrees and Certifications

If you can get some experience and work to build your professional network, degrees and certifications become an excellent exclamation point. When your résumé and cover letter get in front of prospective hiring managers and they see that your degree or certifications round out and confirm project experience, you'll rise above other candidates who have only one asset or the other.

In short, degrees and certifications are important and valuable, but only as part of a well-rounded career strategy. Always think in terms of how they confirm and validate the knowledge and experience you take to your potential employer.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020