5 Stories on Tech Degrees and Certifications

Certifications. Advanced degrees. Do they really mean that much? In some camps, hiring managers downplay their importance in favor of experience. But others — especially during economic downturns — say advanced credentials help a candidate get their attention.

And which is better to invest in — certifications or advanced degrees? Recruiters say advanced degrees usually win out. On the other hand, the time commitment and expense required for a master’s degree or doctorate far outweigh what’s needed to obtain a certification.

We can only wish there were simple answers. Like so many things that touch our careers, the real answers depend on the individual and his or her situation. In other words, you and what it is you want.

No one article is going to provide a definitive answer, but we think these five can at least get you thinking.

5 Responses to “5 Stories on Tech Degrees and Certifications”

  1. I worked for a manager and company that favored certifications over degrees. When I began working with the company, the person to whom I reported worked with me to put together a learning path. He suggested that I needed a certification in my area of expertise, information architecture. I emphasized that I have a MS, in information management. He was perplexed at my question, and hesitated in responding. Eventually he withdrew his request for the certification. But, because I was surrounded by others with technology certifications, I was put into a category of not having certifications. All of the individuals who had the certifications did not have a masters degree, including the person to whom I reported. Even though I brought significant experience, strategy, and entrepreneurial thinking to the table, we eventually parted ways due to the significant difference in old thinking and new thinking. Make sure you understand the culture you are moving into…

    • KB…excellent comment and I do sympathize with you. The new ideology is certifications if you are working in the IT industry mainly. As an engineer with lots of experience in engineering I know that certifications don’t play at all in electrical, electronics, and systems engineering as there are no certifications for that disciplines or physics and mathematics… The certification is the university diploma! I have done work with lots of people with certifications in UNIX, which any one with a HS education can get in two months tops, but those people with certifications do not know anything when it comes to really solve problems as they do not have the mind of the engineer with a university degree. The way I see it is that this country will produce people with IT certifications (UNIX/Windows/ Networking) only and none, or very few, in engineering and sciences and that is why the H1 B visas for people in those fields.
      I am retired, a baby boomer, now but if I were younger I go to Brazil or China as the engineering and sciences jobs are in those two countries. Matter of fact Brazil is asking for 6 million people with university degrees in engineering, sciences, medicine and none with certifications. Opposite to this country is India which is saturated with professionals in the engineering and sciences fields and cannot find a job because they do not exist till most companies from here and Europe move there…where there is abundance of professionals.

  2. It’s true and this is not new at all. Think about it…companies will ask for a Project Management Certification from PMI and completely disregard a four year undergraduate degree in Management from Ivy League institutions who wrote the book on management, and years of experience. Since I don’t have my MBA, I’m assuming they do the same to MBA’s! It’s an absurdity that undermines the entire higher educational system in the United States. Since when did a self-proclaimed company that morphed into existence in the 1970’s become the pre-eminent educational standard. It’s a complete joke. It’s an excellent certification for someone who does not have a degree in Management but does work, or is required to do work, managing projects. 3 weekends a test, plus experience vs. 4 years, plus experience! People who have degrees and experience in same should be exempt. It’s common sense. Total racket used to oppress people.

    It reminds me of a commercial I heard on the radio…Do you want a recent certified graduate installing your air conditioning unit? What’s your answer?

    • @avil Wow!! Too bad I came too late for this discussion but I can’t just read this comment and go on my business without responding to this. My Dear AVL, assuming that by now you have informed yourself about the PMP process from PMI.org, please ignore this comment, but in case you have not please read on. I am a 10 year experience IT professional who once started a college degree (before I got a job in IT) and I was not able to finish it due to bureaucracies and non-sense politics (and $$$). Hopefully after dropping from college I was able to find my way in the IT field thanks to certifications (up-to-date), desire and passion for what I do. Despite my success in the field, 10 years later my brain is still poking me about this degree that I once started and never finish. For the past 6 months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about enrolling back to school or find an alternative way to get a Bachelor’s Degree in something so I could go on with my life without this feeling of “I want a degree”. Now in case you didn’t you, for anyone who dreams of becoming a Certified PMI Project Management Professional a 4 year degree is required + 4,500 hours of work experience + 35 hours of formal project management education or its equivalent which is a HS diploma or Associates Degree + 7,500 hours of work experience + 35 hours formal project management education and if this is not enough, in a three-year cycle the already Certified PMP needs to maintenance his/her PMP up-to-date by earning PDUs (or credits) from an authorized PMI program provider. I dream of being a PMP certified Professional and to me this looks like a nightmare. From a personal experience I say this, the US educational system is corrupted and unfortunately that is the hard truth. Colleges and Universities priority is to make a profit at any cost, they do not care if the students finish or not as long as they are making the $$$. And for those holding a MBA (or undergraduate degrees) I truly congratulate them for the achievement. These MBs or 4 year degree holders are not being disregard at all, it is simply a matter of being current in what you do for living, vendors and organizations want to make sure that anyone who works with their technology is up-to-date. The workplace has changed a lot and students are being sold the wrong ideas about this degrees that end up costing a fortune and ending up in debt.