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How to go Far in Your Tech Career without Going Back to School

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The tech industry is exploding, and opportunities in tech are growing faster than any other job market. For people who are already in the tech field, now is an excellent time to move up the career ladder ― but for some, that might mean going back to school, and few can stand to devote years to gain an advanced degree, especially if they aren’t looking to jump ship on their current career path.

Fortunately, tech is one of those rare fields where formal education isn’t always necessary. In fact, some of the biggest movers and shakers in tech ― Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. ― never even graduated with a bachelor’s degree. To improve your skills and knowledge without wasting time in a classroom, you can try any of these resume-boosting tricks to excelling in tech.

Choose the Correct Career Path

It is true that tech offers more opportunities for the informally educated than most fields, but that doesn’t mean every tech job will accommodate a self-starter. While a large percentage of careers within tech are accessible without a degree, a handful definitely requires specific training programs and certifications. This holds especially true if you are seeking to move into an IT management position and may require accredited training and certification in PMP or ITIL to do your job.  Therefore, it is important that you understand which career paths will accept that you aren’t going back to school.

Typically, you will be safe applying for any job that contains the words “specialist” or “analyst.” Though these terms might seem impressive, they are more often closer to entry-level positions. For example, cybersecurity analysts (who make upwards of $63,900 in salary) essentially manage day-to-day security tasks, like monitoring network settings and reviewing logs.

Conversely, jobs you should avoid until you have more experience in the field tend to sound more technical. Any position that boasts the words “developer,” “engineer,” or “scientist” is best filled by someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in tech or years of relevant experience. Though these positions tend to pay substantially more, you won’t be prepared for the skills and responsibility they require until you earn more tech cred.

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Stay Updated on Tech News

Though it’s true to some extent in every industry, it is particularly true in tech, where new developments come fast and frequently: You need to read the news. Fortunately, plenty of tech news sources are online and free. While you are finding your feet in tech and throughout your career, you should regularly check in with sources like these for tech stories:

ITProTV aims to keep members informed on the latest and greatest in current technology weekly with two free podcasts – AskSMEAnything and Technado. Ask our edutainers your IT questions @ITProTV on Twitter with the hashtag #asksmeanything, or tune in to Technado to see tech interviews with industry influencers and discussions on current events. See all past and upcoming episodes here.

Try Online Courses

There is an important distinction between online classes and online degree programs. In the latter, you are committing to several hours of study every week for years; in the former, you watch a few videos to learn about a particular topic and perhaps earn certifications that can help in your career.

Sources for online courses vary from universities to YouTube, and their topics vary as well. If you have almost no tech experience, you might start with free courses covering tech support basics. Meanwhile, if you have some tech knowledge, you can dive into the deep end and start working on valuable, relevant certifications like CCNP, by taking a Cisco switch course. You can learn almost anything about tech from informational videos as long as you pay attention.

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Play Games

Playing video gamesIt’s nearly impossible to understand tech concepts without practice, and fortunately, there are a number of fun and educational ways to engage with tech. Some of the most promising practice tools are games, and though it might feel foolish to play them, many education experts proclaim that play is one of the best ways to learn. To that end, you might devote a few hours to the following tech games:

Assume More High-Tech Responsibilities

While you are bolstering your knowledge of tech, you can also work to include tech-related accomplishments on your resume by asking for tech responsibilities at your current job. Every workplace relies on some type of tech, and interacting with that tech in any way will establish a familiarity that is vital in tech fields. For example, you might ask to take over the social media or blogging duties for your current employer, or you can offer your hand whenever a co-worker requires tech support. Then, when you apply for tech positions, you can draw on real experiences handling tech.

Don’t forget, if you’re a premium subscription member, you have access to ITProTV’s career coach who can help you create a learning roadmap to your chosen IT career as well as offer advice and resume help when you’re applying for jobs.