Technical College vs. University

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Hello all- Would it be more beneficial to attend a technical college or university? A certain technical college, ECPI (www.ecpi.edu) in VA, has sparked my interest because they advertise 'they meet with some industry experts to discuss tech trends and what education needs to be put out to keep up with today's skills.' I want the best education for today's market, but also want the education for later when, let's say, I go up for CIO candidacy. Has anybody heard about ECPI? Went there? What about ITT Tech or Devry? I toured the ECPI campus...it's technical equipment looked up-to-date, but some of their books didn't reflect the latest software or hardware technologies, though they had some which did. I don't know the 'ins and outs' of technical colleges, so could someone give me some insight and advice on all of this? Thanks. P.S. Old Dominion U. (www.odu.edu) has a good Comp. Sci. dept, but is that enough for today's tech world? (Besides experience and certification.)

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If it is your intention to aim for executive ranks (You mentioned CIO), then you need to go to a university.

I’m not knocking technical colleges, but technical is ALL they teach. If you want to get into management, you’re going to have to know applied math, budgeting, writing (proposals, reviews, etc.) You’ll learn a lot of stuff that seems unrelated to your direct interest, but the higher you go in management, the more that “unrelated” stuff is going to count for – although it’s very hard to quantify what will or won’t be useful.

If you just want to be a techie, you can go either route. I’m a university graduate, but I don’t know that you’d be able to tell that by what I do for a living, since I’m still basically a techie. But since you’ve specified upper management, don’t hobble yourself.

Bob

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  • GreenMilo
    The breadth of your education is important but this should not be a "one-stop" shop. So consider this as one step and my advice about where to go is based (partly as you already indicate) on their publications. As important are WHO is publishing, who are the teaching staff, what is their reputation. It the years to come it is they who you will remember rather than what they taught to you. Contact people within the type organisation that you might wish to work and find out from the older more experience staffers who they wish they were dealing with now. By the time you have developed a targeted list of such people you may well find a completely different impression of what you want to do. Do not get too stuck with any one version of your questions, your expectations because there will always be something better, whatever, do not stop asking.
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  • Smfraser
    I have been to both. The "Technical" places will talk about their being accredited etc. but when it comes down to it being accredited with the "under water basket weavers" univeristy club doesn't hold water. Yes the classes I took provided good information but when it came time for positions (not titles) within my company or for when I want to move on the "Technical" college just doesn't cut it. I would have rather spent my time getting my MSCE etc. and then do what I am doing now by attending a University with higher level classes. No education hurts no matter where you go but spend the extra money and effort at a good 4 year college. Whatever you decided, make sure that the classes you take at the Tech college transfer to a higher institute. I lost 2 years because the #1 rated Tech college credits didn't transfer, well o.k. 3 of them did. Whoopdie Doo... Good Luck,,,
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  • Perk32725
    I would go with the university degree as well. Technical colleges are OK, but as was pointed out, the education you get is limited. A university will give you a well-rounded education. In either case, you should continue your education by getting certifications (CISSP, MCSIE, and A+ are all useful) and attending seminars, workshops, etc. In this business, getting a degree is just the start of your education. Hope this helps.
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  • Davidm16
    A technical college isn't a bad way to start. It can launch you quickly into a position where you can immediately contribute right out of the gate. However, many companies are very 'degree oriented' and want to see that piece of paper regardless of the discipline. I started with a technical college and later went to a few Universities and then another technical college (I hope I'm finished). I've gone back to school for technical related education about every 3-5 years and attended for 2 years of night classes each time. In this field it doesn't end. I still don't have a degree, but I'm a techie and not looking for a management position. A degree was never a goal for me. An interesting and technically challenging job with a high salary was my goal. I have that now and I now make more than my former Manager and his Director. Where you go and what you accomplish depends on your attitude and your character, not the piece of paper you possess. Good Luck!
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  • Mousejn
    I have been in IT for 35 years, I been a worker and a manager and now a business owner. A technical school will give you a very focused education on whatever field you go into but you will find it a lot harder getting a job without a 4-year degree. I have run into a lot of idiots with 4-year degrees and some very smart people with no secondary education but unless you plan to start your own business you will reduce your lifetime income by at least 1 Million dollars.
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  • VenPhil
    I agree with those recommending a university education. I have a liberal arts education, and it has served me well. Before I retired I had my own computer software consulting firm. I worked in a variety of fields, including automated warehouse ordering/stocking/shipping, combustion turbine performance analysis, psychological testing report generation, telephone network alarm monitoring, credit card transaction transfer, smart telephone applications, and research library online cataloging. All this with a 4-year degree. Whatever technical things you learn (in a university or technical school) will be obsolete within two years (at most) of completing your education. Hiring officials know this, and look for someone who can learn quickly. A university degree is indicative of this skill--learning how to learn. As a manager you will need to know how to select a group of people who work together well--both technically and personally. You won't get this expertise at a technical school, but might at a university (if you take some basic psychology courses). BUT...the important thing is that you do what you really want to do. If attending a university is going to be an unpleasant chore for you, don't do it--you're likely to fail. Good luck Phil
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  • BruceHopkins
    As you can probably tell by the other answers there are a lot of opinions. So I'll give another one. Let my talk a little about my background. First I'm an IT director for a two year Technical college. I aslo hold a degree in CIS form DeVry. Just incase someone says DeVry does not offer an rounded education, they need to look again over half my classes where geared towards management ( Even the humantities classes had a management element) Now this is not to say Universities can not offer a good education, they do, well just like Tech Schools some of them do. As far as accredidation most colleges are accrediated. If it by one of the regional accrediational assocaitions like SACS. The admissions office should be able to tell you who their acrediating agency is and a simle call to the agency will give you a lot of information about the effectivenes of the school. No everyone else here said University, I'm going to digress in the other direction. Find a good tech school like DeVry and pour your sould into the education. You always get out of an education what you put into it. that does not matter what kind of school you attend. The reason I say this is the faculty at the tech schools are usally people who have worked in the field, while a lot of time Universities tend to hire academics and these professors only know what they read in the books. So go to the tech school and learn how to do the job, Get a job and work hone your skills for a few years then afterwards jump into and MBA program at one of the larger schools. That should put you right into a track to your CIO title. Bruce
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  • NeoCentric
    Thank you all for your inputs. Let me add this to the equation. I also have Windows sysadmin work experience (NT/2000/98/XP), but not certs to document it. I have a little HP=UX experience. You can say that I volunteer my time towards IT projects and troubleshooting. NOW which road would you take, not overlooking the potential for offshoring?
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  • KProcopio
    I attended a technical school and received my A+ certification. That certification has proven most effective in my job as a network admin/technician, but without the 4-year degree, I could not increase my salary. I decided to pursue the 4-year degree and will finish it in 3.5 weeks. Was it worth it? Yes. The cost was enormous but the non-technical stuff (management, mathematics, presentation and writing skills) were well worth it. My advice - get the degree and the pursue certifications to keep your skills sharp. Best wishes.
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  • Bobkberg
    I should have said this when I first posted, but I didn't -so now you get both barrels.. :-) A university degree will give you a rounded education that is difficult to get at most technical schools - not impossible, but more difficult. As my dad reminds me - a 4 year (or more) degree is proof that you can not only learn something you've never dealt with before, but that you can stick it out for quite some time to see the process through to completion, and that you can tackle and learn a wide variety of things that you've likely never seen before. That said - it's a valuable quality to a potential employer to know that they've got a candidate who has the "stick-to-it-tiveness" to see a project through to completion. Bob
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  • Longshanks
    Hi All, Not sure if my input is of much use since I'm across the pond, but my 2 pence is this... I have a college degree (affiliated and acredited by a large university). These days it seems you need a degree to make the tea... ANY further education is valid (but some courses have more kudos than others). On campus further education gives you a roundedness and breadth of human experience you dont get in a work environment. It also has a shed load less politics and anciliary crap to deal with. The only time anybody has mentioned my degree was when I asked the direct question at an interview "Does my degree count for anything?" The answer was "Not realy, we just expect you to learn faster. If you dont, you are out!" Your age plays a large part in your prospects. Some companies think "if you are not ay level X by age Y them you dont have the drive needed". I hate beeing middle management, but its where I had to go or be left on the shelf. I am stil having to get various certificates because those I manage are snapping at my heels. A good friend of mine (age 40) is having to go to university because (even though he has been doing the job for 20 years) he cannot get a new job without the piece of paper. If I understand you right you have been working for some time and want to change your prospects? Ask your prospective employer what they want...
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  • DrillO
    Greetings.... Well, here it goes, one of my favourite subjects. I think that a Degree from a University will serve you well. It would seem that in this day and age, you need one to get any kind of job. Take Comp. Sci., it won't hurt. After that, use your experience to land that all important first job and then see if they have a program for attaining Certifications. If they do, you are on your way. Technical Colleges and the like are valuable, and that is where you learn the "How" of your chosen field. If you are headed for Management, a Degree gets your resume off the bottom of the pile. It is sad, but many businesses and organizations don't look at experience very hard. You might get a good position, but the ladder up may well be blocked. I am currently a manager, but I have no chance of going much further up the ladder or working for a larger organization because I lack the all important Degree. By the way, I have almost thirty years of mands on, real world and management experience. Good Luck, Paul
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  • Davemo
    Greetings all who gave information on this topic. I just want to say that reading these messages gave me some valuable insight into techncial colleges vs university degrees. I have been in I.T. for 23 years and have a son who will be a Senior in high school next fall. At this time, he wants to go into the technical side of I.T. He is interested in a technical college that we visited in Central PA that specializes in many technical trades; his focus is hands-on in networking and programming. I admit that I was impressed with the tech college. Small campus, great surroundings, no hustle and bustle, very rural area - that may be the best for my son. We'll see by this time next summer. I have two Bachelors' degrees so the idea of a 4 yr technical college didn't initially sit right with me however, I am trying (admit, I am trying hard) to give him free reign and choose that which he desires. I see the pros and con of each. A 17 year old doesn't know if he wants to be a techie or a management path candidate. At that age, my son only thinks of the hands-on. He has the passion and the intelligence for it. Thanks for all input.
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  • Astronomer
    I have a two year degree and my current job title is network engineer. It is a temp position. My expertise is in network design and network security. I have been looking for another job for over a year now. I have had a total of two interviews and both companies realized I was so over qualified they didn't want me because they expected I wouldn't stay. Given this experience, if you want to be more than a technician, get a four year degree. If you want to be a tech, the technical schools can do a fine job of preparing you. Some are better than others. When I was a desktop lead at Intel around ten years ago, we were nearly always looking for more techs. Even so, it got to the point we didn't bother to interview graduates from ITT. They invariably didn't know nearly enough. This may have changed in the intervening decade. Check it out with other employers and graduates. rt
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  • DrillO
    All very good and sound thinking on your part. I would add to what I said earlier by saying that I have noticed in my experience that some of the "technical schools" are cranking out people like crazy and the jobs in my area regardless of the hands on nature are going to the people with Degrees. I am sure you have already found this yourself. My advice to your son would be to take the high road, get the degree and go from there. It is good to still start hands on. As you move up the ladder, if people see that you've been in the trenches, they will respond better and you will understand them better as well. Paul
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  • Tsmitty
    The overwhelming recommendation here seems to lead you towards a 4-year degree. My advice is no different. I'd like to provide you with two bits of additional information, however: 1) Devry, etc., might not be a viable option. I've a friend who's an English professor at one of their campuses, and she swears the curriculum is a balanced one. Even so, most hiring managers probably don't know this, and are hence biased against the Devrys of the world (over other well-known 4-year universities, that is). 2) If you wish to eventually enter the executive ranks of corporate management via IT, you will likely need an MBA. You can't get in to graduate school without that 4-year undergraduate degree. The BA/BS degree is a platform providing you many career and educational options, where technical training will yield immediate opportunities - but little for the long-haul. Remember that whatever hard-skills you learn in school will be of little use in a few short years. If IT is your career of choice, then you're going to be learning for the rest of your life. If you can learn to problem-solve, and learn to learn, then you've gained two of the most necessary and immutable skills in IT. The hard-skills can be learned via certification tracks and the like. Just to give myself an air of credibility - I am the director of information systems for a $3.5 billion investment firm. I've done a good share of hiring over the years from the range of educational backgrounds. Your book-smart MCSE who couldn't problem-solve or communicate never lasted long with me. A 4-year degree tells me that the candidate can probably write, communicate verbally, solve problems, set and meet goals, and learn. If the skills are there - and a good interview will reveal whether they are - then we can look to see if the candidate is a good "fit". Meanwhile, the candidate without the degree probably doesn't even get the interview. These days, there are so many qualified candidates for any given position, a line must be drawn in the sand somewhere. College education is a good place to draw that line - especially for managers. Best of luck...
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  • Devabrata
    Its really a requirement to go to an University to learn 360 degree. I am putting my comment as I have tasted the both. I am graduated from a technical college and have done my Post Graduation from an University. Technical College gave me technical learning but that was not polished. But the university where I had done my Management gave me an complete learning as "bobkberg" wrote.
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  • Petroleumman
    Hello, From browsing the responses I'll probably just be reitterating what has already been said, but here's my two cents anyway. The best educational path for you is really going to depend on you. What are your short and long term goals, what is your comfort level with taking classes, how much time (and money) do you have budgeted for education. If your long term goal is upper management, then by far an acredited University will have the best programs and carry the most weight in today's job market. The down side is University requires a longer commitment of time and money as you will be required to take several non-IT related courses (English, Social Sciences, etc.) which are requirements of a degree. If your goal is a fast path into the job market, then technical schools especially those that offer the certification paths are a good choice. Since the IT world changes so rapidly, it's not a bad idea to set both short and long term goals for yourself meaning maybe take a shorter certification path so that you can become marketable in IT, then once you have a foot in the door and are employeed in the field, then work toward your University degree. This way not only can you pace your self to get the most out of your classes, but by working your gaining vital on the job experience which in my opionion, is by far the best education. As for schools, I am not familiar with ECPI but in Michigan ITT and DeVry both hold great reputations and degrees from either are worth having. As for University, well there are many options out there which all seem to have good IT degree programs as well as a variety of methods to complete the course work ranging from the traditional classroom to the more modern on-line studies. As long as you have a plan and are committed you should do just fine! Good Luck!
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  • Etittel
    Dear Neo: Frankly, if you're heading for upper management (and CIO is on that list), even a four-year degree won't be enough. You'll need some graduate education on top of a bachelor's, and given your interests both a master's in a technical field (like CS, MIS, IT, etc.) and an MBA wouldn't be out of the question. Advancing to the top levels of management usually takes most people, even fast-trackers, 10-15 years to achieve. I say this because you have time to take the interim steps necessary to move yourself in that direction. But I believe strongly you should not only go to the best university you can afford for undergraduate education, but also plan on pursuing graduate education at the best institution you can afford there, too. If you're lucky you'll get on with employers who'll grant tuition support to help you get more educated as you advance up the career ladder. But even if that's not the case, it's still worthwhile pursuing multiple degrees because they really do open a lot of doors. How do I know this? Because I attended an Ivy League school, I now recognize more than 30 years after graduating that it got me a lot of opportunities I never would have had otherwise. And even though my MA is in anthropology, it got me hired in the 1980s at Schlumberger Research, where an MA is required to get a job interview. It really DOES make a difference, and I can attest to that not only from observing and advising people in IT, but also from my own personal experience. HTH and good luck with your career planning and development. --Ed-- Ed Tittel 2207 Klattenhoff Dr, Austin, TX 78728-5480 Series Editor, Que Exam Cram 2 & Training Guides Technology Editor, Certification Magazine Editor/Writer: "Must Know News" CramSession.com Expert Q&A/content for 6 TechTarget.com Web sites
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  • Frank7666
    Tech college is better they have more current technologly and are more hands on
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  • Worker1
    I believe this is better answered with what is your current situation? Are you coming out of high school? If so I would recomment going right for a Bachelors. I graduated from ECPI. I made a career change at 28 and needed a fast track into the IT field. I chose ECPI because their credits transferred (most of them) at the 4 year universities I spoke with and had an accredited 2 year Associated degree. Plus they had a fast track where you could graduate in about a year and a half. I also got my A+ and MCP certs during my time at ECPI to go along with the 2 year degree. I then got a full time entry level job in the IT field, gaining valuable on the job experience while completing my Bachelor's at night. I am now a Director in IT. It was a long process (8 years in total) and a lot of hard work but has truly paid off. Assess your situation. Can you afford to go to a university for 4 years full time? Are you older and want to make a career change? Then figure out a plan. If technical college then get a list of classes you will take, go to a local/online university where you might complete your Bachelor's and show them the classes and ask. Will the credits transfer? Which ones won't? If some credits won't transfer maybe the technical college will let you change the classes to ones that will? Colleges have flexibility. They want your business/money! Make sure you have a long range plan, goals to attain. That will keep you focused on what is important.
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  • LSTEVENS
    Go with your instincts based on knowing your son. I've been in IT 20+ years with both a bachelors degree and a 2 yr technical school associate. I made the decision many years ago to stay with the technical side. There is more money & fun in it & less headaches than management, but some people are more suited to one side over the other. I've also found that any college degree is acceptable in the general business world 'cos it demonstrates an ability to work and learn at that level. Experience is the key to a technical job in IT and that is the benefit of the technical school over the theoretical focus of most universities.
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  • LSTEVENS
    Go with your instincts based on knowing your son. I've been in IT 20+ years with both a bachelors degree and a 2 yr technical school associate. I made the decision many years ago to stay with the technical side. There is more money & fun in it & less headaches than management, but some people are more suited to one side over the other. I've also found that any college degree is acceptable in the general business world 'cos it demonstrates an ability to work and learn at that level. Experience is the key to a technical job in IT and that is the benefit of the technical school over the theoretical focus of most universities.
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  • Pedwards17
    IMHO, if your aim is to reach upper management, then your only choice is a university. In the initial description of your quandary, you said that ECPI had the latest technology. That's great, but it's only good while you're there-- as we all know, technology changes fast, so we all have to keep up on our own. That means the benefit of the technical school is used up by about a year after you graduate. With the more diverse education of a university, the benefits will last for many years. Again, I say this with your goal of upper management in mind. If your goal were to be a technician in the long term, then the technical school would probably be more beneficial to you.
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  • ItDefPat1
    I've done them all and I've been fairly successful in nearly 15 years in IT. An accredited university or college is the best starting place if advancement and longevity in field is your goal. As others have stated, check the accredditation of any institution; any accreditation is good, but be concerned about transferring credits. See who accredits your local state university and/or community college. If different organization accredits the tech college or such, then your credits might not be interchangable (this might bite you at your job also). The benefit of a tech intstitution is speed of entry. They can get you into the field in a year or two. College/university can be quite longer, and even with a degree, might not get you where you want. To top off a tech program, get a certification. CompTIA has several street-level certs (A+, Net+, Security+, etc.) that probably go a long way for entry into field. I hesitate to call them entry-level certs. When money is no object ;-) (either due to your income or your employer), go for the "core" certs like MCSE, MCSA, CCNA, RHCE, and so on. Use them to demonstrate what you know. IMHO, certs should be a proof of knowlege and experience, not something to go to class and bootcamps to get (sadly, this is not the typical story). These certs prove what you know and what you have done. The elite certs like CISSP, CCIE, CISM, CISA and so on are very specialized and require specific proof of experience and knowlege as well as minimum time in those roles. These are (some of) the certs to get ahead and lead with. Also with all schools, check to see what their placement outcomes are like - where their graduates go, do and make.
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  • Jrmorency
    Hello neoCentric, I took both paths. First I went to a technical school (Brown Institute) and got a programming certificate in 7 months and become marketable. With this I was able to stay employed and later afford to get my BS degree at Northwestern College. The tech school gave me programming skills, the BS degree got me in the door for interviews. Both have been valuable. John R. Morency 763 546-2137
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  • Cadman6977
    Good Day To All. Where can I find more information on this subject?
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  • Meljune
    I go to Cybertex Institute of Technology in Austin, tx now, I attended ITT technical Institute I left to go to Cybertex only because I wasn't being taught anything I didn't already know. I like Cybertex, the instructors are very knowledgeable, everything is up to date, they offer 9 certifications for the price of one.
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  • Genderhayes
    Can be a low cost alternative to a four year university study to earn either a two-year academic degree, called an Associate’s degree, or a four-year Bachelor’s degree. A technical school offers practical training for careers and offers certificates and degrees for programs that can take up to two years to complete four-year colleges usually require you to live on campus for at least the first two years. Living in a dormitory with other students can help you make lifelong friends and business contacts once you have started your career more prestigious than a technical school education
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