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I think a lot of college graduates who have been exposed to the real life job market for any length of time, myself included, are probably a bit disillusioned in regards to how well the degree prepared (or didn’t prepare) them for their careers. Believe me when I tell you that I have a LOT to say on the subject (which I won’t bore you with here), but having spent 15 years in the industry, I’ve come to question how well the typical four year Bachelor’s degree prepares somebody seeking to make a career in IT.


Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here, a four year degree is currently a prerequisite for most corporate jobs, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to have one. The issue I have is that, at least where IT is concerned, you spend four years sitting in a classroom taking some computer classes that may or may not be applicable to your career, in order to get a piece of paper that could potentially make hiring managers willing to interview you for a job you might get.

Now granted, it’s been a while since I went to college and things may have improved since, but the only course I had access to that was even peripherally related to the career I wound up in was a very generic course on Networking & Security as part of my Computer Science degree, and it didn’t really cover much other than the very basic basics of TCP/IP and redundant routed connections.

On the other hand, there was nothing in my college curriculum that prepared me for phone or desktop support, system administration, telecom administration, networking (other than the one, sub-Network+ course I mentioned), applications, people skills, or anything else that I’ve ended up needing to learn on the job. Maybe I’m completely misunderstanding the point of a college degree, but I always assumed it was meant to prepare you to function in your chosen profession.

I think we’ve lost sight of that goal along the way, because colleges spend so much time selling the “we want to create well rounded members of society” angle that nobody ever questions why somebody who wants to be a network security engineer, for example, needs to sit through courses on literature, east Asian history, biology, painting, economics, and a dozen or so other things they have no interest in or use for.

I suspect the issue boils down to colleges not being very in tune with what’s needed in real, live workplaces, but nobody ever stops to think about the fact that we’re talking about several semesters’ worth of course time that is wasted on irrelevant topics. I think that people interested in a career in technology would be FAR better prepared by going to a technical school that focuses on those skillsets rather than a traditional college education, but those aren’t typically presented as viable options despite the legitimate value they provide.

To put it bluntly, college degrees aren’t as difficult to get as they used to be, and don’t differentiate a candidate the way they once did. I see a “people with applicable skills and knowledge” vs “people who sat in a classroom for four years” conflict that usually falls in the favor of the people without the applicable skills. Certifications definitely help, but I think these are skills people should be coming out of college with, not something graduates should have to seek out afterward to fill in the gaps left by an incomplete education.

I’m interested to hear what others have to say on the subject. Do you agree that the college degree requirement is really necessary, or do you feel that they provide more than I’m giving them credit for? Please leave a comment below or email me at stuart@tfgnetworks.com and let me know!

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