Salary Survey Extra: What is the most effective IT job preparation?

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

There are lots of ways to prepare yourself to succeed in IT. But what is the most effective job preparation?Everyone who gets a job in IT follows their own individualized path to employment that probably winds through a couple of different formative woodlands before arriving at a destination. There’s not a one-size-fits-all map from Point Wherever You Are to Point Full-Time IT Employment that will result in the eventual success of any person who uses it.

That’s not to say that Person A and Person B setting out to get a full-time IT job would never ever cross paths with each other, or spend any amount of time traveling side-by-side. There are definitely some tried and true stretches of the pre-employment landscape that almost everyone crosses on the way to the professional sector.

So what path should one follow to build up the best, most effective foundation of IT knowledge and skills before entering the workforce? We asked that question of the thousands of certified tech professionals who participated in our annual Salary Survey, to find out what sort of job preparation they would recommend.

Each survey respondent rated the effectiveness of five primary means of preparing to work full-time in IT. The number indicates the percentage of all individuals surveyed who ranked each mode of learning and development at each given level of effectiveness. Here’s what we learned:

Q: How effective are the following methods at preparing an average individual to succeed in a professional IT job role?

College Education
Extremely effective — 12.6 percent
Very effective — 21.9 percent
Effective — 34.4 percent
Somewhat effective — 23.6 percent
Not very effective — 7.5 percent

Certification
Extremely effective — 18.1 percent
Very effective — 35.9 percent
Effective — 31.1 percent
Somewhat effective — 12.2 percent
Not very effective — 2.6 percent

Self-instruction/Learn by doing
Extremely effective — 34.1 percent
Very effective — 34.4 percent
Effective — 23.1 percent
Somewhat effective — 6.6 percent
Not very effective — 1.8 percent

Specialized technical training provider
Extremely effective — 24 percent
Very effective — 42.5 percent
Effective — 24.8 percent
Somewhat effective — 7.1 percent
Not very effective — 1.6 percent

Workplace training
Extremely effective — 37.5 percent
Very effective — 36.2 percent
Effective — 19.4 percent
Somewhat effective — 5 percent
Not very effective — 1.8 percent

There’s a surprising lack of belief at least in the high-level effectiveness of a college education at preparing one to succeed in IT. Quite a few certified IT professionals, apparently, would downplay the importance of attending college and getting a degree before entering the IT workforce. That’s particularly intriguing given that nearly 80 percent of those surveyed hold some level of college degree.

Certification has strong “very effective” and “effective” numbers, but only a smallish core of respondents believe certification is an “extremely effective” method of preparing one to succeed in the IT workplace. Here again, context adds intrigue: every person who participated in the survey holds at least one current IT certification.

There appears to be a great deal of self-confidence among certified IT professionals. More than 68 percent of those surveyed think that either figuring stuff out on one’s own or using self-study materials like books and videos is either extremely effective or very effective as preparation to succeed in IT. There’s also high confidence in specialized technical training providers, schools or professional associations that directly teach core IT skills.

It would appear that workplace training, however, trumps every other method of preparation to succeed in IT. There are probably two ways of looking at that: You could plan to go in with solid foundational skills and learn the specifics by actually doing the work. Or maybe the implication is that you build up skills and knowledge by volunteering or working in low-pressure part-time jobs until you’re ready for the big leagues.

Each of the categories has its true believers, of course. So if something seems like it would be extremely effective for you, then that solution probably will, in fact, serve you well. There’s no one path that leads to success for everyone who follows it.

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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