Zero degrees

Despite the hype about out sourcing, offshoring and more recently the cloud, the IT Professional population in the UK is largely static at about 970,000.  Any population of this size is made up of a wide variety of people from diverse educational backgrounds, and they don’t all have IT degrees or indeed any degree. For example I went to art school and only got into IT because someone put an early PC on my desk. Appearing as an expert witness for the Serious Fraud Office it occurred to me that I had no academic qualifications and eventually got an MSc in computing from the OU.

I mention this because there will be a load of students who won’t get into university this year and might be thinking that their career is over before it’s started.  IT isn’t like that:

  • Vendor qualifications can count for more than degrees; you only have to look at the salaries for Cisco Microsoft, Oracle,Vmware qualified roles,
  • There are also best practice qualifications like ITIL, PRINCE 2, CRAMM  around the wider aspects of IT.
  • For all the qualifications in the world you can’t really bluff your way in IT, you can either provision a virtual machine, write PowerShell, understand DNS or you can’t. This is a good thing as it fosters trust, based on ability not class, religion, race or politics
  • Finally new technologies and principles come out which change established practices, some of which take a long time to ripple through to course content in academic qualifications. So even if you have a nice shiny degree you are still going to have to do some more study to get some of the industry/vendor qualifications

If it’s going to take £30,000 and 3/4 years to get a degree and you are going to work until your 68/70 will an IT  graduate catch up with the guy who studied for the industry qualifications and served some sort of apprenticeship?  Some will and some won’t. There will be the high fliers who will run companies, become directors and manage large IT projects where a degree and probably an MBA to follow will be be essential or at least justifiable, but that is only a few thousands or tens of thousands of the IT population.  On the factory floor the IT implementers will not necessarily need  a degree upfront and can earn very respectable salaries all over the UK and maybe study part time later on (like me).

Microsoft has several things in place for this:

  •  Britain Works is an apprenticeship based scheme aimed at creating 500,000 IT posts over three years< and now has a special program for under 25s , Young Britain Works
  • The Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) has specific cloud based training and basic assessments to help decide if this an area of interest to you
  • The main UK TechNet site which this week is full of careers advice
Comments (2)

  1. DSaxon says:

    An interesting post Andrew.  I got into IT without a degree, and three or so years in, the company I worked for told me I needed a degree to continue career progression.  They didn't care what the degree was in (i.e. it didn't need to be IT), but I needed a degree to demonstrate aptitude.

    I completed a self-funded Open University degree in Maths, though did indeed progress through the career structure within the company during that time (I never found out if this was *because* I was doing a degree or some other reason), but interviewers since have commentsthat an Open Univeristy degree on my CV demonstrates a dedication to self development.

    I'm not sure the OU degree has ever got me a job (or role) directly that my IT experience wouldn't have though…

  2. Andrew.Fryer says:


    Totally agree about the dedication, it's really hard to sudy and hold down the day job.  I think you do need both sometimes – the degree gets you the interview, the experience lands you the job and both help you be successful once you have landed the job.

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