degree vs. certification - which is better?If you had to choose between an academic degree or an IT certification, which do you think would be better for your IT career?

As with so many questions, there isn’t a simple either/or answer. It’s more of an “it depends” situation. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Your individual situation is what should determine the answer. How much time and money do you have to invest in education? What are your career goals? What stage are you at in your career?

Assessing your situation and looking at the pros and cons of the various options is the best way to make the right decision for you.

The Benefits of a College Degree

There’s no denying that a college degree is pretty much necessary to be hired for certain jobs. You will most always be paid more because of your degree and be considered for jobs you otherwise wouldn’t have, especially management positions. However, although it is good to have academic credentials, from a technical standpoint the skills and education you receive end up becoming outdated over time. College is also expensive! And takes time! Not everyone can afford that.

A degree is a fantastic starting point for any IT career, but it’s more time consuming and expensive, and you are still going to need ongoing training throughout your career to keep up with new technologies and innovations.

The Benefits of IT Certifications

Certifications are an excellent way to gain certain skills in your field that you need for a specific area or role. Certifications like CompTIA, CCNA, MCSE and CISSP can prepare you for the job and help you command a higher salary. Becoming a certified professional can open doors and help you move forward in your career. It can be a great way to prepare to move from one discipline to another, for example from programming to information systems security. Generally, certification programs take less time and are much less expensive than traditional degree programs. And many certification programs allow you to transfer course credits and apply them to a degree program in the future. 

If a degree program doesn’t work for you, whatever the reason, certifications can be a great way to gain in demand skills. If you already have a degree, certifications can help keep your skills relevant, move you up the ladder or help you move into a new area.

Degrees and Certifications: Going for Both!

Ideally it would be best to have a college degree and certifications rather than just one or the other. But that said, they are both very useful on their own, and depending on your position and hoped-for career path, one may help you more than the other. Take into account what employers are looking for in the job you want and use that, along with your personal circumstances and preferences, to determine which is more useful for you.

Also, remember that getting one does not preclude the other, and there is no timetable for learning. Start with what works for you and keep open the opportunity for continuing your education in the future. The important thing to remember is that the better and more relevant your skills and experience are, the more opportunities you will have to make money and work in a challenging and rewarding environment, no matter how you acquire those skills. Good luck!

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