Master's Degree or Certification?
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  1. #1
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    Master's Degree or Certification?

    Hey guys,

    I already have my BS (Computer Science) and was looking into getting an MS in Information Systems. I would go Computer Science, but I didn't get a programmer job out of college and it's been way too long.

    I currently have my CCNA (CCENT + ICND2) and have passed my CCNP BSCI exam. I just finished my two classes at the PCATT covering BCMSN and plan on taking the test in two weeks. BTW, the PCATT CCNP classes are 18 classes, twice a week for 9 weeks (for each exam). I plan on finishing my CCNP (all four exams) by July. My company is also sending me to training with Juniper and I expressed the interest in getting my JNCIA shortly after the boot camp is over. I figure I might as well, before I forget it all.

    People at work, I work at a Telco, have been saying that I'm going too fast and should cool down when it comes to certifications. I guess they feel that I don't have enough experience. It's pretty crazy, most of them don't even have their CCNAs and make it seem like it's some incredible certification that should only be held by someone with awesome skills. The fact that I'm going for my CCNP and there are guys at work that have more skills with Cisco routers than me is adding more fuel to the fire. If you ask me, a couple of them guys are just selling themselves short and should probably take more initiative.

    Anyway, I've been thinking about certifications lately. Is there a rule of thumb about work experience and certifications? Should I wait until I have more experience before I even attempt them? If so, I figured I might as well just go for my Master's Degree while I'm waiting.

    BTW, I have about 5 years of IT experience, 2 working LAN administration and 2 doing work with a Telco.

  2. #2
    AO's Filibustier Cheap Scotch Ron's Avatar
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    re: advanced college degree...Depends on what you want to do. If you plan to be a manager, you should round out your technical skills with some business skills. Perhaps consider an MBA with a concentration in technology. If you plan to stay purely technical, I would suggest a MS CS.

    Regarding the certs... As a hiring manager, I prefer someone with hands on experience over someone with certs alone or cert with minimal experience. Certs are helpful when you dont have hands on experience. Use certs to branch out into different skill areas in which you lack hands on experience. Also, not all certs are created equal. CCNA/CCNP are well respected but some others not.

    Not sure what you have accomplished in 5 years, but I would suggest you focus on getting an advanced degree. As you gain more hands on experience, the certs will mean less. An MS or MBA will open more doors.

    Anyways, that's my $0.02.

    CSR
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  3. #3
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    Hey,

    Most of the time, I find certs are useless... Sure as CSR mentioned, certs are useful when you don't have hands on experience... other than that the only time I'd advocate for them is if you have salary increases based on certification.

    If you've got the experience why do you need to stick the letters after your name to prove it? I've done plenty of training courses for certs to get the knowledge, but I've never gone and written the exam... They are money grabs.

    As for your MS, my opinion would be go for it only if you have a desire to teach at a college down the road (although, at least here anyways, that's not required) or if you want to go into some sort of management...

    Honestly though, if you've got the experience and the hands on skills, you've got everything you need.

    Your co-workers.. you need to decide if they're either worried you'll make them look bad with your ambition... or they're worried you aren't getting the skills. I can show you plenty of people that completed their CCNA based on memorizing some example tests, and CCNP too in some cases, yet don't have the skills to perform tasks in those areas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheap Scotch Ron View Post
    Regarding the certs... As a hiring manager, I prefer someone with hands on experience over someone with certs alone or cert with minimal experience. Certs are helpful when you dont have hands on experience.
    I agree with you. Nothing beats experience with an integrated personality. I know people taking Master Degree classes and never "had" a real job in the related field. You're are gonna fill alot of pressure that a textbook can't provide; you may not like the field. If I told a employer that my resume' is filled with fortune 1000 companies and I consider what I do a Hobby as well as customer engineering, I could easily override your "college" skills. Employers want employees to cut corners, run the department while they are away, and know when to say "no" to a customer. What you learn in a textbook is way different than reality at hand.
    Last edited by Linen0ise; February 28th, 2009 at 04:43 PM.

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    I'm not sure why anyone would ever tell you to "cool down" when it comes to getting educated (unless it's affecting your health or something )... I decided a long time ago that I wanted to focus more on the managing of IT resources than on the actual IT work, so I went with master's degrees (MBA and MISM). Now, I oversee folks who know a lot more than I do in certain areas, but who'll never get where I am because they don't have the degree (and many companies these days - or at least their shareholders - don't want to see too many folks without advanced degrees in management positions).

    There are plenty of opinions out there when it comes to experience versus degrees versus certifications, and I'd say that the only rule of thumb is: the more, the better...

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    Thanks for the responses.

    I think I'm going to push forward and get my Master's after I'm done with the CCNP. I think learning is driving me more than anything else. All this cool stuff to learn and none of it is taught at the CCNA level.

    I don't think the guys at my work really get it. We were troubleshooting a BGP issue and they were like, "You're a CCNA, what do you think we should do?" The CCNP doesn't even teach enough BGP; ISIS or MPLS to really do damage in a Telco facility, so I can't see why these guys think a CCNA is suppose to be a godly certification. I was able to figure out the issue, but it was because of what I learned in my BSCI class, not from CCNA material. It doesn't really matter how much I learn anyway, most of the really cool stuff is done by people far above my pay scale.

    I might look into MSCS, but it has been so long since I've done any programming and I would be a fish out of water. George Mason University has a nice Telecommunications Engineering graduate degree that I've been looking into, but I'm not too sure about moving to Virginia.

    I've been like many of you, I always took certs with a grain of salt. I took classes for certs and never took them. Passed a few MCP exams 5 years ago to make my boss happy and never really cared to take any more of them. I started to get back into routers/switches/telecommunications, so I figured I would read some Cisco books and do some labs. I started to have fun, so I ended up doing all the CCNA labs, a friend of mine had all the equipment. I figured that I might as well take the test, so I did and passed. Now I'm trying to learn more, reading Juniper books, taking CCNP classes, CBTs, Labs, etc.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator: GMT Zone nihil's Avatar
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    Well it all depends on where you see your career headed. As you already have a BSc and certification in hand, I think that a further computer based degree would be of relatively limited value unless you are looking at an academic or research role.

    My bet would be for an MBA. It is a universally recognised qualification that does not devalue with time.............business is business after all?

    Certainly it is better understood and respected by senior executives and stockholders It also shows diversity, and if you see a career in business, it might be a mistake to specialise too narrowly at this stage.

    Whatever you decide I wish you luck
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  8. #8
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    it depends on your environment o...in my country now an MS(here its M.Sc) is almost the same thing as a B.Sc so having it doesnt mean in anyway that u have to teach. it gives u an edge salary wise if u're just starting but if you've been working for bit then i think experience counts more

  9. #9
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    Thanks guy. I'm going to go all routes. I'll finish my Masters part-time; continue gaining work experience and take certs on the way.

  10. #10
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    That's a tough one. I've met employers that loved certs and others that didn't care. I have a few and am working on more. I am also working on my BS, which I feel is important. I'm toying with the master's after the BS, haven't decided.

    I am working in my field of study, which is nice.

    We have actually recently hired a person who had more certs than anyone else here, including CCNA and MCSE. Turns out they knew absolutely nothing. Claimed to have years of work experience as well, but none of us saw it. They lasted a few days.

    People like that piss me off, I think that certs should mean something. I work hard for mine and I don't sit for them unless I have the knowledge.

    Would you want your brake technician memorising his ASE just to pass?

    No.


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