Without a doubt, information technology careers will continue to provide above-average wages and excellent job opportunities for the next several decades. The real question is where should you get the degree – if, indeed, you have a genuine aptitude for IT work.
The problem right now is that IT degrees are so much in demand that thousands of degree programs have been launched to offer training and education. But many of those programs are scams. They don’t provide much education; they lack qualified instructors; and most importantly, they have no ties in the business world to help their graduates get jobs. Your most important decision, therefore, is which IT school will you attend.
How do you make the choice? Well, you can’t do it solely on the cost of tuition. There is no correlation between cost of the program and the caliber of its programs or job placement services. Unfortunately, there is no government clearinghouse that ranks or rates the programs, either. You shouldn’t do it just on convenience, either, as the courses that are the quickest are often the weakest. Instead, you have to do research to determine which program will really provide you with training and will then support you in the all-important job search.
The first thing to do is to ask the school for information on its placement of graduates, and you can hope that the school doesn’t lie to you (there are penalties for deceiving students). Ask detailed questions – like the percentage of students who graduate from the program; how many years or courses it requires for them to complete the program; the number of graduates it helped place into jobs; the percentage of graduates who had jobs within 3 months of graduation; the average salary of placements; names of employers; and so on. If you get evasive answers or the school claims not to have the info, then go to another school.
The second thing is to do research on your own. Call up some big employers in your area and ask if they hire people with degrees from the school you are considering. Ask friends who have IT jobs which schools are considered reputable. Check out online chats and blogs, as people who have been cheated by IT schools are not afraid to write negatively about the experiences.
And don’t forget to call up a few IT headhunters and ask which certification and which schools are considered credible. (For those who don’t know, a headhunter is a person who finds jobs for other people for a commission paid by the employer. This is very, very common in the IT industry, where people often take contract jobs of 1-2 years that headhunters find for them.) Tell the headhunter that you will be delighted to be his or her client, as soon as you get the degree – and if you have any IT skills currently, ask the person to start sending you job leads now.
Finally, take a good, hard look at yourself. Are you ready to be serious about your education? Are you willing to take classes at night and to do the assignments during what would typically be your free time? Are you prepared to invest thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars in building your future? If the answer is “yes,” then go for it.