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The Most Important IT Credential:  An IT Education



The most important IT qualification (credential) is an IT education. Period.

An IT education means a BS or better (for higher positions) in an IT subject like computer science or electrical engineering -- ideally both (see What Is IT? Networking) -- from a good university.

I have seen IT officials, including a state Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) during a massive data breach, list as their only IT education, "was always interested in computers".

Given the sorry state of IT hiring -- see IT Hiring principles/entries ahead -- many IT incompetents without an IT education have no trouble getting an entry-level IT job. Then they repeatedly use that unqualified job experience to move up to a higher-level (higher-paying) IT job, for which they are even less qualified. After a few years their IT work experience seems, to IT incompetent employers, impressive, but they are still IT incompetent. See IT Hiring: The Peter Principle and Being Kicked Upstairs

Having only on-the-job training is nonsense for IT, as it is for doctors and lawyers. You can't just learn IT by watching since it requires understanding; see No IT Education: Cargo Cult. On-the-job training becomes just learning how to hide the fact that you are incompetent.

And yes, IT is as complicated as the law or medicine. The problem is that incompetent people don't even know enough to know what they don't know. You have to know quite a bit before you begin to know what you don't know. And in IT, the syndromes in No IT Education: "The Defaults Work So I'm A Genius" Syndrome and No IT Education: "I Can Use A Smart Phone So I'm A Genius" Syndrome make this problem much worse.

In short, work experience without foundational education is meaningless. Having worked unqualified for years is not itself a qualification, just a condemnation of the employer. Would you trust your life to a doctor or a lawyer with no medical or legal education?

Lawyers, being lawyers, have been restrictive about who can be a lawyer from early on; law school being the primary requirement. (Although technically anyone can be a lawyer if they pass the bar examination, this is nearly impossible without a formal education; the TV series Suits is a fantasy.)

Doctors took longer. For years anyone ("any quack") could declare himself a doctor ("hang out a shingle") and treat people. After these medical incompetents killed a lot of people, who can be a doctor became much more restrictive; medical school being the primary requirement. (Although technically anyone can be a doctor if they pass a medical license exam, this is nearly impossible without a formal education.)

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