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IT Certifications vs IT Degree: Which Should I Get?

There are two common paths that people tend to take when breaking into the tech industry. Some people take the traditional route and earn a four-year degree and/or advanced degrees, while others choose to pursue certifications. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. It has a lot to do with your priorities and goals, and even your learning preferences. So, which should you get? IT certifications or an IT degree?  

IT certifications Vs. IT degree

Consider The Costs  

The average cost of tuition at a four-year public state school is around $6,000 per semester. After four years, you will have spent (or borrowed) $48,000 plus more for room and board, transportation, supplies, etc., and the costs are significantly higher for private colleges.  

However, certification programs can be significantly less costly, ranging from a couple hundred dollars to well over a thousand dollars, depending on what you’re going after. While certification programs do not offer a breadth and depth of knowledge in general education and elective coursework, they do provide a shorter and more expedient path to employment.  

What Do You Like Studying?  

A four-year degree program will require you to take a certain number of general education credits and elective credits to deliver the breadth and depth they promise. These courses can help improve critical thinking skills, can expose you to people with vastly different backgrounds and experiences and can teach you things you’d likely never learn elsewhere.  

Certification programs, however, focus only on the skills you need to achieve the certification and use your new skills on the job.  This is attractive to people who don’t like the idea of sitting through courses in English, history, art, etc.  

Can You Gain Real-World Experience 

One of the biggest advantages of a degree is the opportunity to pursue internships and externships for credit. These programs allow you to start building your resume while you are still in school and can sometimes give you an advantage once you’re in the job market. 

Certification programs do not offer this type of experience, which means its up to you to build your portfolio and prove your skills. Some people do this through open-source projects, their own pet projects, or volunteering their skills in some capacity.  

Which Path Is Right For You? 

Some employers do require a four-year degree for even entry-level roles, but that trend has been shifting in recent years as demand for tech talent far outpaces college graduation rates. There is no right or wrong path to enter the tech industry. If you lack a degree or your degree is in an unrelated field, you may find it hard to get your foot in the door at some companies, but it won’t prevent you from ever getting hired.  

If you are a talented IT professional looking to grow your career, PEAK can help you find your ideal position and achieve your career goals.  Browse our current job openings and partner with our recruiting professionals today to take your job search to the next level.   

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