Perspectives

Is college a cloud computing pro requirement?

Deloitte on Cloud Blog

Non-traditional technology training options offer students and professionals alternative ways to develop in-demand skills and enter the cloud job market, challenging the notion that four-year college is the only path to a career in cloud.

April 30, 2019

A blog post by David Linthicum, managing director, chief cloud strategy officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Is college a cloud computing pro requirement?

Some people who read the title of this article might think I’m one of those people who did not find value in college, or perhaps got kicked out. Nothing could be further from the truth.

College was one of the best parts of my life. I was in a fraternity, played sports, and got to leverage a real computer for the first time. Today my longest and dearest friends are people I met in college.

I also developed a passion for teaching. As an adjunct professor of computer science, I taught at a college for eight years. I built courses in computer science and followed what was trending so my students could enter the job market with the most in-demand skill sets.

Not that I want to put forth platitudes, I’m just trying to explain that college played an important role in the career milestones of my life and I know many other people with similar experiences. College proved to be a very worthwhile investment. However, traditional colleges can’t be all things to all people, and I’m beginning to see some reasons why a college education is not needed in the world of technology. A college degree is certainly unnecessary if you’re going into specific skilled work such as cloud computing developer, CloudOps, CloudSecOps, or “insert cool tech title here.”

What’s rather concerning is the way that we are funding college these days. While I could work part-time as a pool manager in the summer and as a server during school to pay a modest in-state tuition, higher education is so expensive these days that most people have no choice but to go into debt.

The total outstanding student loan debt recently soared past the $1.5 trillion mark1, but what’s most concerning is that this figure has tripled since 20052. Starting salaries have not risen as fast, and thus graduates are under more stress to pay off a high education loan with less money, debt which cannot be cleared even if the former student declares bankruptcy. While the credentials are valuable, I’m not sure they’re worth today’s price.

At issue is your ability to understanding a “cloud trade.” There are colleges that offer excellent training in computer sciences, even in a specific ‘trade’ within computer sciences. However, at every level of computer technology, there is training available from tactical non-collegiate sources, such as online training from independent third-party training and certification providers, or training directly from the technology providers, cloud and otherwise. It’s possible to get into the job market faster, and with no debt.

It’s doubtful the colleges would want you to take this path, and, for some people, they get more from a traditional education than a DIY curriculum. However, training is more of a commodity these days with well-developed coursework available, and businesses may not be as picky as they once were about having a college degree if you have the cloud talent they need.

Colleges have responded to this market demand by providing native cloud computing training along with traditional computer science classes.3 Cloud providers are also teaming up with universities, where the provider funds the courses and provides free cloud services for training purposes. However, many of those courses are not much different from the ones you can get through third party cloud training providers, and colleges are not likely to have all of the tactical courses you need to get a good, holistic understanding of cloud systems.

Students graduating from high school and people already in the workforce who want to reengineer their career will have a hard decision to make. Take on massive debt and go the traditional route to college, or lay out your own career objectives and go straight into on-demand training that will allow you to meet those objectives. As tuition and student debt continue to rise, I suspect college degree requirements will play a diminished role in computer-related jobs going forward. It seems likely that cloud computing will be the initial use case.

End notes

1Berman, Jillian. “Student debt just hit $1.5 trillion.” MarketWatch, MarketWatch. Inc., 12 May 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/student-debt-just-hit-15-trillion-2018-05-08.

2Feiveson, Laura. Mezza, Alvaro. Sommer, Kamila. “Student Loan Debt and Aggregate Consumption Growth.” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 21 February 2019, https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/student-loan-debt-and-aggregate-consumption-growth-20180221.htm

3“Major in the Cloud: NOVA and AWS Announce First Cloud Computing Degree.” AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog. Amazon Web Services, Inc. 20 June 2018, https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/publicsector/major-in-the-cloud-nova-and-aws-announce-first-cloud-computing-degree/

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