Do I Need a Degree to Work in IT?

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As more companies begin their digital transformation, IT (Information Technology) work only continues to rise in demand. It’s expected that 1 in 3 organizations will increase their IT staff in 2020. That number is a misnomer. Though many companies don’t plan to expand their IT staff, they do intend to continue backfilling positions that they have traditionally had a hard time filling.

Do I need a degree to work in IT, or can I work in IT with just certifications? You will find arguments supporting both opinions all over the internet. The simple answer is, it depends. Getting an IT job with only certifications very possible. Let’s explain this further.

IT is an incredibly broad term. IT means nothing more than information technology. That can be software or hardware and everything in between. IT doesn’t just mean computers, either. In fact, in most organizations today IT is called ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). IT spans phone systems, mobile phone systems, and more.

First things first, there is no such thing as an IT degree. It doesn’t exist. You can study for a Computer Information Systems degree. You can study for a degree in Computer Science for example, but you can’t get a degree in general IT.

A degree in Computer Information Systems will teach you the basic fundamentals of how networks work, how computer hardware works, how software works, how to program, and most importantly, soft people skills. You will learn soft skills like how to analyze a system, create an RFP, identify the stakeholders, identify roadblocks, how to plan to deploy a system, and managing people in this process.

A Computer Science degree is designed to teach you math theory and how software works. You’ll learn why sorting data is so difficult and what big O means. You’ll understand the difference between a bubble sort versus a sorting tree. You’ll learn what a hashmap is and where and why it can be used. You’ll learn the theory and math that makes public and private key crypto algorithms work.

To some degree, Computer Science and Computer Information Systems degrees overlap in many areas.

There are other various degrees you can learn, but the concept is the same. Degrees are four years of intense studying to learn complex, high-level knowledge and theory. Those skills can be broadly used and adapted to be applied to various functions within the IT field.

Certifications are a completely different beast. Certifications are highly optimized, highly focused, short studying stints to learn very specific skills. For instance, the CompTIA A+ certification will verify that you understand the basic fundamentals of how computer hardware and networks work. A CompTIA Network+ certification will state you understand how to design, implement, and fix computer networks. A CompTIA Security+ certification means that you can lock down networks and computer systems. An MCSA certification from Microsoft will state that you know the ins and outs of the Windows operating system, and likewise, a CompTIA Linux+ certification will show that you know how to use and configure the Linux operating system.

Here’s the thing, the IT field has such a shortage of workers. People with hyper-focused skill sets are in high demand. The IT field is so broad that it’s near impossible to be a master of all things IT. Businesses want people that can fix specific things and solve their issues. Businesses only need one CIO or Information Operations Manager. They need a lot of support staff, though, and these support workers get paid well!

In theory, you could earn a certification next week. The process isn’t hard. You find a testing center near you, book a test, pay the fee, and pass the test. That’s it. Learning the knowledge to pass that test isn’t hard, either. Good IT boot camps, like KO Tech Academy, can teach you the fundamentals to pass these exams in 9 weeks.

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