Like most industries, there are pros and cons to pursuing each, as well as advantages to having both. Depending on how deep into the IT field you plan to go will dictate how much education you’ll want to invest in.
This post explores and compares the benefits of IT degrees versus certificates. While both have its advantages, IT certifications position you to enter the job market in less time and in a more affordable manner.
Picking a Degree or Certification
When you consider your time constraints, overall finances, and academic readiness, it makes it a bit easier to figure out which option is better for your situation.
Certificates can be a good way to break into the industry with a smaller financial investment. You can also complete these in a shorter time frame. Following up with a degree can help you advance your career.
There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what your short and long-term goals are and selecting the path that will get you there.
Here we take a look at the pros and cons of both options to help you decide:
A Look at IT Degrees
There are several options for degrees that can be customized to fit your career goals. In the IT field, you can start with an associate’s degree, which is typically two years. If you enjoy it enough, you can add-on a bachelor’s (another two years). Want even more school? Then work toward a master’s if you plan to teach or master specific topics within the field.
Here’s some insight to the pros and cons of a degree:
Go deep: Demonstrates advanced knowledge of IT topics and business processes
Required for work: Advanced IT positions often require higher-level education
Lasts a lifetime: Degrees are valid forever
Takes time: Typically at least two years to get an associate’s and four years for a bachelor’s degree
Pricey education: College degrees are expensive ($10,000 on average for in-state, public schools)
More training: Some IT positions require IT certifications anyway
Choosing an IT Certification
If you don’t have years to spend in school, an IT certification is a way to get your foot in the door. A certification proves you are a quick study and can retain information. Once you’re in the field, you may even be able to simultaneously get paid while receiving more training or education.
Less time: Some IT certifications can be achieved in months or weeks
Demonstrates commitment: It shows dedication to your craft to potential employers
Less expensive: Programs cost hundreds instead of thousands of dollars
Meets expectations: Certifications may be a requirement for certain IT positions
Credit transfer options: Some schools may apply credits to a degree from certifications
Recertification: You’ll need to recertify to keep up on trends and industry
Fees: Each recertification comes with a renewal fee
May need more training: High-level IT positions may require more education
Which Route is Better?
It depends on your time and financial constraints.
IT certifications can help get you into the industry and earn money quicker than a degree. On the other hand, advanced degrees offer more opportunities for higher-level positions and pay increases in the future.
Need to work now?
Consider starting with a less-expensive certification program to break into the IT industry and follow up with an advanced degree while working. Employers may offer education compensation packages as well, making it easier to hold off on the higher-priced degree for later.