I get asked this question more often than any other question in the I/T and more specifically Networking field: Which is more important? Certifications, Education or Experience?
In other words, out of those 3 areas on a resume’ what do potential employers look at more closely than the other 2?
This is a loaded question, and here’s why:
In the world of I/T in general no 1 of those 3 are more important than the other 2.
This answer usually and immediately brings the next question in a line of questions: Ok so which one do I start with?
I’ll answer that a couple of ways at the end of this post both with the path I personally took to get into I/T Networking and I’ll also show you the path I’ve seen others take. Then you can decide how you want to do it and which path you want to take.
Certifications are indeed important in the I/T industry overall. What they WON’T do in most cases is stand in the place of higher education or experience.
I’ll tell ya more about how certifications are a great way to get started when I tell you my own story at the end of this article (so be looking for that).
So let’s put certifications in their proper context: They are not a stand-alone qualification on a resume, BUT they are a great way to start in the industry and a great way to show your own improvement as you advance in your career or business.
If you’ve never worked in the I/T industry, you can start out by getting your A+, Network+ and CCNA certifications to help you get an entry-level job in the I/T field.
The great thing about these certifications is they don’t need any prerequisite backgrounds or certs before you test for them – You can just pay for the test, study for it and take it, and when you pass it, you get the certification!
Now, if you’re already working in the I/T field, but you want to advance to your next step, certifications are the easiest incremental way to do just that.
If there’s one thing that always works and looks good on a resume it’s continuing or higher education…especially in your field of study.
If you can manage to do it, having an Associate or Masters Degree from a university in the field of I/T will significantly advance you in your career goals.
For many (me included), they may have to work at a job or run a business WHILE they go to school to get a degree. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I see it more and more in I/T. It’s commonplace now.
The big thing to keep in mind when it comes to furthering or higher education in the I/T realm is this: Just having the education is not enough.
Like other fields of study or expertise, education has its place. BUT you will need to plan on getting additional certifications and relative experience as you go.
So if you keep this in mind, you’ll know where and how higher education falls into your own personal life plan.
So experience in the world of I/T is a fair comparison to just about any other career or professional expertise.
You will want to gain as much experience as you can wherever you work. This will quickly help you to not only get better job or career positions, but it will give you a big group of people you can socially network with and reference to help you find that ideal career or business opportunity.
My best recommendation for you – especially if you’re just getting started in the I/T field – is for you to think of all 3 of the above as 3 legs on a stool.
If you balance each of the 3 out in your pursuit of a career or business, you can’t go wrong!
In other words, don’t just rely on 1 of the 3 things above without the other 2.
Typically, you’ll want to start out with one of the three and then work on the other 2 as you go.
This can sound like a Catch 22 (I know all about that). But keep in mind this is a process and not an “event”
My Personal Story:
Here’s the short version of my own personal story…
I actually worked in another industry as a manager. I had such an irregular schedule from week to week that for me to go to school outside that job would be impossible.
To make matters worse, I wasn’t making but just enough money to barely get by.
I talked to a couple of guys (like me) who were already successful in I/T and they recommended I take the route of studying for and taking certification exams FIRST (which I did).
After I got my A+, Network+ and CCNA certifications, I was able to apply for and get a good starter job working in desktop support.
With that job I had a regular schedule without having to work evenings or at night – which allowed me the opportunity to go to school with evening classes for 2 years to get my Associates Degree in Computer Networking.
So certifications combined with the work history I was accruing working in a call center AND the education I was completing boosted my personal resume’ and allowed me to get an even better job (again in a call center) primarily around computer networking support.
And the rest is history!
Your story can be along the same path, if you so choose. And you don’t need to take even as long as I took to make that happen for you.
Keep in mind that potential employers also look at your own personal aspirations for where you’d like to be and what you’d like to do.
By keeping good conversations going with present employers, most will work with you to help you better yourself. They want to see you succeed!