Salary Survey Extra: The most effective IT job preparation
Posted on
January 31, 2019

Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

College, certification, D-I-Y brilliance. There are lots of ways to prepare yourself to succeed in IT. But what is the most effective job preparation?

There are many different ways to get started as a working IT professional. Most IT newcomers join the workforce with some combination of education and part-time work experience under their belts, but there is no exact job preparation formula that will guarantee both a smooth entrance and successful performance thereafter.

On the other hand, there are a handful of familiar career on-ramps, so to speak, that most people use to get up to speed and merge into the flow of workplace activity. You can't prepare in advance for every workplace challenge that will come up, of course, so the goal for most tech novices is to develop a broad base of knowledge and skills before jumping in with both feet.

So where should one turn to get the best, most effective IT basic training? We asked that question of the thousands of certified tech professionals who participated in our annual Salary Survey, to find out what they would recommend. Each survey respondent rated the effectiveness of five primary means of learning and preparation to enter the IT job force.

The number indicates the percentage of all individuals surveyed who ranked each mode of learning and development at each given level of effectiveness. Here's what we learned:

Q: How effective are the following methods at preparing an average individual to succeed in a professional IT job role?

College Education
Extremely effective β€” 13 percent
Very effective β€” 20.5 percent
Effective β€” 36.1 percent
Somewhat effective β€” 22.2 percent
Not very effective β€” 8.2 percent

Extremely effective β€” 18.5 percent
Very effective β€” 37.9 percent
Effective β€” 31.9 percent
Somewhat effective β€” 10.1 percent
Not very effective β€” 1.6 percent

Self-instruction/Learn by doing
Extremely effective β€” 33 percent
Very effective β€” 33.9 percent
Effective β€” 24.4 percent
Somewhat effective β€” 7.3 percent
Not very effective β€” 1.4 percent

Specialized technical training provider
Extremely effective β€” 22.4 percent
Very effective β€” 43.7 percent
Effective β€” 25.5 percent
Somewhat effective β€” 7.2 percent
Not very effective β€” 1.2 percent

Workplace training
Extremely effective β€” 34.5 percent
Very effective β€” 39.1 percent
Effective β€” 19.1 percent
Somewhat effective β€” 5.6 percent
Not very effective β€” 1.7 percent

There's a surprising lack of belief at least in the high-level effectiveness of a college education at preparing one to succeed in IT. Quite a few certified IT professionals, apparently, would downplay the importance of attending college and getting a degree before entering the IT workforce. Certification has strong "very effective" and "effective" numbers, but only a smallish core of respondents β€” who are all certified and work in IT, no less β€” believe certification is an "extremely effective" method of preparing one to succeed in the IT workplace.

There appears to be a great deal of self-confidence among certified IT professionals. Almost 67 percent of those surveyed think that either figuring stuff out on one's own or using self-study materials like books and videos is either extremely effective or very effective as preparation to succeed in IT. There's also high confidence in specialized technical training providers, schools or professional associations that directly teach core IT skills.

It would appear that workplace training, however, trumps every other method of preparation to succeed in IT. There are probably two ways of looking at that: You could plan to go in with solid foundational skills and learn the specifics by actually doing the work. Or maybe the implication is that you build up skills and knowledge by volunteering or working in low-pressure part-time jobs until you're ready for the big leagues β€” plan to come up through a sort of IT farm system, in other words.

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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