How to get started in IT without a degree

Who says you need a college degree to land an IT job? Out of 21 categories of IT careers, it's possible to land jobs in three without a college degree. A great place to get started is as a help desk analyst, network technician or desktop support tech, says Lonnie Emard, president of the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management (IT-ology), a non-profit consortium that works with businesses and educators to promote IT careers. "They could complete some certifications right out of high school, have a few apprenticeships and someone would hire them."

While many larger businesses still want a college degree for entry-level positions, small- and medium-sized companies are more receptive to the idea. It's basic economics, Emard says: "If I can hire you at $40,000 versus $55,000 I'll do it."

Emard, who is also a vice president of IT at Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, says while his company hires people right out of technical college, "there are times, because of our four-year college requirement, that we are paying $52,000 a year when we could have hired them for $30,000."

IT-ology is working to help IT organizations bring those opportunities to high school graduates to fill the talent pipeline, he says. And while the IT tech without a college degree earns substantially less, there's another potential benefit to the arrangement for those focused on an IT career: It could help high-school graduates avoid the college debt trap by working in the IT field while going to school part time -- and seeing how the like it -- while taking advantage of employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement plans.

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