I'm starting school soon to go into the IT field and am in a bit of conflict about which schooling route to go. I was set on going to the local Community College getting my 2 year then transferring to FIU to complete my 4 year. After talking to a few IT family members it seems my best route was to go to a tech school because it's more hands on and has more relevant situations and things to learn as opposed to a 'textbook answer' to pass a test. Recently I have spoke to a few more people that are trying to convince me the formal degree is the better route so I am wondering if they are just trying to justify their own degrees or are actually trying to help. And having been military 10 years and self employed 5, and a Govt job the last 3 years I'll be honest.... I have no idea what employers are looking for when they hire and would like some input before I lock myself into a school option.
About me: Tuition will be paid by GI Bill so cost is not an issue for 3 years consecutively (which in actuality will cover a 4 year degree probably due to the breaks and such, if not it will cover almost all), I enjoy hands on and practical learning vs textbook. I want to go into networking, VMWare, and possibly cloud computing eventually.
From what I see:
Pros- shows what you at least know enough about the cert to pass the test, shortest route.
Cons- You've only proven yourself for these specific tests, nothing at all that surrounds the subject specifically. No Degree.
Pros- Hands On, more lab than textbook. OJT type education. More variance in courses? (i've been hinted)
Cons- No Degree.
Pros-Degree, More Textbook (pro and con I guess)
Cons- Still labs but not as thorough as Tech school (from what I hear I have no experience so I don't know personally)
Which routes would employers look for or which would you choose and why?
i went to ITT Tech and i would only recomend it if you really hate those basic classes like english, grammar, history. its just the usefull stuff you learn. oh and they cost a lot more than normal. over 40K for a 2 year degree. but you can go back and retake classes at anytime for free. so that kinda makes up for it as tech progresses.
You might consider looking into Western Governors University. You will come out with the certifications and the respected degree. These are useful for getting in the door for the interview, from there it is up to you to show them you are the best candidate for the job. This is where experience will count. By the way, not all those classes are useless such as the various writing classes - you must know how to write and present your ideas properly in order to gain the respect of your peers.
Well if you have the time and money (not sure how the GI bill works as far as time limit goes) a formal degree always looks good even if its not in IT subject. If you are able to say get a "normal degree" in say business or something generic like that while doing self certifcations on side it will help if you want to move up to say management with in IT field. Being able to say you have an understanding of not just the tech aspect of a job but the business side you are supporting goes a long way. I say this because seeing you have over 15 years already working I don't think you want to say at or on helpdesk taking calls (which is were most IT people start) for a few years to get hands on training part.
I will tell you what my teachers and local IT people keep telling me. It is nice that you have the IT skills but we really need people with soft skills like written communication, oral and interpersonal communication you need to be able to deal with people who do not have a Tech background on a daily basis. They say this because they can teach you the IT stuff, but they can't teach you how to talk to people.
#1 thing we look for when hiring candidates is relevant experience. Education can be a substitute for experience, usually at a 1:1 ratio. This being said, often we have a minimum level of actual experience required for the job.
#2 thing we look for is pertinent certifications. We don't hire someone for Unix work who is chock full of NT certs. We don't hire exchange administrators who are CCNP / CCIEs. Pick a field and get certified in it, cross certification is a good thing as it broadens your horizons but you need to pursue advanced certification in at least one field.
#3 thing we look for is security clearances. Those are worth their weight in gold. Many of the things we do require a clearance. Unfortunately you can't just walk up and get one of these, most of the people who have them got them in the US Military or through Federal work. Seeing as your prior service and previous federal employee, you might still have your clearance. These things expire over time though, so if your not already staged for IT then it'll expire before you can be in position to job hunt.
#4 last thing we look for is education. IT changes so fast that anything you learned in school will most likely be outdated and old before your first job. Formal university is only really a requirement for middle management and above as they tend to do lots of formal writing and presentations. Its one of those things that looks good and tends to be on the list that HR looks at, but the people who actually look over your resume and chose who to hire really don't care.
So basically, experience > certs > clearance (if applicable) > education. If you've never worked at an IT shop before, you can use kinda use education but it's not worth much. You'll be doing entry level work, most likely help desk / service personal stuff.
I would go a combination of IT and IT management, which usually means a 4 year degree. If you're looking for the hard-core techy stuff, then ITT tech or a equivalent school that focuses on trade would be more important.
In my experience, if you're looking at working in a corporate environment, they can always teach you the technical stuff. What people look for is soft skills, management skills, etc...
As a caveat, all I know is the corporate environment. I went to Illinois State University and received an IT management degree. I'm a systems analyst now, but the combination of learning business management soft skills and pseudo technical hard skills, there is alot of value -- and it pays more.