For those looking to progress in their career choosing between IT-certifications or a degree can be challenging. So, If you are looking to get promoted which option should you go for? The answer is that this depends on your goals, background in terms of work experience and education as well as your current financial situation, as both certifications and degrees can be quite expensive.
Firstly, popular certifications are mostly issued by privately owned companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Juniper, Amazon, CompTIA, EC-Council, SANS and the like, so certifications issued by companies such as the first four mentioned shows the employer your ability and understanding on how to use their products, such as Microsoft Exchange for Microsoft certifications and Cisco switches and routers for Cisco certifications. A benefit of being certified is that you show employers that you are committed and that you put down a lot of effort and resources in obtaining certifications, the latter includes training and fees to stay on top of the game. One potential disadvantage with certifications is when the issuer make changes to their products you will need to re-certify to stay up to date. Typically every certification is valid for three years before it must be renewed, and getting re-certified costs both money and study hours. Luckily, once you pass the exam and become certified most employers (from my experience) will not ask you what score you got because to them passing and keeping your certifications active is most important, and the latter is especially important during the recruitment process.
Secondly, degrees are issued both by publicly- and privately owned institutions such as universities whom set certain standards in terms of entry requirements, therefore higher education may not be an option for those who do not meet those entry requirements. One advantage with obtaining a degree is that unlike certifications degrees don’t expire, so it is something that will stick with you forever. Another advantage is that unlike certifications degrees are overall more recognized in society. For example you may put down a lot of effort in obtaining a highly recognized certification, but it may not be known by the HR. Another skill you will learn in university is how to read, write and present your work in an academic setting. In addition you will learn programming, a skill that in my opinion is essential if you would like to work as a developer or systems administrator. Some courses such as Bachelor of Cyber Security also offer you to obtain certifications as part of your degree. One disadvantage with degrees is that you usually don’t get a lot of hands on experience with real equipment.
Finally, while certifications shows employers that you specialize and posses expertise in certain areas within IT you won’t learn any economics or leadership skills that is essential for you to succeed as a project manager. If you are new to IT, short of cash and would like to enter the field I recommend to start by obtaining certifications so you can get a entry level job, and from there do part time studies and get your bachelor’s degree. In my opinion certifications is something that should come on top of your bachelor’s degree, so if you satisfy entry requirements and can afford to attend university full-time, I would highly recommend you to do so.