The Value of A College Education in the Information Technology Field


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Imagine working for a company for 12 years and you are faced once again with mandatory reductions in workforce. You are an Information Technology Professional and are being measured against your peers, most of whom hold Bachelor Degrees. You are one of the few on your team that does not possess a college degree. Like me, many are placed in this same position in today’s world. We are the unprepared, not armed with ammunition to endure the scrutiny of our qualifications; relying solely on performance. We all hope and pray that is enough to be retained. The college education we planned to achieve for personal development has turned into an immediate quest to survive in today’s volatile and competitive environment.
We have seen the Information Technology job market change considerably over the past decade. Long gone are the days where you spent your entire career at the same company. Many positions have been reduced or eliminated due to innovation or automation efforts. Corporate mergers between large companies can create overlaps in some positions. Many large corporations are facing economic challenges and are reducing staff or closing their doors. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 50,000 IT positions eliminated from July 20007 to July 2008 (Schwartz, 2008). These types of situations can force many out of positions, causing those impacted to seek new employment opportunities. Working for an Information Technology Fortune 100 company, I have seen all of these scenarios in action the past few years. I have had the unfortunate annual experience of walking the impacted individuals out the door.
Therefore, the long term employee who had spent blood, sweat, and tears building a career and supporting a company, has been left in cold. This is where the second big issue surfaces if you do not have a college education. This will hurt you more than competing within your own company. Your resume will have a big gaping hole where the college degree would reside. You will be measured once again with your peers, only this time it will be in form of a resume review. Now all new employer has is a piece of paper with your skills and achievements, which can be tossed aside very quickly depending on the applicant pool. Your chances for an interview have just decreased as many Information Technology positions prefer a college degree, some even make it a requirement.

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Although advances in the technological arena have provided new opportunities in many fields, it has also created challenges for those with limited skill sets and education. Those who have continued to work for the same company for years must also compete with recent college graduates for promotions, or to retain their current position. College enrollment has increased 26% between 1997 and 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2009). The premise, unfair as it may be, is if you already have an education; you are more inclined to continue pursuing knowledge as technology evolves.
However, a college education doesn’t come cheap. This is one of the major issues cited in opposing views of a college education. If you factor in the cost of an education and multiply by the amount of years you will be employed, you should find it is a small piece of the pie. Grants, scholarships and tuition reimbursement by employers are all options that can ease the financial burden for those that qualify. The positive side, a college education can result in a higher year salary, which can offset the cost of your education. According to the Wall Street Journal, people with a college degree were earning an average of 80% more than a high school graduation by 2004 (Dougherty, 2008). If you didn’t obtain your college education before you had to support yourself and a family, you will be faced with time management issues in addition to financial issues. This is a large obstacle in the Information Technology field as many are expected to work long and tedious hours around the clock. This has been my largest challenge to overcome. This doesn’t mean give up and throw in the towel. Many colleges offer flexible distance learning programs for those of us don’t have the ability to attend regularly scheduled classes on campus. Time management can be addressed by setting goals and priorities as well as getting yourself more organized.
Nevertheless, there is continual controversy on many topics surrounding a college education. Kohn (2003) discusses many concerns within the education system. The meaning and purpose of education, and what needs to be learned to be considered well educated are all questioned. In addition, teaching methods, test scores and overall standards within the education system are all examined for flaws. Of course there is no one measurement that can define the true meaning of being well educated. The education system isn’t perfect and will never be perfect. You will always find those who believe a college education isn’t worth the time, effort and money. Despite all the controversy in the education system, those of us who need a college education to complete in the professional realm of Information Technology must place the opposing views aside so we are not deterred.
In conclusion, it is true a college education can be costly in time and finances, and the value of an education as well as challenges in education system will continue to be a subject of controversy. Changes in the job market and technology combined with economic challenges of many corporations continue to elevate the competiveness of professionals in Information Technology field. Like many, I plan to obtain a college education so I can measure up against my peers to survive in my professional position in the Information Technology marketplace.


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