IT Career JumpStart

Nov 11 2009   9:37PM GMT

Online Degrees Worthwhile?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

The other day I got an e-mail from David F of Tuscaloosa, AL, that read as follows:

I was recently reviewing some of your writings and used something of yours in an assignment (properly cited of course). I am currently taking classes online through the University of Phoenix working towards an IT networking degree. My question is how do you feel about online programs such as this? Will this type of degree hold me back, in your opinion? Can you offer any thoughts of what I can do to increase my chances of being successful in the IT world? I am not in a big hurry but thought you would be a great person to ask these questions to.

Here’s my reply, which I’ll follow with some additional commentary (text reproduced by permission of sender):

Dear David:
The University of Phoenix has become one of the largest college/university systems in the world, thanks to its successful, global online degree programs. While a degree from UP isn’t on the same level as an Ivy League school, it’s on a par with most state universities. Thus, I don’t think this type of degree will hold you back, even if it won’t open a lot of doors for you either (snip). You should definitely take advantage of UP’s programs that let you earn MS/Cisco/ISC-squared and other certifications en route to a degree. The combination of degree plus certification is a good thing. You should also try to get an intern or summer position in IT as well, to add some real-world experience to your education and training.
HTH, and thanks for writing. Good luck in your educational pursuits and career planning. (snip) Thanks!

I remember hearing on NPR the other day that the University of Phoenix was the ultimate recipient of loan and grant money from Uncle Sam for something in the neighborhood of $3B for 2008 (see “Getting an Education Online” for a fascinating roundtable on this subject), and that online education is the current and future wave of growth for higher ed. Thus, I really don’t think any particular onus inheres to degrees earned online. Going forward, learning online and earnign online degrees will become far more the rule than the exception.

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