no degree impedes climbing the ladder, was Re: mysql issue

Aaron Toponce aaron.toponce at
Fri Feb 10 07:40:47 MST 2012

On Thu, Feb 09, 2012 at 09:22:36AM -0700, Steve Alligood wrote:
> You find that having no degree still impedes your rise up the ladder?

Yes. Not just degrees, but credentials in general. If you're already with
an existing company, these credentials might not mean much to your employer
for promotions, but when looking for a new job, they can make it or break
it for your career. I have found, that when looking for new employment, you
have to be a bit more patient with that amazing job opportunity, if you
don't have any credentials.

> I find this topic fascinating, because I think it is entirely
> dependent on the shop, often to the shop's detriment.
> I have been doing sysadmin work for 15 years now, and most of the
> shops I have worked for have ended up with several dozen admins,
> most of whom do not have degrees.  In fact, usually only about 10%
> have degrees, and those shops have paid fairly well to anyone with
> the skills and can-do attitude, and do not care about that
> not-quite-worthless paper.

Unfortunately for me, it was to my detriment, as I could have been making
$20k more annually at the time. When I got a job offer from a fortune 500
company, they told me it was "the best we can do" because I didn't have a
degree. However, they also told me that they had a tuition reimbursement
program, and they would work around my school schedule, so I could finish
my degree. Only then would they negotiate a better salary.

I've also sat in interviews where the lack of having a degree came up in
the interview. I chose not to continue entertaining those companies,
"because I don't want to work for someone where a degree is everything",
but I would imagine, that had I already had the degree, I would have done
better for myself at the beginning.

In all reality, there are a lot of shops that can and will make an issue of
it, whether you hear about it or not. And if they're looking at a group of
candidates that seem equally qualified for the job, the degree and other
credentials become a great filter to ease the decision making process.

There is no substitute for experience, but credentials, such as degrees or
certifications, add a great deal of value to many potential employers. When
any employer looks at job candidates, credentials are a a common way to
sift through the candidates, and determine if they should come in for an
interview. Someone who is CCNA certified will likely get the Cisco network
administration job over the guy who doesn't.

Lastly, I learned a great deal finishing my education. It was more than
just jumping through hoops. I learned some fascinating abstract principles
that have become very valuable in my career, such as lambda calculus,
tautology and graph theory. I approach problems different now, than I did
before I finished school. It's clear to me that I spend more time thinking
about the problem, than just brute forcing it, looking for a solution. For
me, even if it does nothing for me financially, it has done a great deal
for me mentally. YMMV.

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