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Most IT Workers Don't Have STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) Degrees

Soulskill posted 1 year,1 day | from the contrast-this-support-ticket-with-john-donne's-early-elegies dept.

Education 655

McGruber writes "The Wall Street Journal's Michael Totty shares some stereotype-shattering statistics about IT workers: Most of them don't have college degrees in computer science, technology, engineering or math. About a third come to IT with degrees in business, social sciences or other nontechnical fields, while more than 40% of computer support specialists and a third of computer systems administrators don't have a college degree at all! The analysis is based upon two job categories as defined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics: network and computer systems administrator, and computer support specialist."

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Personally (5, Insightful)

Reliable Windmill (2932227) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191257)

I prefer education over schooling.

Re:Personally (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191415)

Even that's not good enough. I work in the electronics industry and the educated and schooled engineers fuck up far more than the merely "educated but unschooled" I.T. staff. And this is saying a lot, because we are a Windows shop.

I have yet to see even a domestically-born Caucasian engineer write a legible procedure, even with modern miracles like spelling and grammar checks. For example, one likes to write "speck" instead of "spec." And in one of our more recent procedures, there's no logical progression from one section to the next -- Though the sections are numbered sequentially, the actual order in which the steps are carried out makes the procedure look like TurboTax written in BASIC, with GOTOs everywhere. And I'll never forget the engineer who swapped the "+" and the "-" on a drawing our customers used to wire the system themselves. Whoaboy, blown fuses and warranty repair nightmares everywhere. Give me a proven I.T. guy any day of the week, and I'll train him to be a fucking engineer.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Personally (3, Funny)

c-A-d (77980) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191541)

I'm surprised by this. I was required to take an english course in college when getting my tech diploma. It's focus was on technical writing.

Also, have you mentioned to the engineer in question that it's "specification" and not "speckification"?

Re:Personally (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191751)

Its focus, as the it was the focus of the English course.

Gotta be extra careful when writing about writing well.

Re:Personally (5, Funny)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191753)

It's focus was on technical writing.

You don't say? :)

Re:Personally (5, Insightful)

ttucker (2884057) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191831)

I'm surprised by this. I was required to take an english course in college when getting my tech diploma. It's focus was on technical writing.

Also, have you mentioned to the engineer in question that it's "specification" and not "speckification"?

The problem is that you can take and pass a college level English class without actually giving half a shit about writing at an educated level. Having a university degree only proves that you are willing to do whatever busywork it takes to graduate, not that you actually know anything at all, that you paid attention in class, or even that you were smart in the first place.

Re:Personally (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191689)

What kind of windows shop does their own electrical wiring? Secondly, no reverse polarity protection?

Re:Personally (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191827)

At least they had fuses.

Re:Personally (2)

ttucker (2884057) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191865)

What kind of windows shop does their own electrical wiring? Secondly, no reverse polarity protection?

Reverse polarity protection always involves a component which is destroyed to protect the rest of the device. It is still a warranty nightmare when a SMT diode or fuse is burnt on every shipped device.

Re:Personally (4, Interesting)

mellon (7048) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191471)

In principle college ought to benefit IT workers; in practice, at least when I went, it was less useful than I would have liked, and I dropped out after a year and a half because I felt that I was wasting my money. But I haven't been forced to put my resume through an HR department in a long time; I wonder if it would be as easy now as it was a dozen years ago.

Re:Personally (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191513)

If credentials are so much an issue why not decouple certification from schooling?

In IT it is possible to sit for exams to obtain certification (certifying that you indeed have the required education and experience) without requiring a compulsory course. However obtaining most other types of credentials also requires compulsory schooling.

I think it is about time people everywhere be allowed to sit for exams without having to attend to compulsory schooling beforehand. Teachers and lecturers everywhere need to be less pretentious in assuming their students wouldn't be able to gain knowledge on their own and without their divine intervention.

Re:Personally (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191601)

The HR drone hiring you prefers schooling over education.

Re:Personally (2)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191747)

Of course they do. Schooling is easy to just "check off the boxes", and even verify with a simple phone call. Education, not so much.

Evaluating whether or not an applicant actually has the requisite knowledge and skills for the position would require them to actually do their jobs, including understanding (at least at a meta-level) exactly what the position entails and what skills are actually relevant.

Re:Personally (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191789)

Crux of the problem right here.

The HR drones don't know what a job actually entails, because they of course do not do said job. They see "degree in _____" and think "well that's close enough. they'll probably do. Besides 'Degree = competence.' I know this because I have a degree and look how good at my job I am!". Kruger-Dunning in effect.

Every company I've ever worked for that wasn't running itself into the ground, it was the manager who would do the actual direct supervision and direction of a new employee who were the ones that did the interviewing and made the hiring decisions. HR was there to handle payroll and inter-company personnel disputes.

Re:Personally (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191757)

Experience > Education > Schooling > Degrees

Clueless (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191259)

So this is where 90% of the clueless management come from?

Re:Clueless (1, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191401)

No, that's from BA degrees.

Re:Clueless (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191563)

No, that's from BA degrees.


Re: Clueless (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191521)

IT work is the equivalent of being a file clerk under the old system.

Engineering is something completely different. When I was mounting tapes and putting film intovthe processor back in the 80s I was a computer micrographics technician , but it s
didn't require any degree. Just the willingness to be a tape mounting monkey, in a sea of 1200, 2400, and the occasional 'new' 6250 bpi tape that came through our service bureau. I had to go to school to become a real Technician.

As someone who runs an IT company (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191295)

Our best techs don't have degrees. Most of the people who can become skilled techs without having it force-fed down their throat at college can teach themselves, and easily grasp new technology as it becomes available. Most of the people we've hired from college were the "I-can't-do-it-unless-you-show-it-to-me-first" type, which suck to have work for you.

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191307)

Oh, you mean you prefer employees able to read your mind over those that ask you to clearly verbalize your expectations?

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (5, Insightful)

broken_chaos (1188549) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191409)

There's a big difference between telling someone the end goal and having them get to that goal largely on their own, and having to hold their hand through every single step along the way. The latter seem to be the type that the grandparent is complaining about.

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (0)

Guppy06 (410832) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191565)

Or the parent is just pleased with people that are able to vaguely meet vague goals, rather than employees who ask for clarification with pesky questions like "Why?"

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191429)

Oh, you mean you prefer employees able to read your mind over those that ask you to clearly verbalize your expectations?

Spoken like a true college grad. :)

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191509)

No, He's saying he values employees who understand how the technology, that their job is based on interacting with, actually works, and can derive answers to their own questions instead of him doing their job for them. He's saying that having employees that can resolve problems because they have a passion for the field, instead of only a simple ability to follow carefully laid out instructions, is valuable to him.

I'm pretty sure you can say that about most jobs. Unfortunately a lot of HR departments can't grasp that and they have their own ideas about who would make a good employee.

Happy to clear that up for you, and I'm sorry about you mounds of student loan debt.

Re: As someone who runs an IT company (2)

Niris (1443675) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191777)

Heh, I keep seeing all this assumption about student debt in grads. I should add "I don't have any student debt because I invested 80% of my school loan, cashed out and paid it off in full on top of tuition" to my resume. Will look nice under my bachelor's in computer science.

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (1)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191527)

Erh... yes? Who wouldn't?

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191567)

Not at all. My expectations are usually along these lines:
"Hey, Person J says her computer keeps locking up. Can you go figure out what's going on?"

Good IT:
"Sure." "Turns out she had installed a toolbar that kept popping up a hidden prompt for her to click on. It's all cleaned up now, and she is good to go."

Bad IT:
"Sure." "The screen seems frozen. What do I do?" "Ok, I hit alt+tab, and there seems to be a prompt. What do I do?" etc.

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191707)

Not at all. My expectations are usually along these lines:
"Hey, Person J says her computer keeps locking up. Can you go figure out what's going on?"

Good IT:
"Sure." "Turns out she had installed a toolbar that kept popping up a hidden prompt for her to click on. It's all cleaned up now, and she is good to go."

Bad IT:
"Sure." "The screen seems frozen. What do I do?" "Ok, I hit alt+tab, and there seems to be a prompt. What do I do?" etc.

Real IT Person: "That's against company policy to unfreeze this computer"

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (3, Interesting)

broken_chaos (1188549) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191389)

Not to mention that science, math, and engineering degrees are all-but-worthless in IT, as being able to design a circuit board, or optimize a search algorithm, or sequence some DNA has little-to-nothing to do with your average IT department's concerns about practical matters. I'm not entirely sure what a "tech" degree even is (I've never seen a university offer a "bachelor of technology", for instance), so I can't say anything about that.

IT, especially as defined by the linked article, is not programming, after all.

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (4, Interesting)

shadowknot (853491) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191523)

I think this [] is the closest thing I've seen to being a "tech degree" though they still call it CompSci. I think the Bachelors in Information Systems and Business IT are the closest things to preparing people for the real world of IT. Even these, in my experience of working with people fresh out of them, are far less useful than a few years working at the coal face in a first line tech support job, especially one in a large business or education institution (ironically!). I got my first job at 18 with no degree and now I'm 29, still have no degree and am working on System z mainframes and have done sysadmin, computer forensics and consultancy jobs in between. Paper means nothing in the IT world, demonstrable skill and aptitude mean everything. If someone can prove that they've been able to adapt and learn then they're the people who'll get hired.

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191425)

Have to agree. Self direction, initiative, mixed with curiosity and some intelligence is what makes for a good IT worker. Most IT degrees are junk anyways. (STEM) degrees are a good indicator that the person can solve problems but since IT isn't rocket science the STEM degree isn't needed.

Re:As someone who runs an IT company (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191739)

Not to mention we can hire them for a lot less too!

Breaking news (1)

UK Boz (755972) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191303)

Because, you don't really need one to do the job.. Duhhh!

Most can't do their jobs (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191331)

Most can't do their jobs

Re:Most can't do their jobs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191651)

They (probably numerous conflicting government agencies) made it that way. I.T. fucking sucks now. Nothing works right, and if it does, it only works for a while.

They pretend (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191347)

Of course!

The industry folks will always pretend that a degree is not really necessary, and experience/skills matter.
That way, the number of people available to do IT increases, and the average salary decreases.

I wonder why you can only be an architect, doctor, lawyer, dentist etc. WITH a degree.
They should suppress that requirement for those professions too, shouldn't they? It is experience that counts after all...

Re:They pretend (4, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191545)

Because in all those professions you can kill people (directly or indirectly) if you screw up because you don't know jack about your profession.

Re:They pretend (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191641)

The key difference is that if you're a doctor you can kill someone if you don't have the correct training. The same is true for the other professions you listed too. It is structurally impossible to get into such a position in IT (they do exist) where such an outcome is likely without an enormous amount of proven experience. You can't, for example, become a tech for the systems that run a Nuclear power plan by just saying you know Linux and without a tremendous amount of oversight when you do get in to such a job after decades of experience. You're not making an apples to apples comparison with your argument and that's where it falls down. I understand that it may seem like a good idea to have proof of skill provided by some ivory towered "institution of higher learning" but in today's world it is entirely unnecessary and the people citing anecdotal evidence of the opposite to your point being more valuable are in the right. I can cite numerous examples of useless people interviewing, sometimes successfully, for jobs at places where I've worked who have impressive pieces of paper but no real-world skills or ability to do the job. The same is true of some experienced people too but in my experience it's more the other way around. It's a waste of money in our industry and anyone who recommends a formal program of education over experience where the goal is not to be a researcher but to work in the IT world has some vested interest in you being $40K in the hole.

Re:They pretend (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191673)

I had about 12 or 13 years of practical IT experience before I got an actual IT job. I did it at home, on family and friend's machines/networks, and unofficially for my (non-IT) day job. a few years later I'm now in escalation and lead company-wide projects.

What doctor, lawyer, or dentist you could say that about? there is no real world "practice mode" for them.

Architect I couldn't say. It seems like something you could study and practice at home, but I'm not familiar enough with the field to say for sure.

I make a very comfortable salary for my market as well. Enough to pay for the bills, buy all the tech toys, and allow my wife to quit her job to stay at home and raise our child. With no College degree. I'd say that IT is indeed a fantastic chance for those with no degree to do well for themselves. Assuming they have any talent for the field anyway.

I'm a non-degree slacker (5, Insightful)

grub (11606) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191365)

I graduated Grade 12 in the early 80's. Was going to go for a CS degree but put it off for a year while I worked. Then another year went by, and so on.

Back then, the vast bulk of "nerds" loved this stuff as a hobby and could slide into a work role easy enough. Then people started going to school to 'learn teh computerz' as it seemed like an easy way to make cash. Those are the folks who were dumped during the dot-bomb.

Fact is many of the best IT folks I know who also have excellent technical skill were self-taught.

STEM education is great but it's not everything (4, Insightful)

QilessQi (2044624) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191369)

I hold two CompSci degrees (BA, MA) from two reputable universities, and I can tell you this: some of best developers I've ever met have come from non-CompSci fields: geology, physics, and (building) architecture.

The keys to being a good developer are much the same as in any other field: being able to learn, and being able to apply what you've learned, and giving a crap about what you do.

Re:STEM education is great but it's not everything (1)

QilessQi (2044624) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191453)

And, of course, part of "giving a crap about what you do" involves reading the Preview carefully before you post. That should say:

...some of the best developers...

Sigh... Tell me again why /. doesn't have an "Edit" button?

Re:STEM education is great but it's not everything (5, Funny)

doggo (34827) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191553)

Well, if there was an "Edit" button we couldn't pick on you for a typo.

Re:STEM education is great but it's not everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191625)

Jesus, give the guy a break - it was just a typo you jerk!

Re:STEM education is great but it's not everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191759)

Sigh... Tell me again why /. doesn't have an "Edit" button?

CowboyNeal, BA, Art History, 1953.

Re:STEM education is great but it's not everything (5, Funny)

nwf (25607) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191821)

Sigh... Tell me again why /. doesn't have an "Edit" button?

Because computers are hard and most developers don't have a degree.

Re:STEM education is great but it's not everything (2)

fredprado (2569351) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191469)

I am not sure about Architecture, but Geology and Physics are STEM fields.

Re:STEM education is great but it's not everything (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191577)

Amen, I learned to program in basic on a Commodore 64 when I was in middle school, and went on to C, and C++ later on the 386 and 486 computers. I only got my degree, because it was the only way to get a salary bump from where I was at otherwise I wouldn't have even bothered.

This says more about the categories... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191385)

It isn't...exactly... news, is it, that neither 'computer support specialists' nor 'network and computer systems administrators' are jobs that are particularly close to what a 'STEM' curriculum might teach you. You can't be afraid of computers, and the ability to bodge out some scripts when the occasion demands it is always handy; but it isn't as though you are expected (or even permitted) to break out the CS-fu and build some custom management system, or put your EE skills to work by diagnosing that malfunctioning motherboard properly rather than just shipping it back to the vendor for a replacement...

Re:This says more about the categories... (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191649)

However, many jobs which require STEM degrees fall under "IT" based on job market. For example a microprocessor designer may be considered "IT" to someone sufficiently far removed from knowing what IT really is (i.e. wall street analyst).

I have been listed as an IT industry worker more than once in my career, by virtue of who my employer is. No one cares that I don't give a rats ass what my company sells, nor does it bear any resemblance to what I do: all that matters to me and my career are the products I make. However to MBA types, your employer is your industry, and your industry defines you.

Re:This says more about the categories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191729)

Isn't it fun to be an insect? ("Specialization is for insects.")

Re:This says more about the categories... (5, Informative)

doggo (34827) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191763)

The truth is, most "computer support specialists" & "network administrators", & "system administrators", and I am one, are technicians, not engineers. Even some of the IT guys with "engineer" in their titles are really technicians. [] []

And that's okay. Well, except for inflating the importance of the the job by adding "engineer" to the technician's title.

Technicians are important. Technicians keep technology running. Being a technician is a noble pursuit.

Engineers take what the researchers have discovered and create the technology, technicians deploy the technology and maintain it.

Self Taught (3, Insightful)

justcauseisjustthat (1150803) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191387)

I'm self taught and far better for it, institutional learning is too rigid and doesn't foster creative individuality.

Re:Self Taught (3, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191451)

Says someone who obviously never went to a school which fosters creativity...

Re:Self Taught (0)

johnlcallaway (165670) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191595)

Says someone trying to justify wasting a shitload of money on an education that smart people don't need so he can get a piece of paper proving he knows how to take tests and please his professors.

And yes .. I've taken a few courses. When I've needed to and when someone else was paying for it. Smart people learn how to make other people pay for their education, and learn how much 'educating' they need instead of having to have some tenured drone, who only has his own self-interest at heart, do it for them.

Re:Self Taught (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191661)

What a coincidence! I too find that smart people tend to be like me and make the same life choices that I make.

Re:Self Taught (1)

coastal984 (847795) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191549)

This. I did a solid 5 years of traditional college... Majored in Architecture, Communications, and finally Business before saying "screw it" and sitting for my A+ exam after a couple of nights in a study guide book. Did a 6 month term on a corporate help desk before moving on to a municipal IT shop, where I've been for nearly 5 years, and have gained a TON of knowledge and experience. I'm simply a better learner by doing and figuring than I am by sitting in a classroom.

Why would they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191407)

Yea everyone meet Tim.
He has a masters in astrophysics, a phd in quantum mechanics, and he learned to be our IT Admin by copying and pasting buzz words from wikipedia on his resume.
Let him know if you are having any issues with the printer.

And? (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191421)

How many CEOs don't even have a degree?

You could apply the apprentice/journeymen/expert to the IT guild as much with most any other learned trade.

I wonder how many of them (4, Funny)

mark_reh (2015546) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191423)

know what "IT" stands for?

"Computer Support Specialist" (3, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191433)

You don't need a college degree to read a phone script.

Just because there's a lot of 'em doesn't mean they're all good.

Re:"Computer Support Specialist" (3, Funny)

mark_reh (2015546) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191573)

"Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

Re:"Computer Support Specialist" (1, Informative)

johnlcallaway (165670) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191627)

Just because there's a lot of 'em doesn't mean they're all good.

Just because someone has a degree doesn't mean they are smart.

Just because someone doesn't have a degree doesn't mean they aren't smart.

Did you have a point???

Because IT is a superset of stem (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191437)

This doesn't surprise me at all. Especially when they mention "computer support specialists and a third of computer systems administrators". These aren't fields that even require a STEM degree in the first place. I'm sure if you just looked at programmers, you'd probably see a much higher percentage with a STEM degree. If I had a stem degree, and was working as a computer support specialist, I'd probably wonder what the purpose of my degree really was. Also, if you have a degree in chemistry, you technically have a STEM degree, but you're probably no more prepared for a career in IT than somebody with a business or fine arts degree

Personally, I've always hated the fact that they even refer to certain jobs as being in the IT sector. It's so large and all encompassing, that it basically fits anybody from a minimum wage support person to a hardware engineer designing cutting edge processors, or people writing financial systems on wall street.

some of the best people I have seen dont have degr (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191441)

per Joel Spolsky 'smart and gets stuff done'. I am a DBA and my undergrad degree is in political. I did go back and get a masters in software engineering and take several undergrad CS classes. I found that these helped quite a bit, but are not 100% critical. CS degrees are useful and have alot of value. Especially early on... for programmers. However, you don't need a technical degree to build a computer or do desktop support. They help some with IT Admin jobs. It helps me as a DBA in that it helps me learn new things since I have a better grasp of underlying concepts. I have gone out over the years and googled college coursework and then read some of the books on my own.

some of the best programmers I have worked with don't have college degrees. Its the person not the degree. The degree can help, but you should be able to see it in the quality of the work and it should be in the background.

this is not a good way to assess whether someone is qualified for a job. A quality technical interview given by peers at the company. Since these are the people who use the technology every day.

Finally, it is now clear why Microsoft (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191459)

is the dominant player in corporate IT systems!


TiggertheMad (556308) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191461)

I don't have a STEM degree, and I am a senior programmer. I dropped out of college entirely. I couldn't deal with the bureaucracy. You have to take this class, you can't take this class, bleah bleah bleah...

Of course, I have been programming since 1980 when as an 8 year old, I taught myself how to code. I also have self-educated myself in graduate level math, game theory, algorithms, statistics, relativistic physics, AI, and probably a half dozen other STEM type topics. I have worked in a half dozen languages, high level scripting to ASM and from the front to the back of the stack in contemporary Enterprise web app environments.

A degree is only worth as much as the person it is imprinted upon.


bluefoxlucid (723572) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191585)

I hope you have a Project Management certification or the relevant learning (i.e. read the PMBOK5e published this year, some supplementary materials, maybe taken a course, whatnot). Those are the real useful skills if you're a programmer. Or sysadmin. Or anything else.


sandytaru (1158959) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191709)

You can get the CAPM (baby PM cert) just by having been on a team that does projects for at least a year, or taking a 23+ hour course/training online, then passing a relatively simple test. Probably one of the easier IT certs to get, considering.


c-A-d (77980) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191643)

Sometimes, the degree is the only way to get your foot in the door. Alternatively, sometimes the degree is the only reason you're not out the door.

What's the degree going to do for them? (1)

Sevalecan (1070490) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191463)

I'm going to sit here and speculate on why. First of all, I taught myself C at 11 years old, and I'm 25 now. In the past 14 years, I've obtained a pretty good idea of what programming is, and of course spent plenty of time messing around with and administrating my own systems. I'm sure this isn't an unusual story to hear on slashdot, I'm sure many of you made a similar journey. But here's the problem, after talking with friends who had taught themselves how to program and do it well, and had gone through schooling for that subject, I realized there weren't heaps of new things to learn. Almost all of the schooling would be rehashing things I already knew.

So where am I going with that? Programming is a relatively easy subject to pick up on your own. You can just start messing around and get immediate results. You don't need a huge buildup of theory before you can start applying the stuff, either. If I can start coding in C at 11, it isn't that hard. And I'm definitely not one of those people who had a PhD by the time he was 14 either. So this doesn't really surprise me at all, the degree has very little practical value to someone who is already confident in their abilities with these kinds of things.

It was actually because of this that I chose my major to be Electronic Engineering instead(still working on it). The material is more challenging to me, and most of it isn't stuff that I've done already. It's not as easy to learn on my own (though it could be done. I even made a list of textbooks used in the 4-year school I want to attend in case I decided I wanted to go that route). I'm not sure how everyone else here feels about it, but I think programming is easy shit. Using computers is relatively easy shit. Just because you don't have to spend as much time making that foundation, I think it's a lot easier to get away without getting a degree in it. Maybe this is due entirely to the fact that it's easier to self-teach, rather than it being an easy subject in and of itself. I know many of you wouldn't agree with the latter statement. Once you know it, why have someone try to reteach you?

Re:What's the degree going to do for them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191705)

Overall I agree with your comment but just want to elaborate. Yes for SOME people IT comes relatively easy. Programming comes relatively easy. But be careful not to confuse IT support specialist, Programmer, Software Engineer. I would think for IT support specialist you wouldnt even need programming experience as you will be on the phone all day. Programmer is is sort of like an intern or low level software engineer who is told what to write and they write it. However; there are also engineering majors in IT such as Computer Engineering and Software Engineering. Some of this stuff you can learn on your own because - well its just fun. Some other stuff will be a little more difficult because it's not as tangible - more theory. For example - Using Vector Math and Geometric calculations to find intersections of lines/polygons. Understanding and applying different software design patterns. Understanding theory behind multiprocessing/multithreading. Understanding network rate formulas for bandwidth and how to apply them. There are many more fields which are not as applied as programming that will be semi difficult to learn on your own time (not because they are hard but because you may not have a drive to do so - such as with EE).

Re:What's the degree going to do for them? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191775)

What is easy is managing computer systems and products that are already made (to some extent) to be user friendly and/or have a good support structure. Someone, like yourself, with a degree can offer better IS services to customers who have needs in that field. So an electronics design company may be better off using you, with your degree, to develop a solution for electronic design or modeling. A non-degreed person, or one with different degree, might not be as helpful.

I also see this as an excuse for those who's companies have hired crappy workers. Claiming you hired some idiot out of college, and he turned out to be an idiot, has less to do with the value of education and more to do with not hiring someone with the necessary skill set, or did not put in place the training or resources needed to make that person successful, degree or not.

We're talking about support and Windows admins (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191479)

These are the people who do tech support by reading from scripts. They're also the people who setup computers, plug cables and have magical access simply because they have the correct passwords.

These are NOT skilled jobs. They are admin assistants with fancy tech-sounding names. This whole article seems braindead obvious and stupid to me. Talented people with STEM degrees do not call themselves IT workers - they call themselves engineers, designers, developers, researchers, etc.

College wasn't an option for some (2)

acoustix (123925) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191487)

For many of the older people in this field college was not an option. Some of them "fell into" the job because they "knew computers".

I have a AAS degree from a two year school because IT related studies were not offered at the 4 year schools. In fact, I was bluntly told by a department head of a four year school: if you want to learn networking then go to a two year school. So I did. Best decision ever. No college debt and got a job right out of school.

Re:College wasn't an option for some (1)

mj01nir (153067) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191621)

When I went to school, my current job (network admin) didn't even exist.

I went to school for computer repair. As in- find the bad component on this circuit board, unsolder it and install a new one. PC LANs wouldn't exist in any meaningful way for several more years.

I owe a lot to the sheer luck of timing. I had a good base of knowledge when PC LANs did roll around and I've just been adjusting to new technologies ever since.

And then there's me... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191489)

... while more than 40% of computer support specialists and a third of computer systems administrators don't have a college degree at all!

I'm not particularly fond of statistics like these -- because the people who put them together usually insist on qualifying "college degree" as only meaning four year degrees or greater. I have an Associates degree, (and yes: it's in the IT field) but nobody seems to really care about that so-called "minimal" level of effort.

Not that it matters to me anymore at this point... I've been in the workforce for long enough now that a Bachelor's degree would not by itself get me anywhere close to my current salary... nor would it even get me any meaningful bump in income alongside my current work experience. If you wait long enough, such things pretty much become moot.

After five years... (3, Insightful)

HaeMaker (221642) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191501)

...whatever you learned in school is already out of date, when you consider what they teach in University is 5 years old when they teach it.

Ask BSCS grads who graduated in 2008 or earlier how much of what they learned in school is still relevant.

Getting into management without a degree is much tougher. Common knowledge is that you are a "better person" if you spent 6 years of your life getting an MBA, rather than actually doing the job.

Re:After five years... (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191659)

A lot of university degrees in Project Management teach that a Work Breakdown Structure is a set of tasks; in 1978, the Project Management Body of Knowledge was replaced with the PMBOK Guide (first edition), which is also called the PMBOK (oddly enough). The new PMBOK1e specified that a WBS is a deliverable-oriented breakdown of work. Since the PMBOK1e in 1978, work breakdown structures have been all about the output of work: every Work Package or Roll-up Element is a deliverable--a tangible or intangible result of work, such as the assimilation of knowledge (intangible) or a program module (tangible)--represented by adjective-noun descriptions. Yet, now, over 30 years later, colleges teach that the WBS is a task-oriented breakdown of actions represented by verbs.

Five years out of date? They still teach Java.

Re:After five years... (5, Insightful)

ImprovOmega (744717) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191713)

I got a BSCS degree back in 2003 and I can tell you that it is very much still relevant. You're right, the specific languages, API's, and even architectures have changed dramatically in 10 years, but the fundamentals are all still there. Learning the 2003 vintage of C++ was not so useful (except as an exercise in how to approach programming problems generally), but learning algorithm complexity analysis is timeless. And I'm sure there are more advanced process schedulers in operating systems these days, but they are still being scheduled out there in the background. And so on, and so on.

My great "aha!" moment in my CS degree was when I realized that the specific tool they were teaching in any given class was basically irrelevant - it was just a means to teaching an important concept. Trade schools teach you tools, universities teach you how those tools work. The real value in my BSCS degree was in teaching me how to think about and solve CS problems. That has been invaluable.

Re:After five years... (5, Insightful)

axl917 (1542205) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191715)

...whatever you learned in school is already out of date...

Quite true, but as one of my professors said, "In this course, you will not learn how to code in Turbo Pascal*; you will learn how to learn to code, and then apply that to Turbo Pascal."

A good teacher can make all the difference to impressionable 18-yr-olds.

(*Yes, I am old)

Re:After five years... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191717)

Yeah, my math and logic skills that I learned in the late 80s/early 90s are totally "out of date."
And for all those clueless retards who learned C++? Man, that stuff is 30 years old. Who uses that crap? The dinosaurs?
This idea of 5 year old knowledge being useless is only true if all you can do is memorize stuff. You should have been learning how to think... not what to think. If you never caught on to that you were "out of date" before you ever left school.

Most Journalists Don't Understand Statistics (4, Insightful)

14erCleaner (745600) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191507)

For this profile, we mainly focused on two job categories as defined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics: network and computer systems administrator, and computer support specialist.

So they looked at the two lowest-paying job categories out of the 8 defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics [] , and drew conclusions about the education levels of other six. Hmmm, maybe that's not the best approach...

Re:Most Journalists Don't Understand Statistics (2)

14erCleaner (745600) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191555)

Which, on looking deeper at the BLS info, represents only about a third of IT workers.

My degree is Business rather than MIS (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191529)

My degree is Business rather than MIS simply because for my catalog year, MIS didn't exist. Yes, I'm old, just turned 40. I had the option to change my catalog year and take some additional non-MIS courses required by the new year, or stay on course (pun intended) and graduate with a general Business degree rather than an official MIS degree. It was still a fantastic learning experience, I was fortunate to have excellent professors, and still work in the industry today.

Tell it to HR that some wants CS for IT / desktop (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191547)

Tell it to HR that some wants CS for IT / desktop / helpdesk jobs.

I have even seen what / nice to have masters for IT jobs as well.

Passion over profession (1)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191583)

I'm degreed in the medical field, but found the tech world infinitely more exciting.

Also the fact that I could almost always resurrect my patients played a part in my decision to go with IT.

American Studies woo hoo! (1)

sootman (158191) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191607)

Been doing IT-ish stuff, up to and including moderate intranet app development, for 15 years. It's just the kind of mind I have: methodical, technical, but I didn't have the desire to get a CS degree. (Besides, do you need STEM to tell people to reboot so they can print?)

I don't have a degree...SO What!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191655)

It doesn't make me any less of an effective worker and as the Corporate OS Deployment Expert (a SR Architect Role) I have a much higher level position, more authority/respect, greater influence, and greater acknowledgement of my skills than a great deal of people with degree's.

In IT is about what you know, what you can do and the skills you have.

STEM For Pulling Cables and Reinstalling Windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191675)

You don't need an engineering degree, or even a college diploma to pull cables, reinstall windows swap out hardware, install software, configure routers, or any of the other menial tasks most IT folks do.

Companies simply ask for degrees to weed out the obvious addicts who shouldn't be there.

IT is like being a Barista @ Starbucks, or a worker @ McDonalds. Plenty of qualified people, so why not set the bar high.

DUH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191767)

I've been a Network Engineer for 30 years.

The IT field is an experience driven industry. Universities can't keep up with the ever changing technology, especially when those companies that develop the technology, have their own classes which they sell. It's not in their best interest to let a university sell it, and even when they do, it is taught at such a slow pace, that it's outdated by the time the student graduates.

Those of us that do well in the IT field, do so because we love it; we are more often than not, self taught.

On a job interview, you will usually be given a written and a hands on test. Those that can do it, get hired. And all the degrees in the world are no substitute to actual experiance. That piece of paper is not the same. It's RESULTS that are being paid for, not your paperwork.

its a pretty decent gig.. (2)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191773)

i have a four-year degree (CPEE) and decided long ago to focus on software instead of hardware, and thru my 30 year professional journey I have seen *drastic* changes in the personal make-up of the shops I've worked at.

Back in "the day" (hate that euphemism but used it anyway), programming in C, there was little room for error, as bad code could easily crash systems and cause very expensive issues. I took probably a year of working with them to *really* understand pointers. Companies simply couldn't allow just anyone to code...the potential and real costs were way too high.

Interpreted languages like PHP, Ruby, and Python make it so that pretty much anyone can start hacking away on some code and see results that make them think "damn, I can do this a make a decent living". If they can find someone looking for inexpensive development they can get a job, for awhile at least until either they reach a level where there incompetence shows (the tech "Peter Principle" of course)

Those with the determination and/or genetic blessing to understand coding can do even better and make a very very good living. Overall, I think this is a good thing.

Due to very poor life choices I currently work in a low-end web shop, and the people I code with don't even *like* programming, and are almost totally clueless about OO principles, design patterns and the like...they just want to collect a decent paycheck and don't want to work at McDonalds.

I can't say I blame them.

It's probably because people with STEM degrees are (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191783)

off doing other non-IT stuff.

Why do people always confuse IT with engineering?

Find me a person without a STEM degree who can design a wide-band transceiver, provide the modeled results and parts in a time frame that's business applicable and that'll make for a more interesting article.

There's a good reason for that (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191799)

IT does not involve Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math.

They fail to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191801)

Things like The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and (CCSE) are harder to get.

I've noticed this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191813)

I have a BScCS and also a 2 year diploma in Electronics Engineering. I worked for a company that had a lot of people from other backgrounds. It was very nice. But where I was (in particular) you really did need to know how to configure an IO card (it was old with dip switches) so that interrupts (and the connection) worked properly. You *did* need to know what a routing algorithm was and how it worked and when it was broken, because they needed one. Likewise SCADA remote sensing, remote sensing, etc. A lot of it was custom, and nearly everyone else I worked with was not up to the job. I noted that I was 'just another IT person, here's a dime, where's my dozen', and then I got a job somewhere else, and noted that for all the IT people they had, they couldn't replace me. Not internally, and with great effort externally (I think they had to hire someone with a CS degree for the software part, and contract an electrical engineer for the hardware part). They were shy about paying more than entry level for the longest time, but then had to pay more than triple that amount when I left. They even tried to re-recruit me.

IT is about use and behavior (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#45191829)

IT is ultimately a field driven by use and behavior. We particularly see this in the field of security: an engineer can design a system that performs within specifications, but if user behavior falls outside of expectations, the effectiveness of a system plummets. If an engineer designs an elegant system that completely ignores user requirements, users either won't use the system, or poor user satisfaction will ultimately drive a wedge between the business and IT - most likely costing someone in IT their job.

I received my BA in Psychology, and went back for an MBA a few years later. I work with many people who never received a degree, as well as several people with STEM degrees. I think it's short-sighted to completely discount the value of a degree; there are plenty of people who received no degree who happen to be brilliant, while others were simply burnouts. In the end, it's important that people working in IT realize that the systems and software they design and maintain must be something that users will actually be able to use. There are no doubt some engineers who have the skills to architect and design those systems, but I don't buy the argument that only a "great engineer" will be capable of such a feat. Successful design and implementation requires a diversity of skills, including, but NOT LIMITED TO, engineering skills.

Because IT is a skill (1)

EMG at MU (1194965) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191837)

The analysis is based upon two job categories as defined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics: network and computer systems administrator, and computer support specialist."

In other news, I did a study on the finance sector and determined that since the guy who works at the local Chase branch is in highschool that everyone in finance doesn't have a finance degree. I also found that I am also an expert statistician.

at least on is an entry level jobs though (2, Insightful)

mjwalshe (1680392) | 1 year,1 day | (#45191859)

Computer support specialist thats a first line helldesk role which normally doesn't require a degree
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