IT Career Guide

Why Traditional Degrees May Not Be Enough in Today's IT Job Market

Why Traditional Degree Is Not Enough in Today’s IT Job Market

LinkedIn recently found that 19% of job postings in the U.S. don’t require a college degree; rather, they focus on skills. With the rapid pace of technological advancement in the IT industry, a traditional degree is not enough to meet job market demands. 

This article explores the benefits of alternative education paths, such as online training and coding bootcamps, and their potential impact on career prospects. 

Join us as we delve into the ever-changing landscape of IT education and uncover new ways to stay ahead in this exciting field.

The Shift Toward Skills-Based Hiring Practices

Demographic and technological changes have hampered the global labor market. In many nations, the working-age population is declining, increasing the demand for skilled labor. However, current talent acquisition strategies sometimes exclude non-traditional candidates. In a recent poll, 88% of hiring managers passed over highly qualified applicants because they didn’t have the “typical” credentials. 

However, the skills needed for a specific job have changed by about 25% since 2015, according to data from LinkedIn, and are projected to increase by 100% by 2027. Over 45% of LinkedIn’s recruiters have explicitly used skills data in the last year, up 12% year over year, due to this shift in how businesses find and fill open positions. In addition, the percentage of US job postings that do not specify a degree requirement has increased to about 19% from 15% in 2021.

LinkedIn encourages employers to:

  • adopt a skills-first mindset when developing talent strategies, focusing on people’s strengths rather than weaknesses and deconstructing jobs into their component skills. 
  • increase the emphasis on skills and the many routes to acquiring those skills, such as through online learning, certificate programs, and apprenticeships, in the hiring process as opposed to titles, companies, degrees, and schools.

With a skill-first approach, LinkedIn said employers can: 

  • add up to 20x more eligible workers to their talent pools, 
  • expand the talent pool of workers without bachelor’s degrees by 9% more than for workers with degrees, 
  • raise the proportion of women in the talent pool by 24% more than for men in jobs where women are underrepresented,
  • expand Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z talent pools by 8.5x, 9x, and 10.3x, respectively. 

With the value of learning and skills development becoming increasingly clear to LinkedIn members, the shift toward skills-based hiring practices is underway. In fact, Forbes says IBM and Hilton have successfully implemented skills-based hiring. These companies and others like them have increased prospects for non-traditional talent.

The Benefits of Alternative Education Paths

In response to the shift to skill-based hiring, LinkedIn suggests that workers develop job-specific skills, focus on in-demand skills, keep skills current, and showcase their skills. Enter alternative education paths. 

The following alternative learning paths are gaining popularity as a means to learn new skills and enter the workforce quickly. 

  • Online training programs: Drexel University discovered that businesses increasingly embrace online degrees from regionally accredited, renowned online schools. Online courses can be taken anywhere and are self-paced with subject-focused learning.
  • Bootcamps: A poll of HR managers and recruiters reveals that 80% have hired boot camp graduates, and 99.8% would do so again. Coding, data analytics, and digital marketing boot camps are intensive, short-term programs that aim to teach entry-level workers. 
  • Vocational schools: Employers now realize that the best employees may have skills, not necessarily a college degree. Vocational schools help. They teach plumbing, welding, and cosmetology and prepare students for licenses or certifications. 

These paths offer several benefits compared to traditional degrees, such as:

  • Time and Cost Savings: Traditional degree programs are expensive and time-consuming, but alternative education options typically cost less and take less time to complete. A coding bootcamp, for instance, might only last a few months but may only cost a fraction of what a four-year degree would.
  • Practical Skills: Career-ready skills are often the primary focus of alternative education programs, preparing students to immediately put their knowledge to use in an authentic context.
  • Industry Relevance: To ensure that the content of nontraditional courses of study is relevant in the modern labor market, they are often developed in collaboration with professionals in the field. This means that education is geared toward providing students with marketable skills.

Yellow Tail Tech offers alternative education paths that focus on the use of Linux and the cloud with its Lnx For Jobs and Clouds for Jobs programs. For those wishing to learn new skills and enter the workforce fast, Yellow Tail Tech’s programs are reasonable and accessible. The programs also teach practical skills students may use right away, preparing them for the workforce.

The Rising Cost of Traditional Degrees and the Potential ROI

College tuition and fees have increased by 7.1% per year since 2000, according to EducationData.org. The annual cost for an in-state student at a public four-year university is $25,707; the national average for in-state tuition is $9,377; and $27,279 for out-of-state tuition. A year’s tuition and fees at a private, non-profit university costs the typical student $37,641. However, after loan interest and foregone earnings, a bachelor’s degree could cost over $500,000.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports similar figures. The average annual cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board was $9,400 for public institutions and  $37,600 for private non-profit institutions in the 2020–2021 academic year. These costs are 10% and 19% higher than in 2010–2011. 

Although the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a positive correlation between education level and salary, actual earnings vary widely by major, gender, age, and other factors. Forbes cites research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce showing that those with a bachelor’s degree have a much higher median income (over $3 million) than those with only a high school diploma ($1.6 million). 

While a college degree can be advantageous, work experience and skill level are becoming increasingly important, as discussed earlier. Thus, having relevant experience and skills can determine a good return on investment (ROI), regardless of one’s educational background. Picture this: On Glassdoor, IT specialists with 0–1 year of experience earn an annual salary of $60,243; those with 4-6 years of experience can make $68,678; and those with over 15 years of experience can earn $94,776. There’s no indication of education degrees whatsoever.

Not to downplay the value of university education, but to get the best ROI, you need a salary that can cover and exceed the total of your education spending in the shortest possible time. However, you need the right skills and enough experience to get a higher salary. The question now is: can you get the job-ready skills you need from a four-year degree?

The Impact of Technology on Job Requirements and the Need for Continuous Learning

Advancements in technology, such as automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics, have significantly impacted the nature of work and the workforce. Experts’ views, however, differ on whether technology will create or eliminate jobs. While historically, technology has created more jobs than it has eliminated, the ILO points out in a report that job displacement is resulting from increased productivity and reduced labor demand and wages in some sectors.

Technology will continue to alter jobs in developed and developing nations. According to the ILO, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 400 million jobs will be lost worldwide. It’s overly simplistic to measure technology’s influence in terms of “jobs or no jobs.” The ILO said technology automates chores, not jobs.

The ILO stresses the strong possibility of a mismatch between technology and skills, i.e., between the requirements of new technologies and tasks and the skills of the available workforce. That means that while technology creates new job opportunities, it may also displace workers who do not have the required skills. Therefore, continuous learning is necessary to keep up with technology in the workplace.

Beer and Mulder said that automation and robotization of work increase mental and complex work, as well as workload and workflow interruptions. Employees need strategies to deal with the higher demands for mental, analytical, cognitive, and self-regulatory skills and take more responsibility for their professional development and work identity. 

Ultimately, technology eliminates some duties but generates others, so workers must learn new skills to stay competitive. For instance, ChatGPT can write code, but not everyone can make it do what they want, so prompt engineering was born. A prompt engineer instructs and trains AIs like ChatGPT and Google Bard.

Keeping Up with the Technology-Driven Change in the Job Market

Many jobs require new abilities due to rapid technological improvements. To be competitive in the employment market, job seekers and students must keep up with technology and skills. This involves using online learning platforms, reskilling, and getting appropriate credentials because a degree is not enough. Educational institutions and enterprises must also offer job-market-relevant training and development. 

It’s high time to upgrade your skills. Book a 10-minute intro call with our Enrollment Advisor now to find out how Yellow Tail Tech can help you become job-ready.

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Silvana Zapanta

Sil brings a wealth of experience to her writing and editing projects. After nearly a decade guiding college students in research and communication, she shifted her focus to freelance writing and editing. Her passion for education continues through volunteer work, where she empowers others by teaching research and writing skills.

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