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Why You Don’t Need a College Degree to Earn Big in IT

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Since the days when Athens’ youth would venture to the local market to marvel at the father of Western philosophy, Socrates, while he questioned the elders, education has traditionally been something one would have to physically seek out. But with centuries of tradition behind us, have we lost the point of Socrates’ philosophy (from the Greek ‘Philo’, love, and ‘Sophia’, wisdom – literally ‘the love of wisdom’)?

Education started by questioning the status quo. With the ever-ballooning costs of formal education on the rise and accessibility to technology-based learning alternatives mirroring the pace, a conversation about the true value of a traditional four-year college degree has finally reached the forefront of professional development.

It’s fitting that information technology would be one of the first industries to disrupt the way we think about education. It’s a field rooted in constant, fast-paced innovation and necessitates a culture of life-long learning.

For IT, a formal classroom setting is struggling to compete with online IT training when it comes to producing up-to-date and relevant content. Academia is still largely reliant on textbooks, which are not only astronomical in cost for students (up 812% in 35 years) but often outdated mere months after publication.

In contrast, online IT education platforms like ITProTV are able to roll out hundreds of hours of video content every month and update that content in line with the evolving standards required to maintain competency in information technology professions. Not only are these types of courses typically more relevant, but they are more cost-effective and require less time to consume. That translates to a better return on your investment. Try a free 7-day trial to see for yourself.

Due in part to the growing number of security threats to businesses around the world, the demand and, consequently, the salary ranges offered for IT jobs have skyrocketed. Unemployment for IT professionals is virtually non-existent, which means the offered pay has to remain competitive in order to retain employees. IT professionals are constantly being headhunted by recruiters regardless of whether they have a bachelor’s degree or not. Network Security Administrators can earn from $107,000 to $155,250 per year. A big data engineer takes home $135,000 to $196,000 per year. Another contributing factor to higher salaries is the shortage of people qualified to perform the jobs that every organization needs.

Due to a lack of depth in information technology programs at broader, traditional academic institutions, aspiring IT professionals may find themselves hitting a wall at colleges and universities, being forced to divert course into less granular areas of focus. This, in turn, makes them less valuable to employers who need someone that is able to dive deep into areas well beyond the scope of typical university courses.

A degree lets an employer know that you covered a wide breadth of knowledge in a broad field of study and that you had the discipline to follow through with it over a long period of time. This, however, does not in itself demonstrate real-world experience, proficiency, or mastery of the very specific needs being demanded by organizations today. This is one of the major differences between degrees and certifications offered for different areas in IT.

Taking test


Certifications, by design, are very granular and demonstrate proficiency of not only a very specialized scope within IT, but can even offer evidence of mastery up to a certain level within that scope. This gives employers much more tangible information about what an employment candidate can actually bring to the table. Also, the standards for certifications are often changing as technology does, so holders of certifications are regularly required to re-test their knowledge in order to renew their credentials. This is not an attribute shared by bachelor’s degrees. A student gets a degree once, but what was learned becomes obsolete over the years.

Besides certifications, another quality IT employee headhunters look for is experience, which is hard to come by if students are stuck in a classroom for hours a week for four years straight. Thankfully, IT is something that is easy to break into with hands-on learning wherever you work. There are boundless opportunities to learn inside and outside the office. Hackerspaces are community-operated technology clubs found around the world. These can be great places to practice your skills using all their tools and potentially find a mentor to show you the ropes in the real world so you can prepare for your dream job. Finding like-minded people with similar passions can be a great way to get experience. At the end of the day, proving that you know how to solve the problems because you’ve done it before is what employers want to see.

It’s also possible to get experience from online IT training. ITProTV offers the ability to access virtual labs in order to practice on the technology that would be used in the field. The great thing about online IT training is that it’s as portable as your laptop or mobile device. You can learn from the comfort of your own home, or even the beach, if you have a hotspot. You don’t necessarily have to have the job yet to get the experience of on-the-job training.

The path to learning is evolving as technology advances. For information technology, the formal, in-person classroom setting is making less and less sense. Online IT training is more cost-effective than the tens of thousands you would spend on a traditional education. And four years is a long time! That’s time you could already be in the field earning the kind of salaries mentioned above. Learning solutions are also far more in-depth and higher caliber. At ITProTV, they are taught by instructors who’ve been teaching their specialized topics for years and hold the very certifications the courses are meant to earn you. If you’re considering going into IT, one of the most highly demanded professions of our time, think long and hard about the way you want to learn it. Education is not one-size-fits-all.