Jobs in tech are all buzz these days. The media raves about the rapid growth of jobs in this market, and it’s not all hype. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT jobs have grown by 37 percent since 2003 and they anticipate the growth to continue to outpace that of most career fields. Then it’s no surprise that prospective students come to the community colleges in the Rural Information Technology Alliance (RITA) nearly every day with the hope of landing one of these new, exciting and well-paying jobs in tech. However, they don’t always know if an IT degree is right for them and even more, question if they have what it takes to be successful in this fast-moving field.
Here we’ve debunked six common myths about obtaining a degree in tech that might be holding you or someone you know back.
- You either understand it or you don't.
When it comes to obtaining your degree in tech, the age old wisdom still holds true. Hard work really can pay off. In our consortium of community colleges, we meet people every day who’ve had very little experience in the tech world but who have committed to learning the skills needed to be successful. And it works.
Just one example is Angie Guderjohn. Angie, at age 43, recently graduated with an associate degree in Computer Network Administration from Central Lakes College (CLC) in Brainerd, Minn. While a student, Angie worked in an internship at a local school district and since graduating has landed a position working closely with IT instructors as a Lab Assistant at CLC. Before she enrolled in her degree program, she worked in a managerial role at a local paper mill and by her own admission had very little understanding of anything related to computers. Angie was hesitant and a little fearful to jump into a new field but she overcame that. “I just told myself that I could do it. I knew I was really going to have to work hard and study a lot but I knew that I was the kind of person that could do it if I put my mind to it,” she said.
- You need a bachelor's degree to get a job.
In select tech fields, some employers seek out candidates with associate degrees over those with bachelor’s degrees. Pine Technical and Community College Cyber Security instructor Chris Morgan developed curriculum for a Cyber Security Associate Degree program, based primarily on input from major employers, and shares, “They [employers] are often looking for talent with associate degrees and they then train them on their systems...Nearly all major companies have security in place but their nuances for security vary, so it’s important that their staff are in the know on their specific system.”
For many tech career fields, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists a bachelor’s degree is needed for entry level employment; however, that information is slightly misleading. The BLS is reporting the MODE from responses to the American Community Survey. The mode is the response that appears most often for that career category and should not be interpreted as the minimum level of education for obtaining employment in the field. For example, the BLS lists a bachelor’s degree as the Entry-Level Education for Computer and Network Systems Administrators, but in reality, approximately half (49.4%) of workers in this category have less than a bachelor’s degree.
- You have to live in a major city to work in IT.
RITA was founded to support the growing need for IT professionals in rural communities. Sure, the number of IT jobs in major markets has been on the rise for years; however, healthcare systems, the education sector and small to medium-sized businesses in communities of all sizes are in need of tech talent. Demand has been partially fueled by an increase in businesses finding it cost effective to expand or relocate to areas outside of metro locations. For IT professionals who prefer to live in rural areas, other opportunities have been created through increases in tele-commuting, as well as small business that find it more efficient to contract out their IT work.
- Women don’t thrive in the IT field.
The truth is that the IT field has been dominated by men for years. A CNET article states that only 30 percent of IT jobs are held by women (and women make up 59 percent of the U.S. Labor Workforce). The reason behind this disparity is up for debate; however, there are many female leaders making headway and blazing the trail for others to thrive in this field. Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of the Lean In movement, are just a few.
We asked a female Helpdesk professional to share her thoughts and she says, “As a woman working in the field of technology, I strongly encourage women not to feel intimidated. IT is a good fit for women. There are so many different areas of IT, and there’s a place for you at every level of technical and soft skills. It’s a good paying career with the flexibility you need to achieve a work-life balance.”
- You have to know code.
Though many tech degrees and careers require one to know some code, many companies are seeking IT professionals with other coveted and hard-to-find skill sets. Effective communication, management and leadership skills are equally, if not more important, to the tech world and if you can learn how to program or code on top of it, even better.
Other IT jobs don’t require knowledge of code at all. Project management, design, systems administration, marketing/sales and business analysis are just a few.
- IT Certifications are not important.
Those already working in tech or pursing their degree have likely heard varying viewpoints on the importance of IT certifications. Will they really help you land a job or promotion? At RITA, our employer partners have been clear in emphasizing the importance of certifications, and we provide resources that better prepare our students to take and pass certification tests, often before they graduate. Certifications can put you a step ahead of the rest, especially new graduates who may not have as much work experience on their resumes as other job candidates.
Judy Archer, the Department Chair of Computer Information Technology at North Central Texas College (NCTC) in Denton, Texas, recommends that students take certification exams shortly after completing the coursework rather than waiting until after they obtain their degree. “Pass the certification exam and you can immediately put it on your resume,” she shares.
What other misconceptions or myths have you heard on this topic? Please log in and share them in the comments field below.