Ask LH: Should I Finish My IT Degree?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m currently at university in Melbourne studying a bachelor of information technology. My end goal is to work doing windows or Unix systems administration at a large company. So far though a lot of the skills I’ve acquired don’t seem very useful in a corporate environment and since I assume a lot of stuff is taught on the job and specific to the company, I’m wondering is it all worth it for the bit of paper that says I have a degree? Thanks, A Guy Who Hates Wasting Time

University picture from Shutterstock

Dear Impatient Guy,

Up-front bias admission: I finished university. And I think you should finish university too.

It’s true that many of the specific skills you need for any particular role are going to be learned on the job (and that’s the case whether you’re doing a degree in IT, journalism, animal husbandry or anything else). However, when it comes time to apply for an entry-level job, who is going to look like a more promising candidate: the drop-out or the person who has demonstrated that they can stick with a three-year project, meet an ongoing series of deadlines and master new skills on a regular basis? I know which one I’d choose to hire.

University isn’t designed necessarily to train you with a highly specific set of vocational skills (though that can be the outcome if you do medicine or accounting or law). It teaches you to think critically and how to absorb and interpret new information critically. That’s utterly essential in IT.

I can flat-out guarantee that while there will be legacy systems in place in a decade, there will also be new technologies you will have to learn about, whether that’s on the job or through further training. The process doesn’t stop. Dropping out in the first wave of study is not going to make you look like a promising candidate, and will likely limit your career options later on. Stick with the study; you’ll have plenty of time to acquire the nuances of the corporate world when you’re done.


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