A college degree can be a powerful resource as you work to advance your IT career. Even for those who major in something other than IT-related fields, a college degree can demonstrate to employers your commitment and dedication to education and learning.
CBT Nuggets trainer Anthony Sequeira believes that a college degree can be an important part of your advancement.
“College can often prove to be very valuable, especially when using degree programs that lend themselves beautifully to a career in IT,” Anthony said. “For example, since communication skills can often separate one IT pro from the next, a degree in Communications could prove very valuable.”
Anthony makes a great point that degree fields outside IT can distinguish you in your efforts to elevate your IT career. But a degree in computer science, mathematics, or other IT-related fields are excellent theoretical preparation for IT pros. Trainer Steve Caseley believes the theoretical framework you can get from a college education is invaluable.
“The advantage of college is that the knowledge is more theoretical and therefore, more universal,” Steve said. “And a [college] degree is better for management as it focuses on the principles and theory.”
A college degree can be a minimum requirement for many IT jobs. A candidate may be immediately disqualified from consideration without a college degree. But if you have earned a college degree, job opportunities may open up for you!
Using Your Degree On the Job Hunt
If you’re pursuing new career opportunities, it’s important to call attention to your college degree(s). Trainer Michael Watkins believes that a college education can be a significant differentiator for you as a job applicant.
“For many IT professionals — even with a major outside of the computer science arena — a degree can signify a well-rounded education and often acts as a minimum level of qualification for jobs within specific companies and industries,” Michael said. “By holding a bachelor’s degree, and IT professional can demonstrate the importance of education and will likely use the skills acquired, such as writing and communications skills, as well as logical reasoning and problem solving in their day-to-day work life.”
Consider using these practical, degree-related tips to take your career to the next level:
- Craft your resume and cover letter well!
Your cover letter should be specific to the needs of the job for which you are applying, including how your degree(s) meet the organization’s needs. Be sure that your degree is listed prominently on your resume and make a point of connecting your degree field to specific needs for the role for which you are applying — this is particularly true if your degree is in a field outside of IT.
- Connect your degree to hands-on and real-world experiences!
Be proud of your college degree(s)! You worked hard for them! However, one criticism that sometimes emerges in the IT industry is that a college degree may not adequately prepare you for hands-on or real-world situations. Be intentional about discussing with your interviewer(s) the experience you do have and how your degree has prepared you for the real world. “Be prepared to discuss how deeply you studied and the richness of the experience,” offered Anthony Sequeira. “Develop a home lab and be ready to describe your hands-on lab practice to truly master the skills for the job.”
- Your degree is only the beginning!
To be successful in IT, you must be a passionate and committed learner. As technology continues to evolve and change, you must be prepared to grow and learn along with it. Be prepared to let your interviewer(s) know how you plan to stay on top of emerging technologies and stay current.
- Talk about your well-rounded education experience in terms of “soft skills!”
Soft skills are always needed in the field of IT. If you have a degree in a field outside IT, frame your education as providing you with the soft skills needed to make you an effective communicator. “I always believe it is worthwhile to give concrete examples to demonstrate skills and then tie them to your education,” Michael suggested. Be prepared to talk about how your soft skills make you the ideal candidate for the job.
- Be prepared for technical questions!
It’s critical that you be prepared to answer technical questions. Your interviewer(s) will likely have a few (or many!) questions that are designed to really test your knowledge. “The interview is about your ability to think fast on your feet,” trainer Jeremy Cioara said. Take advantage of the great resources available to help you identify what kinds of technical questions might come up in your interview (i.e., www.job-interview-site.com, www.roberthalf.com, and www.jobsearch.about.com).
- Practice makes perfect!
Take the time to practice your interview! Ask a friend or colleague to be your interviewer and practice how you want to frame your experience, your degree(s), etc. Being prepared will help you to be more relaxed and much more yourself during your interview!