Like the age-old mythological image of a snake swallowing its tail, some arguments go round and round until there's nothing left but a guarantee of stalemate. All that ultimately gets settled is that there is nothing the opposing sides can do except agree to disagree. One point of frequent discussion in the information technology realm is whether aspiring professionals are better prepared to enter the industry by pursuing a steady diet of IT certifications, or by investing the time, money and energy required to complete a college degree.
Some observers argue that it doesn't have to be one way or the other. These peacemakers contend that there is value in pursuing both courses, and that each offers benefits that the other won't necessarily provide. With many universities and community colleges incorporating certification into computer science curricula, it's become increasingly possible to do both at the same time. The question of whether to start piling up certs or attend college is no longer a binary either-or proposition.
If you're in the camp that wants to benefit from both approaches, then it's worthwhile to think about what might constitute the optimal mix of higher education and certification. Both are study-intensive and both require a significant investment of time, mental energy and (in most cases) money. Contacts in the industry recently conveyed an intriguing tidbit from the Certification Magazine Salary Survey for 2015 that bears on the continuing college vs. certification conversation.
With the Internet of Things becoming more of a reality every day, Cisco's core CCNA Routing and Switching certification is an increasingly valuable career building block. CertMag's number crunching yielded the following data about U.S. IT professionals who are CCNA Routing and Switching certified and also have some level of college education:
- CCNAs who also hold a two-year college degree have an average annual salary of $100,930.
- CCNAs who also hold a bachelor's degree have an average annual salary pf $103,210.
- CCNAs who also hold a master's degree have an average annual salary of $98,310.
So you're likely to benefit from mixing a CCNA and a college education, at least up to the point of getting a bachelor's degree. On the other hand, however, there's also strong evidence to suggest that the most highly compensated CCNAs may be the ones whose background combines CCNA training with direct work experience. Among U.S. IT pros who meet the following three criteria ...
- CCNA Routing and Switching certified
- No formal education higher than a high school diploma or technical training (no degree conferred)
- At least five years' employment in a regular IT job role
... the average annual salary is an eye-opening $124,440. Wait, what's that? It sounds like an argument starting up again.