Education or Experience: What Matters More in the World of IT

Obviously, a solid educational background will enhance the likelihood that an IT professional will enjoy a successful career.  However, simply tacking letters after a name does not guarantee a quality employee or contractor.

Hiring IT resources for a small firm can be a daunting task.  If the process is solely handled by Human Resources, then objective, necessary competencies must be defined to evaluate potential candidates.  This is why most employment postings for IT positions include things like “candidate must have his or her CCNA, MSCE, CISSP, etc.”

Certifications and academic accomplishments can enhance an individual’s overall skillset.  This assumes that the individual in question was interested in the material, took it upon themselves to fully understand the concepts, and can apply their theory into real world situations.

The unfortunate reality is that many people are tempted by the salaries associated with these certifications, and will do anything they can to put them beside their names.  A quick Google search of IT certifications and their associated salaries yields results of $85K and higher for an MCSE, $95K and higher for a CCNA, and over $100K for a Project Management Professional, and there are always people who will do whatever it takes to get the money.  Sometimes this may mean downloading answer sheets, repeating online tests with the help of more skilled friends, or even adding certification letters without an actual certification.

This is not new to the IT world.  Back in my college days I was witness to students copying projects, finding code online, and in some extreme cases even stealing printed copies of code right off the classroom printer.  Consequently, when choosing amongst a pool of seemingly qualified applicants, it can be difficult to correctly ascertain a candidate’s skill. with no real comparison available between candidates.  A company may be required to decide between two candidates with identical educations but very different practical skills.

So how can a company ensure they are hiring the IT professional they need?  Human Resources can get midlevel to high level IT staff involved in the interview process.  Organizations can hire IT recruitment firms to filter out candidates for them.  Or the candidates should be judged based on their real world experiences in conjunction with their educational background.

So what matters most in the world of IT?  Education helps and is an ongoing process in this field.  Experience is great and the more a person gets, the more it shows the ability to apply their education to real world scenarios.  But the most important skills are the ones that don’t have abbreviations on the resume; having a good aptitude for problem solving and logic, high integrity, and a strong character are the makeup of the formidable IT professionals.