Information technology is an industry no different than any other. The media does a great job highlighting the best and the brightest individuals in technology companies and technology startups. These unique individuals would have been equally successful in any industry. I believe this makes people feel that information technology must be complicated and only ‘certain’ kids go into technology. This also means that individuals do not see themselves being able to work at a technology company. But the technology field needs more people than ever to join. We are a wide range of individuals and talents. Technology is an industry open to everyone, but getting the requisite skills is key.
I offer three paths to the requisite education and degrees.
- Option 1: There are always those individuals that go directly to college and study computer science. These are a lucky few and this luck I would note is not an indicator of future success.
- Option 2: There are individuals that enter the military to afford themselves the ability to go to college. I have employed several such individuals in my career and all have been terrific employees, hard-working, and well trained. The military might have given them the resources to go to college but it also gave them maturity, potentially some wonderful training in information technology security, and usually some level of clearances that are useful in working with the federal government.
- Option 3: I recommend pursuing technology certification and accreditation in an area of your interest. Not everyone can afford college, not everyone chooses (or is able) to enter the military, and I disagree with taking huge college loans or attending many ‘for profit’ colleges with false promises. Some of us need to ensure we can find employment as early as possible and that our employer has a tuition reimbursement program. Investigate the cost of short courses taught by accredited organizations for certifications in Microsoft technologies, networking technologies, or security accreditations. Why? Because once you take and pass the associated exam you have a certification that employers will consider on your resume even if you haven’t worked in technology yet. The more employment relevant certifications you can take and pass the more you have increased your resume’s viability. In fact, some of those going to college straight out of high school will still find themselves taking these same exams after they complete their degrees.
Why do I like Option 3 above? I have several reasons. First, this option is viable whether you are coming right out of high school or changing careers. Second, a certification gets something on your resume as soon as you pass the exam, some courses are a few days, a week, or a few weeks – shorter than a college semester for sure. Third, it allows you to start job hunting sooner rather than later. If you need to have money coming in, then creating a short timeline to that goal is best. And finally, the best reason, is that you should seek an employer that provides tuition reimbursement. Many employers, and certainly the larger ones, provide this benefit allowing employees to take college courses with reimbursement once they pass the course. Often this is full reimbursement, but each employer has its own policies. If an employer is willing to reimburse you to learn, to go to college, to obtain your degree then you should pursue this course of action. Anytime someone else is paying for your education…DO IT! This may mean that you take longer to finish your 4-year degree if you are employed full-time. But it also means you (and your family) could be insured, contributing to a 401K retirement plan, contributing to a flex-spending plan for medical or daycare expenses. And, if you have heard about the rising costs of healthcare then having an employer giving you the confidence that your family is insured should make your life less stressful overall so you can do that studying.
Here are some sample technology certifications or accreditations to investigate:
- Microsoft Technology Associate (MCSE)
- Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Engineer (MCSE)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)
- Microsoft Certified Professional (MSP)
Cisco: Cisco offers 5 levels of networking certifications
Amazon Web Services (AWS):
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional
- AWS Certified Developer Associate
- AWS Certified Developer Professional
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Professional
Oracle: Oracle has too many certifications to list here but they fall into categories such as…
- Oracle Applications
- Oracle Database
- Enterprise Management
- Java and Middleware
- Oracle Cloud
- Operating Systems
These certifications are just a few in the industry. To learn more about technology certifications near you, simply search on-line. Fees for the courses can vary. Courses can be offered during the day, in the evenings, or even on-line depending upon the vendor providing the training. While on-line learning is terrifically convenient, I admit that I still like the idea of in person learning. I like that you have an instructor to help if you need it and moreover I like the idea of meeting the other students in the class. Some of those students are already employed at technology companies and may be willing to be the employee referral that helps you get in the door for an interview. Companies love employee referrals and it can never hurt to do this networking before your job search begins. Happy job hunting.
Lisa Foy, Founder, The Curious Coyote
www.TheCuriousCoyote.com – On-Line Business Magazine