IT Certification vs Master’s Degree?

Introduction

Once I’ve finished college studies and entered the professional world, I had some regrets of not having continued my Master’s degree. At least 5 of my college classmates opted to continue studying to earn their Master’s degree.

My excuse back then was “I do not want to study deeper Algebra and circuits. I’ve have enough of them. Besides, Master’s degree is for girls who want a stable job in academia.”

I was spontaneous in my answer. But I was not completely wrong.

Since I was graduating as Bachelor and having at the same time a CCNA certificate, I was confident in my ability to snatch a good job in network engineering. Back then in 2008, a CCNA was a pretty good value to hire.

There are many types of college degrees. But if you are considering an Information Technology job, having a degree related to IT is helpful. This alone could save you a lot of time understanding the basics of computers. But if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world, you still can enroll in an IT degree. There are many online courses given by online schools, the likes of edx.org or coursera.org. But that’s not our main topic here.

Is it mandatory to have an IT certification with a college degree? Not really. Some job listings do not even require IT certifications, such as development positions: these often weigh skills and degrees more than IT certificates. However, other types of jobs do require IT certification. For example, Help Desk positions often need the A+ certification. Also, network engineer and security engineer positions often require certifications such as CCNA or CISSP.

Companies like to hire -and keep- the best employees. Sure they need certified IT technicians and engineers because companies assume that certified engineers are more skilled than non-certified ones . But having both of them is a plus.

Without any IT certification, college grads will get the same diploma by the end of the schooling period. It’s funny, because when I look back at my own college years, I got the same bachelor degree as one of my peers who used to have low grades. We graduated as network engineers, both of us. So what is the tie breaker?

For students who are still in college, it pays on the long run to study for an IT certification in the spare time, instead of jerking around or flirting with girls. This shall give them a boost over their peers who graduate by the same time as you.

Let’s visualize this with two examples:

  • Ali has a no background in computers and wants to work in IT Support,
  • Salah has an IT degree and wants to work as a network engineer.

Ali should study for a computer certification such as Comptia A+, since he has no previous experience with computers and maintenance. Salah is entering a field with high competition and more advanced requirements. He needs to distinguish himself. He can study for CCNA and increase his chances.

IT Certifications to consider as a network engineer

Companies like Global knowledge issue at least once a year a salary report based on earned IT certifications. Here is what it looks like in 2020:

So you think CCNP (in rank 14) earns you $119,000? that’s bullshit! The article is in my opinion biased because it does not take into account:

  • location of the candidates
  • job role
  • number years of experience
  • types of projects the candidates worked on
  • etc.

And a handful of other training companies do the same in their brochures. I had a friend of mine who happened to be a Cisco instructor and he can confirm my “hot shit” theory.

I find it to be a marketing strategy to make more people interesting in X or Y certificate, because it is hot or because a training company wants to sell it this year.

So which certification do you need to consider? start with the basics first such as Network+ or Cisco CCNA. Then build your way up depending on:

  • what you work on currently, or
  • what you want to do more, and
  • what you are passionate about.

You can also get a bit of inspiration from my own career path. I can also interact with you more if you want me to coach you.

Conclusion

A Master’s degree in an IT-related field is not a guarantee to land a good job in IT. An IT certification is not either. I’ve read about network engineers and consultants who don’t even have a background in IT. But a combination of both, when you have the resources, is a winning game a promotes a flexible mind.

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