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Is an IT degree enough?

Getting an IT degree makes earning certifications easier, too.

Dear Molly: I have two more classes to go before I obtain an MS in computer information systems. I have been reading your articles on a regular basis, and I must admit that I’m starting to wonder if a degree in IT is enough. Would you recommend also obtaining certification, and if so which one/s would you recommend? I am really interested in Internet/intranet networking. Would Cisco certification be the way to go?

Molly says: I haven’t seen your curriculum, but I have seen CISCO’s, so I’m going to generalize a bit. You can draw some finer distinctions by comparing the course content you’ll find on the CISCO Web site with what you’ve studied. I am hoping by this point that you have covered (in depth) general theory behind networking. Thus, you may already have covered much of the material required for the CISCO certification. What you haven’t studied yet is networks specifically–how the theory is put into practice by companies such as Microsoft, Novell, CISCO and so on. That’s the information that a certification in one of these networking systems would give you.

It’s up to you to decide what to add to your education, and you’re going to need some more information to do that. You said you were concerned about whether an IT degree is enough, so ask yourself, Enough for what–to get a job, or to establish a career in networking? I’m sure you could get a job in IT with a master’s degree in the field, but will that be enough information for you? Will you be prepared to take on the tough jobs–the ones that potentially pay the highest salaries and offer the most satisfaction?

Take a tour of the Web sites belonging to the companies I’ve mentioned and review curriculum and training requirements for certification. Look for crossovers–what they cover that you’ve already done. Also look at the kinds of jobs posted on their job boards and see which ones resonate with you and what you want to do long-term.

You may be able to pass the certification tests for more than one of these companies by doing a little studying on your own using their books and interactive training materials. I don’t think you would have to take the full load of training courses for any of them. So, it may be well worth the money (less than $1,000 for training materials and exam fees) for you to get a networking certification.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at

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