Forget the IT Degree?

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Six Strategies for Tech Professionals Looking for a New Position

Is it possible that all the hand-wringing over the state of technology education is a bit misguided? My colleague Ann All has written that employers say the IT skills shortage is real, not just a ploy to bring in less costly H-1B workers. But the question remains: What's the best way to train for a career in IT?


A report published recently by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, a non-profit in the UK, found that college graduates in IT were having a harder time than those in other majors in landing jobs. One of the report authors, Charlie Ball, the organization's deputy director of research, said that technology is changing so fast that the skills students gain in college can be irrelevant by the time they graduate. He called for better communication between the industry and colleges, adding:

Although there are shortages in some technology skills, graduates don't necessarily know what they are.

And those who have been working may have better experience on their resumes than students. So when silicon.com posed that question to a stable of UK CIOs that it calls "CIO Jury," they said unanimously that an IT degree is not necessary for a successful career in technology. Indeed, IT Business Edge contributor Don Tennant posed the possibility that high school dropouts with IT certifications might be fine hires.


Sitting on silicon.com's CIO Jury, Derrick Wood, CIO at Wood Group Production Facilities, said an IT degree might even be a hindrance:

From my perspective as a business CIO, I view an IT degree almost as a negative in many cases. In my experience many IT graduates focus on the technology rather than the application of the technology to deliver business benefit ...

Another CIO, Alan Bawden, suggested a business degree might be better preparation for an IT career of the future. And CIO Neil Harvey put it this way:

As IT continues to move to becoming a more ... commodity-based information service, perhaps inevitably, the overwhelmingly technical skills currently given to IT graduates will almost certainly be outdated by the time it comes to using them in the real world. There needs to be a closer partnership between business generally and the education establishments to provide more training in new IT business skills that will be needed for future models, and less of the core technical skills for which demand will inevitably decline.

It's really hard to say what the necessary skills for the future will be. "Right now, all the projections we have are about a world that existed" in the past, says David Passmore, director of The Pennsylvania State University's Institute for Research in Training & Development, in a story in The Wall Street Journal.


So what do you think? What's the best way to train for a career in IT?