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Technical college vs. university


Peer advice on the pros and cons of attending a technical college vs. a university.

Q: From neocentric: I am looking to further my education and am weighing the pros and cons of attending a technical college vs. a university. I'm looking for an institution that not only understands today's market, but would prepare me for the future, let's say, when I opt to try for

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CIO candidacy. Those of you in the industry, do you have an opinion on which option is better, based on your own experiences? I don't know the "ins and outs" of technical colleges, so I'd love some insight and advice.

A: From Perk32735, "I would pursue a university degree. Tech colleges are OK, but the education you receive is limited. A university will arm you with a more well-rounded education. In either case, you should continue your education by getting certifications (CISSP, MCSE and A+ are all useful) and attending seminars, workshops, etc. In this business, getting a degree is just the start of your education."

A: From mousein, "I have been in IT for 35 years. I've been a worker, a manager and 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 four-year degree."

A: From KProcopio, "I attended a technical school and received an A+ certification. That certification has proven to be effective in my job as a network admin/technician, but without the four-year degree, I could not increase my salary. I decided to pursue the four-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."

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A: From tsmitty, "The overwhelming recommendation here leads you towards a four-year degree. My advice is no different. I'd like to provide you with two pieces of additional information:

  1. Devry, etc., may not be a viable option. I have a friend who's an English professor at one of their campuses, and she swears the curriculum is a balanced one. However, most hiring managers don't know this, so they tend to favor those who have a four-year degree over those who do not."
  2. If you wish to enter the executive ranks of corporate management via IT, you will likely need an MBA. You can't get into graduate school without a four-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."

A: From jrmorency, "I took both paths. First I went to a technical school and received a programming certificate in seven months. With this certification I was able to stay employed and could afford schooling for my BS degree. The bottom line is this: The tech school provided programming skills, the BS degree got me in the door for interviews. Both have been valuable."

This question and answer thread was originally posted in the ITKnowledge Exchange forum

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This was first published in August 2005

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