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What certifications are best to obtain if I want to earn a computer job without a degree?

I'm currently a first-year college student trying to obtain a Computer Science Degree. However, due to the cost of tuition, I'm looking at cheaper alternatives. As I wish to earn a career in the computer field. Which certifications (i.e Cisco or A+) or trades do you guys recommend that will help me obtain a good job. stem computer career

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Nicole’s Answer

Hi Deshawn H. I see that you posted this question a little while ago so I hope my answer to you (or others who may read this response) is still helpful.

Because there is no shortage of certifications floating around the computer science field, I think it is a good idea to stick with programs from reputable companies. You mentioned Cisco in your example. Reputable companies that have demonstrated a sustained history in technology would be a good start, in my opinion, if you are seeking certifications for good growth areas in technology and/or computer science.

As community colleges or other less expensive institutions go, if you could apply to classes that teach coding languages, that may also be a good start for getting into the computing space, getting jobs in the computing space and possibly giving you a good start to getting into a broader 4-year college/university.

Good for you for thinking creatively to meet your goals! And best of luck to you!
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Jessica’s Answer

The IT field is a very up and coming field to get into, but yes, you do not need a degree to get started in it. Some employers require a degree, but some are just looking for certifications. With this said, there might be some limitations with not getting a degree, but not many.

To start, I would suggest getting your CompTIA A+ and then CompTIA Network+. The A+ certification consists of a lot of terminology that will prepare you for the specific terms you will come across in the field. There are two certifications with this, but it is very well known. The Network+ will show employers you know how the communication works between different computers and different peripherals. These are great foundational certifications to have to get started in the field. As you gain additional experience, you can build on your certifications. I would suggest getting the CompTIA Security+ certification too. From there, you can decide if you want to go the route of working on the pieces of the computer or the programming side.

Good luck!
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Victoria’s Answer

Hi Deshawn,

You have asked a really important question. Computer Science, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degrees are very much in demand. These fields are changing very quickly so whichever direction you choose, you will need to be a lifelong learner - this is very important.

College is expensive, I totally get that. If you can get the four year degree in computer science that would be very beneficial. STEM professional with college degrees earn more than $1 million more over their lifetimes than people without college degrees. That said, there may be ways to creatively finance your college.

Talk to your professors and advisors about cooperative education. This is where you work and go to school at the same time. When you graduate you have a degree and experience too. Talk to your career center or recent graduates to see what they are doing and what the job market is like in your area or the area you intend to move to in the future. Many employers, offer tuition assistance so that you can go back if you need to learn new topics or gain certifications. Consider working for organizations that forgive student debt. Some students have their tuition paid by the military.

Sometime you can take part of your college courses at community college. Check with your advisor if this is possible. These courses tend to be hands on courses in some of the topics you just mentioned: A+, Network+, or Security +. Cisco also has some very good courses and tracks that can lead to excellent jobs. Talk to as many people as you can at your college and the local community college about the courses they offer and to determine if these are topics you are interested in. Make multiple budgets to compare what each option costs and add the cost of the course, the exam, and any training.

Many people gravitate to a specific area based on their talent or interest. Take a close look at what you like about technology and what your interests are. Then find the degree or certification that helps you attain that goal. Read as much as you can about each area. Maybe you really like databases and want to be a DBA. Maybe you really like networks so you want to be Cisco certified or get a Network + certification. Maybe you like security then go for the Security + or a CISSP. Maybe you like hardware, then start with A+. Maybe you like coding...or maybe you like it all and what to work on multiple certifications. Certifications are not cheap, but some of the entry level certifications are cheaper. Community colleges tend to be your most economical way to get these at the moment.

Then look at the future: what I mean is go out to tech websites, ISPs, tech companies, space companies.. and see what the next careers are going to be. Smart cities, autonomous vehicles, internet of things, smart cars, robotics, drones, sensors - smart farms, etc are all in their infancy but will be a large part of careers when you are entering the job market. at least 4 of the jobs you will have over your career haven't even been invented yet. Check out the internet of things and imagine what hasn't been invented yet but is on the horizon. Learn, learn, learn as much as you can.

Then really consider Network and Information Security as a possible field. All of these careers have at least one common thread: security. So whether it is network security, application security, database security, secure code, secure devices, encryption, etc. it is super important. When security doesn't work, bad things can happen. There are not enough professionals in the security field and it is definitely challenging - you will never be bored. Check of and to start to find a local chapter in your area. Consider becoming a student member and network with current members to learn about careers and job opportunities.

You are at an amazing crossroads in your journey and you have a lot of choices.
I know you will find an area that is right for you so choose an area that interests you and follow that path :).