Following Up: Certs vs. College Degrees vs. Hands-On Experience

I know he can GET the job, but can he DO the job?

Last week, I wrote a post with the headline Working In IT with No Computer Science (or Other Technical) College Degree. It's provoked a fair amount of response, including a great comment from my old co-author, and long time colleague and friend Derek Melber.


First, let me tell you a little bit about who Derek is and what he knows, and then I'll share his comment on that prior piece with you. After that I'll play some variations on the themes he raises therein. Buckle up!


Who is Derek Melber, Anyway?


I first met Derek Melber in the late 1990s when I was the Series Editor for both the Exam Cram and Exam Prep series of IT certification prep books. If you check out this Amazon book search, you'll see he's written a number of books, including some with the familiar red and yellow covers from those series' trade dress.


In fact, he wrote about Windows OSes for those series for me, including NT4, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. He's also written about Group Policy, security audit, and other topics for other publishers, most notably including Microsoft Press. I'm pretty sure he was a Microsoft MVP for a long time, but his Linked In profile doesn't mention it one way or the other.


These days, Derek works as the Chief Technology Evangelist for Active Directory Solutions at ManageEngine, a leading purveyor of systems and network management tools and technologies. IMHO, he's the real deal.


What Does Derek Say?


The easiest way for me to reproduce his comment is a screen capture from LinkedIn. Here �tis


Your IT career needs: certs, degrees, and lots and lots of hands-on work experience.


Further Thoughts from Yours Truly


Derek's point are well-taken. Credentials by themselves — including both higher education degrees and IT certifications, even advanced degrees and LOTS of certifications — don't automatically qualify you to hold a job, any job. And he's absolutely correct to inject the all-important element of experience in explaining what employers want and look for most in prospective employees, and in choosing those who get promoted.


Ultimately, dear readers, it's not really about what or how much you've got by way of education and certification. It's what you can DO with what you've got that really, truly counts the most. So keep evolving, developing, and adding to your skills and knowledge, but also put them to work as much as you can, at every chance.


As long as you can work on test or virtual networks that won't impact product, one of the best ways to learn is to deliberately break stuff so you can learn how to fix it. The more you learn how to do (and fix) the more you'll be able to do with those skills and knowledge on the job.


That's where the real and best value lies.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.