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Degree-Free It: Can College-Skippers Thrive in Tech?

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With college costs sky high and the IT job market red hot, some people are skipping the university experience and heading straight to work in the belief that experience counts for more than a degree. Data on the number of currently employed IT workers skipping the college route is difficult to find, but with tech workers in high demand, and college tuition and student loan debt showing no signs of abating, at least some techies are beginning to wonder if they need a college degree to make it in IT. A 2013 national online poll sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities found 45% of respondents — a mix of people in all industries, with and without degrees — said they believe college was not worth the cost, while 41% said it was. High tech has long cultivated a reputation for welcoming renegades who take a pass on completing college, and employers in some instances are now embracing that philosophy.

People who skip college acknowledge that a college degree would likely help if they want to go into management, but they are not saddled by college debt. In their view, this is a big plus, particularly given that the pace of technological advances can render college courses obsolete in a matter of years. That's one reason IT workers are bypassing college, instead building skills with hot certifications, taking online classes, and studying on their own. That combination comes at a fraction of the cost of a four-year, or even two-year, degree — and yet it's enough to land at least some techies jobs with competitive compensation and ample advancement opportunities. Recruiters say companies look at what candidates can do and the skills they possess. Recruiters say that a growing number of employers recognize that they might miss out on superstar techies if they limit their choices to only college-educated candidates, particularly given the competitive job market and low unemployment rates within the tech sector.

From Computerworld
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