For many high school grads, the thought of going to college and spending the next four years in a classroom is daunting. A traditional college education isn’t for everyone, especially when simply earning a certificate can put you on the fast-track to landing a job in the technology industry.
Working 40 hours a week is no walk in the park either. But in your early 20s, there’s one important difference between going to school and going to work—a paycheck!
If you’re one of those people who chose to head straight to the workforce, you’ve probably maintained a decent living thus far. But your priorities and goals are likely different now compared to your 20-year-old self.
So if you’ve reached the point where you’re sick of being stuck in an entry-level job and are ready to advance your tech career—listen up! Justin Denton, a 19-year IT industry veteran and School of Technology lead at Rasmussen College, shares the inside scoop about three essential elements necessary for advancement in the tech world.
1. Technology Certificates
Denton has worked for tech tycoons like Siemens and IBM and he says technology certificates are a great way to acquire an entry-level IT position. For those just looking to get their foot in the door, certificates such as the CompTIA A+ or Linux+ will help land a helpdesk position.
He also says that obtaining technology certificates helps prove to would-be employers that you have the skills listed on your resume. Becoming certified also signifies that you care enough to pursue the knowledge and credentials necessary in a specialized area of technical study.
Most certification programs are self-study, which means you work at your own pace. So if you’re a fast learner, you can earn your certificate relatively quickly. Becoming certified is definitely the fastest way to landing a job in the tech field. But keep in mind that in most cases, a certification will only qualify you for an entry-level position.
2. Technology Field Experience
A technology certificate may not offer many opportunities for tech career advancement, but it can play a big role in helping you acquire the next essential element: experience!
At the end of the day, employers like to know that it’s not your first rodeo. When it comes to using cutting-edge software or employing new techniques, the less hand-holding they need to do for new employees, the better. So if you have hands-on experience in a similar position, even at entry-level, it speaks volumes about your credibility.
“Experience is always key—obtain this at all costs!” Denton says. He believes it will help provide you with the understanding and practical knowledge needed to be a self-starter at any tech company.
Experience can come in all varieties, paid or unpaid. Participating in an internship or volunteering for a local organization can help you hone your skills while also demonstrating your commitment to your craft.
You might be thinking: I’ve already gotten certified and gained experience—what else is my resume missing?
The answer might be: comprehensive education. The truth is that if you’ve advanced as far as your experience and credentials have allowed you to, you might need more schooling to help reach your full potential.
3. Degree in Technology
The idea of going back to school might be a bit intimidating to you, but keep in mind that your college experience doesn’t have to reflect what you see in the movies. Forget the dorm rooms, frat parties and pep rallies and focus on the thing that matters most—your education.
Nowadays, non-traditional students heavily outnumber “traditional” students. In fact, studies suggest that as few as 16 percent of college students fit the so-called “traditional” mold. In this case, traditional is defined as: 18 to 20 years of age, financially dependent on parents, attending school full-time and living on campus.
So now that you know you’re not alone in becoming an adult student, think about the positive impact a technology degree could have on your career advancement.
Denton says earning a degree in technology will allow you to maintain your current job, while also setting yourself up for quick advancement once you complete your studies.
“Education is what’s going to help you move up the ladder,” Denton says. “It shows your level of commitment to the company and to your own personal development, which proves that you’re a long-term candidate for employment.”
Earning your degree might be the missing piece that will prove to your employer that you’re a go-getter who is passionate about your career.
What’s more is that tech job opportunities and salaries increase with education level. So if there’s not an opportunity to advance within your current company, you’ve increased your options elsewhere as well.
Bringing it all together...
Denton is a strong believer that certifications, experience and education are essential ingredients in the recipe for success in the tech world. Technology certificates authenticate your skills, experience proves you can transfer those skills to the workforce and earning a degree demonstrates your self-worth and commitment to evolve as a technology professional.
“These key components help solidify a strong technology career that can weather all the potential ups and downs of the economy,” Denton says.
Advancing your education may be the missing link to advancing your tech career. So if you’re ready to ditch that entry-level job, learn more about how a technology degree can help pave the way to a more lucrative and stable position.
For more information on technology careers and education requirements, download our complimentary Technology Career Outlook today!