Is Your Degree or Experience More Important in IT? 

Is it better to have a degree or real-life experience when you’re trying to land an IT job? 

There is always debate in the technology community about which degree or certification is better to learn. That argument is as frequent as the debate about which language or framework is more popular and better to have on your resume. But another debate is raging in IT circles and it has more to do with experience and less to do with your academic credentials.  

Do Certifications Matter? 

Some certifications matter. Any Microsoft certification is good. A Salesforce certification is both hard to get and good to have. Security certifications can show how current you are with the latest techniques to counter hacker threats. Some jobs, such as Salesforce developer roles, usually require certification in the technology to even get the interview.  

Certifications give employers a way to rate your baseline knowledge. That’s helpful if your evaluator isn’t technology focused and can’t read the code you write. But certifications are also good because it shows a commitment to continual learning, something that is very important in IT. 

Do You Need a Degree in IT to Get an IT Job? 

Here’s a short answer: Maybe. If you have 15-years experience in Java development but failed to get a degree, in most markets today you will be fine. Sometimes there are stickler companies that require a BA in IT. That’s okay; sometimes companies can’t think outside the box and maybe you didn’t want to work there anyway.  

There are plenty of signs that a bachelor’s degree won’t always get you a job. As far back as 2013, the Wall Street Journal trumpeted that degrees don’t matter anymore because employers believe they do not prepare employees for working in the real world. Too, there is ample data questioning the ROI on the debt you accrue from a 4-year college degree versus the salary you make—even in technology. 

Does Experience Trump Credentialing? 

And finally, that leads us to the final question and why we’re here. Is a credential on your resume weightier to a hiring manager than a few years of experience in your field? If you have a certification and a decade of experience in hands on coding, what employer in their right mind is going to turn you down just because you didn’t get a BA a decade (or more ago)? While everything is relative, most employers would welcome an experienced developer with that kind of experience. But IT includes more than programming. This generalization may not hold true if you are a tester or a project manager.  

Generally, companies are hungry for fresh IT talent. If you don’t have a degree, that may be just fine. Many top technology companies do not require a college degree. Recruiting teams are searching for job candidates with the skills to get their job done, no matter the credentials behind the candidate.  

We believe it’s a myth that you need a four-year degree in computer science to land a job in IT. However, you must have plenty of experience in the field to counteract this training. We’ve also seen new graduates fail coding tests because their four-year degree failed to teach them what they needed to know in the real world. 

The best advice is to talk with an IT recruiter to understand the requirements of the jobs available. Tech recruiters have a good sense of what’s happening in the marketplace and where you fit. Most of the time they’re looking for the right mix of experience and attitude over a few two-letter credentials. 


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