Should an IT Pro have a college degree?

 So, do IT personnel need a college degree?  That is the subject of an article in Network World: Does a Computer Science degree matter anymore?    I don't think there is a definitive yes or no answer for this question.  I believe that in some areas of the IT field, yes, a degree is required or at the very least should be strongly encouraged. A programmer, for instance, should have a prescribed course of instruction.  Do Network Administrators require the same level of formal instruction as a programmer, or for that matter, does a Database Administrator?   The Database Administrator probably should have some formal education.  As to the Network Administrator, this is one IT position that probably does not require a college degree for normal day-to-day operations.

There are some fields where formalized instruction is almost a requirement.  Trying to teach yourself programming is not an easy task and while you might gain some mastery through self study, not having learned the background knowledge and theory behind programming and programming languages may prove to be hindrance at a later date. Training centers can also teach how to program in a specific language, or languages, but they cannot necessarily teach the theory behind programming or the math behind some of the programming languages. 

Now what about Network Administrators – do they require a formal block of instruction?  There aren’t too many Bachelor of Science degrees in networking available but there is instruction available at training centers which can teach the basics of networking as well as more advanced courses.  The Network Administrator can take this initial knowledge and combine that with hands-on experience and do very well.  

I spoke with John Jenkins, who is going to be graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this year and will start a Computer Science Masters program this fall at UCLA.  He believes that those entering the IT field as programmers should have a college degree.  He also stated that those those  into IT management should have a degree (not necessarily in Computer Science, but at least a degree).  We tend to become very insular in the IT world - it is good to have exposure to new areas.  

So what is the answer?  Should a Network Administrator have a degree?  That would depend on the network administrator and their specific job situation.  I believe at some point in a Network Administrator's career, especially if they want to move into management, that not having a college degree would be detrimental.  There are some things learned in a classroom environment that cannot be readily obtained through hands-on experience – such as expressing oneself through the written word.  I think the degree earned would also have to be examined.  In the end, I would say it is helpful and if the Network Administrator wants to move into the IT management side of operations, than it would be necessary.

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