I am a software developer by trade. As a software developer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with other professionals (my peers) who do not understand the basics, which are commonly taught in colleges. These basics are not taught during a cram session or crash course. Without these basics, it is easier for a software developer or other IT professional to make rookie mistakes. Often, these rookie mistakes may not be discovered until it is too late.
That’s why a solid educational background is so important for professionals in the information technology industry. Like doctors and teachers, IT professionals need to base their groundwork on a solid foundation. While professional development courses, certifications and training will always be necessary throughout an IT career, relying solely on short courses, MOOCs (massive open online courses) and cram sessions for professional training is not enough to be effective.
There are many capable software developers who polished their skills the hard way because they could not afford (for various reasons) to experience formal training. But I want to emphasize the need for those considering a career in IT to build a foundation with a basic learning framework.
Let me explain.
Underestimating Basic Database and Programming Concepts
Crash courses are only intended to teach procedures and implementation steps, and provide quick answers to exam questions in the shortest possible time. These courses do not teach theory or provide the foundational understanding that an IT professional would need to be successful.
For example, I’ve often worked with developers who will normalize the tables of a database, but they don’t know what data model they are using. Then, I often hear them saying something like “a star schema is not normalized.” Someone who experienced formalized training in a university environment would know that there are varying degrees of ‘normal forms.’ Those with formalized training would know that a snowflake schema, star-schema and relational schema all go through varying degrees of normalization. They would also know which data model to use for a reporting system versus a transaction system. This is a concept that would be taught to a first-year college student in an Introduction to Database Concepts class if their concentration were software development or database administration.
Another issue I encounter is developers who do not understand the basics of ‘Boolean logic’ or ‘order of precedence.’ These are both basic mathematical concepts that a college student would be presented with during a school experience. Boolean logic would be taught in a logic class, and order of precedence would be taught in an Introduction to Programming class.
Am I saying that certifications, professional development and certificate programs are bad? No, not at all. These are things that any good IT professional should do to keep up to date with the latest trends in the industry, on top of their formalized training.
Why I Earned My Degree After Years of Experience
What about those with an established IT career who haven’t completed their formal education?
Is it too late to consider pursuing that education? No.
Is it even worth it at that point? Yes.
I was one of those people who established my career before completing my degree. Throughout my career, I was taking college courses here and there, but could not find the time to wrap it up.
Years later, I found myself working for the research department of a large healthcare service provider. In this environment, I was encouraged to allocate time to finish my degree, and I took advantage of it. The time spent in course work was very revealing. I learned that I had gaps in my training that I didn’t notice until completing all the required courses for my degree. Some of these gaps were overlooked even with the many certification programs and professional development courses that I had taken over the years.
But don’t take my word for it: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the top nine computer and information technology occupations through 2028 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher just for entry-level positions. The IT industry is projected to add about 682,800 new jobs over the next decade (2021-2031). So there are a lot of opportunities out there if you want to advance and are willing to put in the work to earn a degree.
If you are considering advancing your knowledge and career in information technology, start by researching your desired specialization in the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From there, you can determine the highest paying and fastest growing jobs in IT that might influence your career trajectory and find a higher education program that meets your needs.
I wish you all the best in your career!
Learn more about TESU information technology programs and how you can gain the knowledge and skills needed to meet industry demand and professional advancement in the computer and IT fields.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated for accuracy.
Written by Percival Blenman, AA ’12, BA ’13