IT Career JumpStart

Apr 4 2012   5:51PM GMT

Does Value Compound for Degree-plus-Certification?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I’ve gotten a fair amount of response and traffic to my Monday post this week, entitled “University of Phoenix Now Offers ‘CCNA Associate’s Degree.'” As I’ve pondered that feedback and comments, I’ve also looked around to observe that perhaps as many as 1 in 5 degree programs in some IT discipline (computer science, information technology, informatics, management information systems, and so forth) offer either IT certification plug-ins (which may be included in the curriculum at extra cost) or built-ins (which are part and parcel of the program itself). And this occurs not just at the associate level, but also at the bachelor’s and master’s levels as well, particularly for information security and increasingly for healthcare IT specialization.

This naturally raises the question posed in the title of this blog, which might be restated as “Do an IT degree and certification combined add up to more than either one separately?” While the obvious answer is “Yes,” primarily because employers prefer IT staff who combine accomplishments in both arenas, the real question might be better rephrased as “How much more is that combination worth?” or perhaps as “Is it worth paying a premium over the individual costs to get them together, possibly integrated into a coherent and cohesive educational program?”

I raise these issues because the cost of the University of Phoenix “CCNA Associate’s Degree” comes in between $17.5 and $28 K in round numbers by their own reckoning. Figuring the cost of a typical community college AA or AS in IT at around $5,000 and even allowing $4,500 for a CCNA Boot Camp (including travel, lodging and meals), that puts the cost of the UofP’s offering at between 84% and 194% higher than the combined costs of those items. That’s a big premium! Do you think it’s worth it?

As a parent with college bills in my future, and as an IT professional with a deep and profound interest in IT certification, I’m not sure this is a compelling enough value proposition to justify such a huge price differential. As I said in my previous posting, only if you have access to employer support, educational grants, or some other source of “free money” to help pay that bill would I recommend considering such a program seriously. As for financing it with debt I repeat Nancy Reagan’s famous phrase “Just say no!”

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