Certification vs. Bachelor Degree: Which is best for you?

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Individuals interested in studying IT are in demand from employers. Roles like information security analyst are growing at a rate of 18 percent, more than double the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In order to qualify for these positions, individuals may need to develop and strengthen skills in the classroom. Prospective students should to find the right fit for them – and have a lot to consider when deciding between programs. Should they enroll in a certificate program? What about completing a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems? Here is a breakdown of what factors go into choosing the best program.

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What are the choices?

The options can stretch across a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems (MIS degree) or a certificate program in a sector of IT, including security or IT infrastructure. Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems 100-percent online can give students the chance to participate in online forums, develop a broad knowledge of different skills within IS and learn on their own schedules.

Certificate programs may offer specialized lessons focused on only one aspect of information systems. According to Certification Magazine, earning a certification allows individuals to build on an existing foundation, while informing them of the constantly changing state of technology.

What are you looking to do?

Are you looking to break into an IT field – or do you already have some background and you’re looking to develop more in-depth knowledge? Are you looking for the flexibility to move through different industries? You can use these career aspirations as a lens when reviewing program curricula to help find the right fit.

A bachelor of science can have several core focuses. The UAB BSIS program offers an Information Systems Core, where students can sample classes that focus on social media, project management and information security management, and an Upper Level Core.

In contrast, certificate programs may offer depth on one subject in lieu of breadth. For instance, prospective students interested in learning more about project management may benefit from professional certification in project management (PMP). According to PC Magazine, this certification gives individuals the tools to apply the skills of project management in technology spaces as well as other industries.

Is there a timeline?

Many of these programs hold class online – but they may vary in length. For instance, an online Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems can take as little as four years to complete. In contrast, certifications may have less structure than an online degree program, and as a result, may take less time to complete. In addition, some program certifications are dependent on passing a final exam – which may also entail an additional fee.

Since certifications showcase your knowledge of a changing industry, they can go out of date. For instance, Microsoft certifications expire every three years. However, a bachelor of science in information systems never expires. Professionals may find that the most successful solution is a combination of a bachelor’s degree with a certification program, which can help keep them up to date with changes in the workplace.

What does the market want?

The growing number of cyber security threats have companies strengthening their own defenses. Companies like RiskLens, a cyber security startup focused on minimizing the risk of threats, are growing in popularity, leading to an increase in demand for cyber security professionals.

“Boards/C-Level executives want to know: What is our loss potential, and are we effectively utilizing our capital and personnel resources to mitigate risk?” said co-founder Steven Tabacek.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the demand for database administrators – who ensure that customer data stays protected – will rise by 11 percent from 2014-2024.

There is also a breakdown of demand among different certification programs: Global Knowledge conducted a 2017 survey that analyzed the competitiveness of multiple roles – and found that AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate offers strong demand for program graduates. There are only 10,000 graduates and yet, AWS serves as one of the major foundations for sites to run on. It also noted that VMware powers thousands of businesses – and so demand is high for IT professionals that can manage this software.

What is the right fit?

Continuing one’s education can help individuals transition into different roles and potentially lead to a boost in salary. Finding a program that challenges an individual as well as give them the tools to succeed in a technological environment is essential. To learn more about the differences in a Bachelor of Science program and a certificate program, reach out to an enrollment advisor at UAB today.

Recommended Readings:
Career outcomes with a bachelor’s degree in information systems
BS in Information Systems to MS in Management Information Systems, which one, or both, is right for me?

UAB.edu, MIS Degree Bachelors
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts
Certification Magazine, Evaluating the unsung benefits of IT certification
PC Magazine, The 10 Highest-Paying IT Certifications for 2020
Geekwire.com, Cybersecurity startup RiskLens raises $5M to help businesses understand the cost of cyber risk 
GlobalKnowledge.com, 15 Top-Paying IT Certifications for 2020