Employer Perceptions of Accelerated vs Traditional IT Degrees

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • While some employ­ers may be uncer­tain about the qual­i­ty of edu­ca­tion from accel­er­at­ed pro­grams, many val­ue the up-to-date skills and prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence these grad­u­ates bring.
  • In IT, demon­stra­ble skills and real-world expe­ri­ence are often more impor­tant than the type of degree. 
  • Employ­ers increas­ing­ly rec­og­nize the advan­tages of accel­er­at­ed learn­ing in keep­ing up with indus­try changes.
  • A blend­ed approach, com­bin­ing ele­ments of both accel­er­at­ed and tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion, is gain­ing trac­tion. This hybrid mod­el allows for rapid learn­ing in fast-evolv­ing fields like AI and machine learn­ing, while tra­di­tion­al meth­ods can be used for broad­er, foun­da­tion­al subjects.

Accel­er­at­ed IT degrees have grown in pop­u­lar­i­ty in recent years because they allow you to com­plete your degree faster. This, in turn, enables you to enter the work­force soon­er. How­ev­er, there is some debate about tra­di­tion­al IT degrees and self-paced learn­ing. Specif­i­cal­ly, do employ­ers val­ue a degree from an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram as much as they do a degree from a tra­di­tion­al IT program?

This guide gives you insights into the advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of fast-track tech degrees. You’ll also learn about employ­er per­cep­tions of IT degrees and how prospec­tive employ­ers might eval­u­ate your accel­er­at­ed degree. Is an accel­er­at­ed IT degree the right choice for you? Let’s find out!


Understanding Accelerated IT Degree Programs

A fast-track IT pro­gram sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduces the time you need to grad­u­ate. In fact, where tra­di­tion­al IT pro­grams usu­al­ly take four years, an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram might only take two to three years.

Typ­i­cal­ly, the time sav­ings in an accel­er­at­ed pro­gram come from three sources. First, many accel­er­at­ed IT degrees are com­ple­tion pro­grams and uti­lize the cred­its you’ve already earned to count toward grad­u­a­tion. This is an ide­al solu­tion if you’re a trans­fer stu­dent or if you start­ed your edu­ca­tion but nev­er fin­ished it.

Sec­ond, time sav­ings in online IT pro­grams usu­al­ly comes from an accel­er­at­ed struc­ture. For exam­ple, you might take cours­es that are 5–8 weeks long instead of the tra­di­tion­al 16-week time­frame. Like­wise, some fast-track IT pro­grams have few­er breaks and require you to take class­es year-round.

Last­ly, self-paced learn­ing is a pop­u­lar option for accel­er­at­ed IT pro­grams. This can also save you time, pro­vid­ed you have the skills and knowl­edge to move through your stud­ies quick­ly. For exam­ple, if you’ve already tak­en sev­er­al cours­es in data­base man­age­ment, you might be able to com­plete a required data­base course ahead of sched­ule and then move on to com­plete a dif­fer­ent course.

In this way, you can tai­lor your edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence to your spe­cif­ic needs. Move rapid­ly through con­tent that you know well, and take more time to work through top­ics that you’re unfa­mil­iar with. In the end, you might save sig­nif­i­cant time through self-paced work.

Benefits of Accelerated IT Degrees

Aside from the time sav­ings you can enjoy, the ben­e­fits of accel­er­at­ed learn­ing also include the following:

  • Faster entry into the job market.
  • Low­er edu­ca­tion­al costs com­pared to tra­di­tion­al programs.
  • A focus on prac­ti­cal learn­ing you can apply in the workplace.
  • Flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing to accom­mo­date work and life obligations.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the fast pace of accel­er­at­ed IT degrees allows you to keep pace with the ever-chang­ing tech­nol­o­gy sec­tor. Since tech­nol­o­gy changes so fast, cut­ting the time you’re in col­lege by a year or two can prove ben­e­fi­cial for hav­ing cut­ting-edge skills.

Challenges Associated with Accelerated IT Degrees

These degrees aren’t with­out their dif­fi­cul­ties, though. Some of the chal­lenges of fast-track degrees include the following:

  • Intense, fast-paced coursework.
  • High poten­tial for burnout.
  • Focus on applied skills can leave gaps in the­o­ret­i­cal knowledge.
  • Few breaks and year-round sched­ul­ing dimin­ish­es the time you have for leisure activities.
  • Tra­di­tion­al employ­ers might view an accel­er­at­ed degree with skepticism.

Employer Perspectives on Accelerated IT Degrees

Though it’s true that some employ­ers are unsure of the qual­i­ty of edu­ca­tion gained in an accel­er­at­ed IT pro­gram, this is the excep­tion and not the rule. For exam­ple, research by BCG shows that the half-life of tech-relat­ed skills is less than five years. That’s just the aver­age. In some areas of this indus­try, the half-life is just 2.5 years.

In oth­er words, depend­ing on the IT sec­tor you’re study­ing, the skills you learn today will be com­plete­ly use­less just 2.5 years from now. From that per­spec­tive, employ­ers might have a more wel­com­ing atti­tude toward grad­u­ates of accel­er­at­ed programs.

Relat­ed to that, employ­ers can use accel­er­at­ed learn­ing to their advan­tage. For exam­ple, sup­pose you work for a tech firm as a soft­ware engi­neer. An accel­er­at­ed degree or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion could be just the tick­et if you need to learn addi­tion­al skills or explore new tech­nolo­gies. You might even find that employ­ers are will­ing to help you pay for addi­tion­al edu­ca­tion so they can reap the ben­e­fits of a bet­ter-edu­cat­ed employ­ee with more rel­e­vant skills.

Anoth­er way to think about the tra­di­tion­al vs accel­er­at­ed IT degree com­par­i­son is this: at one time, online degrees were frowned upon. Today, they are becom­ing more and more of the stan­dard. Accel­er­at­ed degrees are in the same boat. The future of IT edu­ca­tion could very well be in accel­er­at­ed learn­ing. After all, the pace of learn­ing needs to keep up with the pace of changes in the tech­nol­o­gy sector.

How Employers Evaluate IT Credentials

In sec­tors like IT, where you need demon­stra­ble skills to be suc­cess­ful in very niche sit­u­a­tions, real-world expe­ri­ence and applic­a­ble skills are much more impor­tant than the type of degree you have. This being the case, the cri­te­ria used by employ­ers to assess IT degree hold­ers is much more “show me what you can do” rather than “how did you earn your degree.”

Sure, your degree should be from a cred­i­ble insti­tu­tion at which you learned skills and com­pe­ten­cies that are rel­e­vant to the job for which you’re apply­ing. But by and large, employ­ers don’t much care if your degree was earned in a tra­di­tion­al or an accel­er­at­ed format.

To ele­vate your chances of get­ting hired, be sure the accel­er­at­ed pro­gram you enroll in offers oppor­tu­ni­ties for intern­ships and oth­er pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ences while you’re in school. This type of field-based learn­ing is essen­tial for hon­ing your abil­i­ty to apply what you’ve learned in your stud­ies in a real-life sit­u­a­tion. If the oppor­tu­ni­ty presents itself to earn addi­tion­al cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, it’s wise to do that, too.

Of course, employ­ers aren’t just look­ing for hard skills relat­ed to IT; they’re also look­ing for can­di­dates with a broad col­lec­tion of soft skills, such as the abil­i­ty to work inde­pen­dent­ly, punc­tu­al­i­ty, effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, and so forth.

Ulti­mate­ly, the secret to impress­ing poten­tial employ­ers isn’t much of a secret at all: be com­pe­tent and skilled, have con­fi­dence in your­self, and pos­sess essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics like cre­ativ­i­ty, prob­lem-solv­ing, and time man­age­ment skills, and you should have no prob­lem find­ing employ­ment after graduation.

Advantages of Traditional IT Degrees

This isn’t to say that tra­di­tion­al IT pro­grams don’t have their advan­tages, too. On the one hand, tra­di­tion­al IT edu­ca­tion mod­els allow for a broad­er cur­ricu­lum that expos­es you to a broad­er set of skills and tech­niques. This, in turn, can lead to the devel­op­ment of addi­tion­al hard and soft skills that employ­ers are look­ing for.

Fur­ther­more, as men­tioned ear­li­er, tra­di­tion­al IT degrees often focus much more deeply on the­o­ret­i­cal foun­da­tions. With a sol­id back­ing of IT the­o­ry, you might dis­cov­er that your under­stand­ing of IT con­cepts and tech­niques and the appli­ca­tion of those tech­niques is stronger.

Many tra­di­tion­al pro­grams also rely heav­i­ly on career sup­port ser­vices. You’ll find tra­di­tion­al pro­grams involve alum­ni in help­ing stu­dents like you chart IT career path­ways with the least resis­tance. Like­wise, tra­di­tion­al pro­grams usu­al­ly have a direct line to tech­nol­o­gy degree employ­ers in need of qual­i­fied job can­di­dates. And even if the pro­gram doesn’t lead to an imme­di­ate job, it’s com­mon for tra­di­tion­al IT pro­grams to offer grad­u­ates long-term career sup­port until they find suit­able employment.

Integrating Accelerated and Traditional Approaches

An inter­est­ing approach that’s gain­ing trac­tion in IT edu­ca­tion is blend­ing accel­er­at­ed and tra­di­tion­al prac­tices into hybrid mod­els of edu­ca­tion. For exam­ple, broad­er sub­jects and con­cepts (e.g., IT man­age­ment) might be taught in an accel­er­at­ed for­mat, while more niche sub­jects (e.g., data ana­lyt­ics) might take a tra­di­tion­al form.

In fact, this might be the future of IT edu­ca­tion. Rapid­ly evolv­ing fields like machine learn­ing and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence are good can­di­dates for accel­er­at­ed learn­ing sim­ply to keep up with trends. Mean­while, more tra­di­tion­al top­ics like mar­ket­ing, man­age­ment, and oth­er broad busi­ness skills might be taught in an accel­er­at­ed or tra­di­tion­al for­mat, depend­ing on the pro­gram’s goals.

What’s cer­tain is that tech hir­ing trends will con­tin­ue to pri­or­i­tize the best qual­i­fied can­di­dates. Employ­ers want reli­able, well-trained employ­ees; they can find employ­ees like that in accel­er­at­ed, tra­di­tion­al, and hybrid pro­grams around the country.

If you’re hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty decid­ing between an accel­er­at­ed or tra­di­tion­al IT pro­gram (or IT cer­ti­fi­ca­tions vs degree, for that mat­ter), try ask­ing your­self the fol­low­ing ques­tions to help clar­i­fy your wants, needs, and goals:

  • How quick­ly do you want to com­plete your degree or certification?
  • How do your skills and abil­i­ties align with dif­fer­ent learn­ing for­mats? For exam­ple, if you’re high­ly moti­vat­ed and orga­nized, you might be a good can­di­date for an accel­er­at­ed IT program.
  • What insights, if any, can men­tors give you about what to look for in an IT program?

Ulti­mate­ly, the more time and effort you put into mak­ing your deci­sion, the more like­ly you’ll choose the right pro­gram for achiev­ing your per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al goals. There will always be avail­able IT jobs. The ques­tion is, how soon do you want to start working?