Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
Most working professionals probably remember the heavy trepidation of showing up for day one of their first real job. Not the first job they ever had — flipping burgers, bagging groceries, delivering newspapers, and so forth. We're talking about the first day that you began work as a full-time paid professional more or less entirely responsible to manage your own future.
Gulp. You never know how things will unfold until you show up and start working. Most young adults, however, have made some sort of effort to prepare, whether by relying on some combination of public and private education, by building up skills as a volunteer or apprentice, or whatever it is.
Even if you're supremely confident in your native abilities and intellect, it's hard to convince most employers to take you on without being able to point to some of preparatory background. "You can feel good about hiring me because I've done X" (or Y, or Z, etc.). It's safe to imagine most would-be professionals point to something, right?
Regardless of what they actually reference to establish their IT bona fides, however, what sort of background directly contributed the most their eventual success? What provided the most effective preparation to get a job, do it well, and move on from there to climb the professional ladder?
For example, roughly 85 percent of all the certified IT professionals to participate in our 2019 Salary Survey completed some level of college degree program, and the vast majority of those folks have at least a bachelor's degree. And everyone who participated in the survey has at least one IT certification. Certs and college, however, are actually not what most respondents feel provides the most effective preparation to succeed in IT.
To be clear, we didn't ask survey respondents to say what provided their own individual most effective preparation to succeed. We asked them to rate what they felt would be most effective at preparing an average individual to succeed in a professional IT job role. Then again, it's probably fair to expect most respondents to be heavily influenced by personal experience.
Only 33 percent of those surveyed rated college education as being either extremely effective (13 percent) or very effective (20.4 percent) at preparing them. Most rated it either effective (36.1 percent of respondents) or somewhat effective (22.2 percent), with 8.2 percent of those surveyed deeming it not very effective.
There was greater affirmation of IT certification as a means of effective preparation to succeed in the professional ranks. A more robust 56 percent of those surveyed said certification is either extremely effective (18.5 percent) or very effective (37.9 percent), with a further 31.9 percent rating it effective. Only 12 percent of respondents rate it somewhat effective (10.1 percent) or not very effective (1.6 percent).
Specialized technical training got an even stronger vote of confidence, with 92 percent of those surveyed rating it either extremely effective (22.4 percent), very effective (43.7 percent), or effective (25.5 percent). Just 8 percent of those surveyed believe that specialized technical training is only somewhat effective (7.2 percent) or not very effective (1.2 percent).
Self-reliance, it would seem, looms largest in the estimation of certified IT professionals when it comes to effective preparation to succeed in IT. By clear and convincing margins, most survey respondents think incoming IT professionals will get the most effective preparation either from their own self-study efforts or from on-the-job training. Take a look:
Extremely effective: 34.6 percent
Very effective: 39.1 percent
Effective: 19.1 percent
Somewhat effective: 5.6 percent
Not very effective: 1.7 percent
Self-Instruction / Learn by Doing
Extremely effective: 33 percent
Very effective: 33.9 percent
Effective: 24.3 percent
Somewhat effective: 7.3 percent
Not very effective: 1.4 percent
Both of these methods are highly praised by certified IT professionals, though workplace training has even better overall numbers than the learn-by-doing approach. Young professionals can rely on other methods of preparation to proved a general IT background, it would seem, but the best way to be successful is to learn on the job.