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IT Certifications That Can Do Double Duty for Higher Ed

IT Certifications That Can Do Double Duty for Higher Ed
Credit: KTS Design/Shutterstock

Although it's more typical than not for IT professionals to pick up a degree on their way into full-time employment, only a bit more than half of the workforce (defined at this moment as those working Americans aged 25 and older in the US Census Bureau's Educational Attainment in the US: 2013) has some college under their belts. In fact, only about one third (31.66 percent) have a bachelor's degree, while just over two-fifths (41.5 percent) have either an Associate's or a Bachelor's degree (source: Wikipedia, based on already-linked U.S. Census data). 

While I'll cheerfully concede that earning degrees is more common in IT than in the general population, the US Census data offers some interesting insight into the breakdown of two interesting populations -- namely, Professional and related occupations (under the Occupation heading) and Information (under the Industry heading) that may be worth pondering:

Occupation/Industry Sector

Total

SCND*

Associate's

Bachelor's

Professional

29,552

2,670 (9.0%)

3509 (11.9%)

10, 403 (35.2%)

Information

2,611

471 (18.0%)

264 (10.1%)

990 (37.9%)

* SCND: "Some College, No Degree"

What does all this mean? Even for the two sectors or occupational areas where IT professionals are most likely to be counted, less than half such workers have 2- or 4-year college degrees. Put in different terms, more than half the IT workforce is likely to lack a bachelor's degree of any kind. Given that many employers seek employees with college degrees, I'd have to guess that many current or aspiring IT professionals would like to obtain a degree, either to open more doors to first-time employment in the field, or to improve career opportunities for those already in the field.

That's where a recent Born to Learn blog post on the Microsoft Learning site comes into the picture. Entitled How I earned credits toward my college degree with Microsoft Certifications, it recounts how Microsoft Certified Trainer John Deardruff parlayed various current MS certifications into 25 hours' worth of college credit toward a bachelor's degree from a local college, along with another 18 hours for a variety of CompTIA certs. Given that a typical bachelor's degree requires 120 hours to meet course requirements that means his certifications got him one-third of the way to a bachelor's degree.

While not all college programs offer students the ability to trade IT certifications against credit hours toward their degree completion, enough of them do that IT pros who hold current certs and are thinking about earning a degree should talk to the admissions folks at institutions that interest them -- including both conventional classroom programs as well as online or distance learning programs -- to see if their certification credentials might help them reduce their overall matriculation requirements.

As Mr. Deardruff's case illustrates, those who hold multiple current credentials can sometimes make substantial inroads into their graduation requirements before taking a single class. If you've got something like an MCSA or MCSE from Microsoft, a CCNA or CCNP from Cisco, or any or all of the CompTIA Big Three (A+, Network+, Security+) you may be able to trim anywhere from 12 to 40 hours (or more) from your overall graduation requirements.

This is worth checking into, and may provide some readers with just the impetus they need to get them off the fence from "thinking about a degree" to "actively pursuing a degree." If you're in IT, hold one or more current well-known IT certifications, and are thinking about a degree of some kind, this means YOU.

 

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written for numerous publications, including Tom's IT Pro, and is the author of more than 140 computing books on information security, web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.