Deciding on a college, university or institute is an important aspect of your educational process. Knowing the instructors’ level of teaching experience and the success of former students can offer some indication of the education you will receive. For IT students, there’s another component that should be addressed, and that has to do with certifications.
Certifications have grown in popularity as well as stature in recent years. Once relegated to individuals who either could not or would not complete a four-year degree, IT certifications are fast becoming a necessity when working in the IT field, regardless of the degree you’ve earned or your experience.
It’s now coming to the forefront that instructors with IT certifications may also indicate a more apt and fluid learning environment, so an important question to pose when researching different colleges is whether the teachers you will have are credentialed, not just degreed.
Whether you’re looking at a four-year post-secondary school or a two-year program, the faculty will have the greatest impact on your academic success, and their ability to adapt and associate the changes in IT advancements to real-world applications can be vital.
The rapidly changing landscape of IT has created a growing demand for credentialing among businesses trying to keep up. That means there are indications already surfacing that certified individuals, regardless of their educational background, may outperform their formally degreed counterparts. When you consider the impact that teachers have on students, those that are able to improve the classroom experience and simplify the material being discussed can lead their students to greater success in the long term.
Do you want an education that prepares you best for the real world, or one that simply shuffles you through the gates to place a diploma in your hand? Granted, there will be plenty of healthy debate regarding this issue, but the research and current evidence indicate a strong correlation between success in the classroom and a teacher who has certifications in IT.
Imagine this scenario: You’re sitting in an IT class discussing Microsoft system engineering. Your instructor is a fine person who earned his degree in computer science or IT many years ago and certainly knows what he talking about. However, technology has changed in the years since he was in school, and if he has only been teaching in those years since, and conducting research as mandated by most colleges and universities, then there is a potential gap in what he understands and the technology that is currently in the market or being taught. Textbooks can only go so far before that real-world experience comes into play.
Certification as a MCSE or CCNP or CompTIA’s vendor-neutral Network+ or Security+ certifications would indicate that the instructor has kept current with the changes in technology and would therefore be in a better position to assist his students in understanding the intricate dynamics that make the IT industry such an amazing field to work in.
The question then lies in where to look for this information about teachers at potential colleges or universities. If you’ve decided on a potential college, for example, it’s time to ask pointed questions of the admissions counselors. Some college Web sites will have this information available for review, but this isn’t always the case.
You will be investing your time and money in the college of your choice; it’s important to know what you’re paying for. You may find that there are few instructors teaching at these institutions who have certifications, and it may behoove you to continue your search if you feel that this factor of an IT education is critical, or you may consider if you’ll do well with the traditional professor model.
If the admissions office of the college or university can’t answer these questions, then visit the IT department and discuss your concerns with the dean or chair of the department. Don’t let ineffective administrative issues prevent you from learning as much as you can about your future program.
David Andersson teaches in the IT department of American Military University. Karl Reimers chairs the department of computer information systems and accounting at Mount Olive College. They can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.