Will lack of a degree or certification impact on your value or your long-term prospects?
Question: I left college before completing my computer-science degree and subsequently got a job in a telecoms company where I have been working for the past five years as a programmer.
I’m happy in my job but I feel underpaid for what I do (I’m on €32,000). I’d like to move on to another company but I’m worried that my lack of a qualification limits my options. Do you think I should move on or would I be better off trying to get some kind of certification?
Answer: I would never discourage anyone from completing their degree and it is an important consideration whether or not you decide to move on from your current employer at this time.
While some employers may consider experience in lieu, many will insist on a degree as the minimum qualification criteria while hiring, so this may hinder your ability to even get through initial CV screening. To that end, completing your degree has a clear, tangible benefit.
€32k is certainly at the lower end of what you would expect for five years’ development experience, but it is all relative. Are you aware of colleagues on higher salaries with the same level of experience? Can this be attributed solely to your lack of a degree? It is valid to question your salary level but are you using internal or external comparators?
It is worth considering industry-standard certifications relevant to your skillset also. Having up-to-date certifications combined with solid practical experience can even open up the more lucrative daily rate contracting area and at a minimum will give you more leverage in salary negotiations with your employer.
Barry Rudden is an associate director with Sigmar Recruitment and manages the Sigmar IT division.