Are IT Degrees Worth It?
Holding a degree in an IT subject can be beneficial, particularly if your career aspirations are to work as an accomplished IT professional with a specific area of knowledge or if you intend to use your IT training qualifications to meet the recruitment criteria for an employment role. However, many misconceptions exist about the most valuable IT qualifications and the necessity of a degree to achieve your career aspirations.
It is possible and common to become a credible, talented, and highly sought-after IT expert with a range of certifications in widely used software suites and programming languages, often accompanied by accreditations issued by operating system providers.
How Do IT Sector Employers View Degrees?
Holding a degree in any topic is generally beneficial, and many candidates find that they are asked to verify whether they have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science before being shortlisted for an IT vacancy. The nuance within the IT field is that real-world experience, and hands-on know-how translate to a more desirable skill set than a degree–even if that qualification has been achieved through a respected college or university.
While IT may appear to be a knowledge-based and technical field, the reality is that many IT jobs are creative. Businesses rely on IT technicians, consultants, and engineers to work around a problem, design a new way to remedy a query or create a shortcut to circumvent a glitch or remove a cybersecurity vulnerability.
IT techs with years of hands-on expertise working within the sector are often considered the most qualified candidates because they can get to work immediately and understand the complexity of each challenge. They can respond confidently and quickly by deploying the abilities only learned in live scenarios.
Degree-level qualifications are never a negative and may be a prerequisite for some positions, but they don’t necessarily supersede experience from an employer’s perspective. You can indeed get an IT job with just certifications.
Which IT Jobs Require a Formal Degree Qualification?
Several IT jobs may require a degree, but it is worth reiterating that this depends on the employer or scope of the role. Broader degree subjects are also the most popular options for IT students who choose to study degrees in areas such as:
- Computer science
- Software design
- Computer networking
- Software engineering
- Web development
- Information management systems
After completing a degree, students typically move on to an internship to apply the theoretical skills they have learned and expand their knowledge by working alongside experienced IT professionals. The alternative route is to work towards certifications in the relevant areas of development, design, or programming, often by applying for entry-level technician roles. Studying while working can augment knowledge while achieving qualifications in programming languages, software suites, or systems.
Higher-level executive IT positions are more likely to require a degree. Vacancies seeking applicants for software engineering, data science, and computer science posts more often request applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. That said, the growing appreciation of real-world knowledge and the ability to handle troubleshooting, client liaison, and establishing the root cause of a problem mean this reliance on degrees is becoming less common.
Does an IT Degree Help Professionals Earn Higher Salaries?
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a degree can be advantageous in commanding a higher salary. While not always a prerequisite to applying for an IT job, a significant proportion of professionals hold this level of qualification. As an indication:
- 55.6% of computer systems and network administrators are degree-qualified. The same metric applies to computer network architects.
- 48.8% of computer support specialists hold a degree.
- 69.2% of information security analysts are degree-qualified.
These figures show that roughly half of all IT experts currently working within the field have obtained a degree–but equally show that half have not and have progressed to advanced positions within their respective organizations. One of the meaningful statistics to consider is that the IT jobs market is expected to grow considerably, with forecasts that demand will increase by over half a million employment positions by 2029.
This level of demand and the need to handle evolving data security regulations and the threat of cyberattacks means that any route to professional qualification is viable and valid–whether you are looking to achieve a degree or would like to follow a more direct path to employment within IT.