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Which is better - a four year degree or several certifications?

If you had a choice of either earning a 4-year college degree or completing several certifications, assuming the individual would bear the cost, which route would you take?

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Dear JJB:
A wise man once told me that the answer to any really good question always begins with the same two words -- namely "That depends..." In your case, if you are preparing for a first career and have the time and funds necessary to pursue a degree it might make most sense for you. In fact, the younger you are, and the less work experience you have, the more strongly this argues in favor of a degree -- especially if you don't already have a college degree of some kind.

On the other hand, if you've already got some work experience in IT, or a degree in some other (perhaps unrelated field), it may make more sense to pursue certification rather than the degree. After 5 or more years out of school, one degree is almost as good as another in IT, since most knowledge bases must be totally refreshed every 3-5 years anyway.

If you'd care to send me more particulars about your background, age, and prior work experience, I can probably give you a more specific answer to your question. But without more context, I can only provide a general philosophical answer like the one you find here.

Good luck with your upcoming educational adventures.

This was first published in January 2003

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