IT certifications or IT degree: what’s better for your career?

September 7, 2018

If you want to advance in the field of information technology (IT), should you get an IT degree or IT certifications? Mansour Sharha, core faculty in the School of Business and Technology at Capella, recommends getting both.

“A degree program gives you a broad base of knowledge about many different technology systems,” Sharha explains. “A certification is focused on a specific technology.” An IT degree and IT certifications aren’t interchangeable. They’re different, and each adds something important to your resume.

A degree in information technology gives you:

  • A solid foundation in computer science and a well-rounded IT skill set
  • Experience with networking, databases, web development, systems analysis and design, and project management
  • An understanding of how IT departments function, both internally and as part of an organization. You’ll learn about the business aspects of IT

Having well-rounded knowledge is an asset in any IT career, because even if your role is highly specialized, you’ll still need to interact with a variety of technologies and team players. Employers value IT workers who can collaborate across systems and teams to come up with creative solutions.

“Most companies don’t run their IT departments on a single platform—they use a variety,” says Sharha. “It makes sense to hire someone with broad knowledge.” What’s more, holding an IT degree signals to employers that you’re invested in the IT field, which may encourage them to invest in you.

IT certifications give you:

  • Specialized, up-to-date knowledge and skills in specific technologies
  • Expertise that matches your interests and career goals

Certifications are usually offered by product vendors or software firms, and they show employers that you have the skills to code in a specific programming language or to operate the company’s preferred networking system. Certifications are like a stamp of approval, demonstrating that you know how to handle a specific program or system.

IT is constantly evolving. By staying current with your certifications, you signal to employers that you’re committed to keeping your knowledge fresh and relevant.

“To keep up with the changes, tech companies usually update their certifications every year or even twice a year,” Sharha says. “The more up-to-date your knowledge and skills are, the more marketable you are.”

At Capella, earn both an IT degree and IT certifications

Capella offers a bachelor’s in IT, a master’s in IT, as well as doctoral IT degrees. Each degree program has a number of specializations to choose from, and each specialization is matched with IT certificates. “Your specialization will have dedicated courses that are linked to certifications and hands-on labs to help you prepare for the certificate exams,” says Sharha.

Find your degree program


Mansour Sharha is a core faculty member in the Capella School of Business and Technology and has served at Capella since 2007. As the IT Program Specialization Lead, Sharha heads up Capella’s efforts to develop new IT courses and certifications. He holds multiple IT degrees and certifications. 

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