Find The Right School & Courses
October 16, 2007
Once you’ve figured out the IT role you want to head into, the next step is determining the education required for the job and finding the right school and course work.
While there are many working in IT who don’t have a formal educational background, most employers today expect a tech education and are looking for tech experts who’ve also taken some business courses as IT has become an integral part of today’s business environment.
Head online and research what your local community colleges offer in terms of degrees and courses for your tech area. A good first step is checking out InsideTech’s School Finder.
As you research note any accreditation and certification programs they might also offer for your field. Jot down estimated costs, including potential travel costs.
Then begin researching online courses that offer the educational programs you need. Check out message boards and investigate the reputation of online programs as you don’t want to embark on a course program to learn the institution isn’t regarded well or isn’t considered a viable educational program.
Online programs offer up a slew of benefits that brick-and-mortar institutions don’t: they allow flexibility for those working fulltime or parttime and many offer special and unique programs geared toward techies that often aren’t found in the local college course book.
While there is a great deal of interaction thanks to technologies that allow real-time chat with professors and classmates, through either Web or video cams, you don’t get the same social networking benefit of being in a ‘real’ classroom.
That ‘hands-on’ aspect and the ability to work in a collaborative lab environment can be very useful as well. So you may consider building an educational plan that incorporates both class environments.
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of potential schools and programs, take time to reach out and either visit in person or contact students and professors online to get feedback on the program and if it’s a good match for your career goals.
In talking with current students ask them if they’d recommend the program and also asked them where else they considered taking courses. Find out the good and the bad before you register for any program. Going to school, whether it’s for the associates, bachelors or graduate degree, isn’t a cheap endeavor so you also want to inquire about scholarships, grants and loan options.
A good starting point is InsideTech’s scholarship center.
For some techies the educational choice can be easy, especially if you decide you want to be a master in a particular area. That’s because today’s tech vendors, including Microsoft and Cisco, have built incredible certification programs.
If that’s the case with your tech goal, jump on the vendor’s Web site and get all the information you need and reach out and ask to talk with students. Often times these vendor certification programs can be found at local colleges as well.
Another great way to find out what programs and courses are best for a particular job is to ask those working in the field today.
Check out InsideTech’s forums where professionals discuss everything from IT challenges to job headaches. Reach out to InsideTech members who are in the field you’re aiming for and shoot them a question.
Keep in mind as you embark on your IT education path that continuing education is critical for several reasons. Technology is constantly changing and advancing and today’s IT professionals are expected to keep up and keep skills honed. It’s also pretty much a mandate for those who aspire to move into IT management roles.