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Acquiring IT Skills and Knowledge - College / University degree - Formal Education
the IT professional, knowledge is a necessity not an option. The true IT
professional is a knowledge worker. Information Technology is nothing
without knowledge. The question is always: how should you acquire tech
knowledge and skills that you
need in the IT profession?
Though a vast array of
opportunities exist, this piece will look at the formal education route.
Whichever option you choose, the first thing to do is an honest
self-assessment. Identify your knowledge/skills gaps. Do you already
have some professional IT skills and knowledge, maybe acquired through
work experience or self-study? What is available to help you close the
gaps? What are your career objectives? Review
trends in the job market, technology trends and your future needs.
Again Review your
knowledge / skills status. Choosing your learning option is an integral
part of career planning (http://www.jidaw.com/careerplan.html).
There are many educational routes for growing IT careers, including
certificate courses, degree programs, certification programs, work
experience, a host of web/computer-based programs and Self-Learning or
what I call
Whichever option you choose, be ready to invest resources - Time, Money
and Effort. Invest with your career goals in mind. Having the right
mindset will help you. You're investing for future career benefits.
Don't look at your investment simply in terms of money you're
spending now, or immediate results.
What should you consider to achieve your IT education in a traditional
Traditionally those interested in
developing IT careers have benefited greatly by investing in college /
university degree education. Often the exact name of the degree varies
greatly from institution to institution. However, the traditional degree
programs useful for the Information Technology field involves
adaptations on any of the following:
Computer Science, Information Technology, Electrical/Electronic
Engineering, Information Systems, Telecommunications and Computer
Formal education broadens the mind and exposes you to a wide spectrum of
concepts -theoretical and practical. It focuses on the chosen subject by
providing in-depth education on a broad range of materials. When you
acquire knowledge from an academic environment
such as a polytechnic, college or university, you are challenged with
academic theories, experimentation, research and a broad knowledge of
For many jobs a degree can be an
initial requirement. Degrees from reputable higher institutions are
valid and well recognized. Quite a few employers still prefer to hire
persons with some formal higher education. Some employers may not even consider you at all without a formal
education. Others also offer Graduate entry schemes, which as the name
implies are only open to degree holders.
Commonly such arrangements are
done to limit the number of applicants for a particular job. So do you need a degree to get jobs in IT? You need to
realize that just as there is opportunity in IT, there is also intense
competition. However, not all IT jobs require such a formal education
background. There are many people working in the IT industry who don't
have university degrees. A degree may confer advantage on the holder,
but it isn't essential for all technical positions.
A lot depends upon the type of
position you are seeking, your background and the nature of the
organization. There is no general rule. No two organizations are the
same. The perceptions and requirements of company A will differ from
those of company B. For example, opportunities in an organization might
require a degree as well as specific interpersonal skills. Also for
certain entry-level jobs, companies, especially small organizations,
tend to value specific experience and skills over a university degree.
You must understand what
university degree can and cannot do. University education should be seen
for what it is. A relevant qualification will always give you a boost in
job situations. A degree demonstrates your ability to learn diverse
information, as well as your general learning ability. A degree on its
own is of little value without the ability to market and package
yourself. And though your degree may help you with jobs, it is your
performance and attitude that will determine if you will keep the jobs
Though a degree isn't essential
for all entry-level jobs, it is often a requirement for high-level
opportunities. If the position is for a high-level consultant, manager
or above, the requirement for, and the value of, a degree goes up
The reality is that solid
technical experience will give you opportunities, but a lack of a formal
education may hinder your opportunities for growth and high-level
attainment. This is true of most professions.
Also you should expect, that as
more people get degrees and experience, there will be increased
competition for jobs and career opportunities.
I always advise that, if you have
no university education and even if you have no immediate plans for
university education, you should consider it as you grow in IT.
Furthermore, when you invest in academics to assist you in your career,
make sure you work hard to get good grades. Excellent academic
performance is a very powerful asset that works for you after
Opportunities - Networking
But degrees aren't just about good grades and passing exams. The great
advantage of formal education is the huge opportunity for personal
networking. To grow your career as an IT professional, you should have a
personal network of friends, colleagues and contacts. While you're a
student networking opportunities abound simply because you interact with
fellow students, college staff and lecturers on campus on a daily basis.
You should therefore adopt the right attitude by networking right from
Don't burn bridges you may need tomorrow. Build bridges with your
fellow students, as well as lecturers. With the intense competition for
opportunity in the IT industry, a reliable network will certainly come
in handy. Formal education enables to gradually build your own personal
individuals that you can rely on for advice, job leads, technical
assistance and other helpful forms of support in future.
In addition to networking,
academic programs also allow you to develop your verbal and written
communications skills as well as organizational skills. Of course such
soft skills are critical for growth in the IT field. And the university
learning arrangement is certainly fertile ground for growing such
you have the time, money and background to embark on a lengthy academic
program? Most academic programs are run full time. Such courses
therefore leave you with little time for work and other activities. This
is a problem for individuals who need to work for a living. Such
individuals need to work to fund their education. Also flexibility in
terms of venue for studies can be a problem. Do you need, are you ready,
institutions have however become more flexible by organizing part time
degree programs with evening and or weekend classes for workers.
E-learning degree programs on the Internet are also becoming more
is another problem encountered by some who want to use the formal
education route to acquire IT knowledge. Creative solutions are required
on your part. If you can get on a part time degree program, a job in
computing could fund a university education.
example, if you're able to get a job through certification, training
and your personal efforts, you can then progress with your degree
program on a part time basis. Creativity is key as there are no silver
bullets. Focus on open doors. What opportunities and resources are
available to you?
Is formal education perfect? Formal education is meant to give you a
foundation for future opportunities in the academic/research
environment, as well as industry - the business setting. However, it is
worrying that while many academic programs give you a good grounding in
academics and research, the programs lack a solid workplace / business
focus. This is okay if your interest in IT is research. But many
students who will work in industry are left unprepared to deal with the
needs of the business environment -commercial, social or educational.
Most organizations want people who are ready to work from day one.
Universities and other similar institutions attempt to address this
deficiency by building industrial programs and internships into their
degree programs. During such periods of internship, students get exposed
to working life and experience, where they gain some hands-on skills.
The result is a better perspective of what to expect in the workplace
But it is arguable whether such
IT attachment programs are enough. Students should therefore not be
complacent by continually waiting to be spoon-fed. As a student, in
addition to attachment programs organized by your institution, you need
to make your own arrangements for practical work experiences. You can
always create opportunities to get work experience through vacation
jobs, volunteering or hands-on training during holiday periods. Go the
extra mile to look for opportunity. Creativity may cost you. But be
creative! Sacrifice if you have to and be ready to accept the conditions
that often come with opportunity.
Which should I chose certification or degree? Certification is a
different animal entirely. Although degrees are said to have much
longer-term value than certifications, comparing degrees with
certifications is like comparing oranges with apples. They are both
valid routes for acquiring IT education, but with different focus and
concepts. Read more about Certification here (http://www.jidaw.com/certfaq.html).
And please don't be fooled by the “longer term” value of degrees.
To become the IT powerhouse you need to embrace lifelong learning. It
is impossible for a
degree program to sustain you throughout your working career. The fact
that you have a degree does not eliminate the need for training,
certification, or self-study. Before, During and After your degree -
review trends and your career needs.
have just looked at one of the ways of acquiring an IT education. Other
routes are Certification, Training, Hands-On Experience and
Self-Learning. Degrees work, so do these other options. Knowledge drives
the revolution! Formal or informal education? The key is in taking
informed decisions about what best suits your need and situation.
All the best in your IT
Jide Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com (http://www.jidaw.com)
Jidaw.com's mission is to help you build and sharpen your career focus. Time permitting, we would be glad to answer your career questions, but before sending email, please check the IT Career Resource Center first to see if perhaps your question or problem already appears there or can be solved using the resource center
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Acquiring IT Skills and Knowledge - College / University degree - Formal Education
Tips and guide for acquiring IT skills and knowledge through formal education.
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