IT Academia Across the Pond

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Since their inception, our CertMag.com discussion boards have benefited from regular commentary by a member named “wagnerk” who joined the forums in November 2005. He offers reliably good advice for fledgling IT professionals and informed opinions on other issues in the industry.

So, for our first Academic Connection feature, we reached out to “wagnerk” to learn what the college experience was like for such a seasoned IT pro.

“Wagnerk” is Ken Wagner, an IT network manager at a secondary school in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor’s degree from University College Northampton; is certified in A+, Network+, Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST), Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE); and is an IC3 authorized instructor. “There are more, but this is the main bulk of it,” he said.

Wagner took night classes part time, a decision that came down to money — he needed to work while pursuing his degree.

“It was hard,” he said. “You don’t get to experience the full university life, but at the end, you get the same piece of paper and get to join the alumni association. It would have been nice not to have had to work during the day, joined the university sports club and just hung out with the other students. On the other hand, because I was already working in IT when I started my degree, I was already ahead in my chosen field and so far the only person, to my knowledge, from my year to get to a manager’s position in IT.”

Wagner said another reason to remain working while going to school is that a lot of IT grads have problems getting their first job. He said one reason new grads have trouble getting a job after graduation is because the education they’ve received doesn’t adequately relate to what they’ll end up doing.

“To be honest, I’ve either forgotten what I studied at university or use very little of what I learned,” Wagner said. “I specialized in software engineering, however. I couldn’t get a job in that field. So, instead of giving up, I continued down the route of support.”

Nevertheless, Wagner considers getting his degree one of the most important steps in the development of his career.

“My degree assisted me in climbing up the career ladder faster than if I didn’t have it,” he said.

If he could change anything about his college experience, Wagner said he would prefer to have gotten into a degree course that integrated professional certifications within the program, mainly because of the money it would have saved.

“Since graduating, I have spent more than £1,500 on professional exams,” Wagner said. “It would have been nice to have had one or two of these certs integrated into the degree to cut costs.”

The British college experience can be a lot more specialized than in the United States, Wagner said.

“If you study for a degree over here, it’s going to be about the subject you’ve chosen,” he said. ”I studied computing, so my bachelor’s of science didn’t include history, English, sports. Basically, it was only IT-related subjects. The only math we had to study was the formulas used to spec out computer systems.”

Wagner also provided insights about how U.S. IT development is regarded within the United Kingdom. “In my opinion, American IT development is thought of in the same way as any IT development from any country,” Wagner said. “Some developments are exciting, others not so much.”

- Daniel Margolis, dmargolis@certmag.com

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