Not all roads to tech follow a straight line from computer science programs to a full-time job.
For Tory Brown, IT certifications allowed him to explore a field that he might never have without the chance to self-study after college. Brown graduated from Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia with a degree in communications in 2013. Post graduation, Brown wasn’t sure exactly what was next.
After a few months of weighing his options, Brown decided to get an IT certification because he felt fairly tech savvy. After three failed attempts on the CompTIA A+ course certification test, Brown passed in 2017.
“Right after I got that certification, put it on LinkedIn, put it on my resume and started sending my resume out … people started to call me about jobs,” Brown said. “[It] was kind of a shock.”
Today, Brown is an IT specialist at Hive Group, a business consulting firm in Virginia. With a couple of IT certifications in his toolbox, he is in the process of adding six more.
While many prospective IT pros still go to college, the certification route continues to grow in popularity as success stories, like Brown, populate the workforce.
In 2022, a little over half of developers from 18 to 24-years-old learned how to code from online courses and certifications, according to a Stack Overflow survey. That number drops to a third of 55 to 64-year-old respondents and even less for those over 65-years-old.
Younger age groups more likely to learn how to code through online courses, certifications
“I think the standard path to becoming a developer [through] a four-year degree is, for the most part, going to go away in the next 20 years,” Nathan Sutter, global VP of engineering at CoderPad, said. “Which is weird just because I started when everybody had to get a computer science degree to even be considered.”
Employers lower degree requirements
There’s an imbalance in the technology industry, where the demand for talent far exceeds supply. As a result, employers have reframed their approach to tech talent attraction.
Whether it's wage increases or improving culture, these retention fixes won’t work unless the underlying issue of talent supply is addressed.
Many big players in the industry have started to phase out degree requirements in order to appeal to a larger demographic.
Amazon, Accenture, IBM and HP all have areas in which degree requirements are lower than national averages, according to a report from the Burning Glass Institute in 2021.
When comparing the number of job postings that required at least a bachelor's degree from 2017 to 2021, Google, Apple and Accenture have reduced their demand, according to the report. IBM saw slight growth in its degree requirements from 2017 to 2021, but the percent is still well below others in the industry.
Companies have reduced their educational requirements
The trend even reached the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in January of last year. The public institution released a statement reminding agencies of the “long-standing requirement” to limit degree requirements in favor of skills when hiring IT professionals.
The reduced demand for educational requirements lets potential prospects lean on certifications and experience to prove their skills, rather than a diploma.
Dakota Blakey earned a few certifications during his time at the University of Cincinnati, but they didn’t necessarily translate to his current role. Since working as a system analyst I at Miami University, Blakey has started working on more applicable certifications with his employer footing the bill.
“I think [what’s] really nice with [certifications] is that because there’s such a large variety, you can really tailor which ones and courses you do depending on what kind of job you want,” Blakey said. “So I think they really help make you unique as an individual, and they can separate yourself from others.”
Many employers have started to offer financial support for workers that show interest in gaining skills through online courses and certification programs.
After successfully self-studying his way through the CompTIA A+ certification, Brown has now enrolled in My Computer Career in the Information Technology Security and Administration program with the help and support of the Hive Group.