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The fast track to IT success

If you have the experience, training will help you advance. Cover story hed: The fast track to IT success dek: If you have the experience, training will help you advance. dek: Employees will soon need to communicate more effectively. by Molly Joss

As IT professionals move forward in their careers, they have some heavy-duty questions to answer. What counts more in an IT professional’s career development–experience or education? Should you spend your limited time learning on the job or in the classroom? Which is going to speed up your career advancement most?

The answers to these questions depend on whom you ask, but the consensus boils down to a simple yet difficult reality: To move ahead, you need both experience and education. Ask several IT placement directors the question, however, and most will say training and certification will get you where you want to go in your career faster than experience alone.

“Training is extremely important for the IT professional’s continuing career,” says Mark Engelter, director of training, a Minneapolis-based IT recruiting firm. “Technology continues to advance at a rapid rate, so most IT professionals need to upgrade their skills every 12 to 24 months to remain competitive.”

Not that experience isn’t crucial as well. “More clients require hands-on experience versus certification by a margin of 10 to 1,” explains Jeff Markham, business development director of RHI Consulting, an IT placement firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. RHI placement directors determine experience levels by calling references or asking the prospective employee to work in the firm for a day or two, doing the job they would be hired to do.

Once someone has a few years of experience, Markham says, certification can help move her from a medium level to a higher level, such as from network administrator to network engineer.

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