Demanding full-time jobs, often coupled with hectic family responsibilities, prevent many IT professionals from pursuing the continuing education and professional development programs they need to remain relevant in the mercurial IT industry and competitive job market. But IT professionals who don't make time to take classes, study on their own, earn certifications or pursue advanced degrees risk becoming obsolete.
"If you want to advance in your career and do well professionally, education is second to none," says John Hally, a senior network/security engineer with EBSCO Publishing, a provider of research databases and ebooks for libraries, medical and government institutions. Hally, 42, has been taking classes on information security for 12 years. He's currently pursuing a Master's degree in security engineering from the SANS Technology Institute, a for-profit educational institution offering advanced degrees is security management and engineering.
"It's an investment in yourself," adds Hally, who's worked for EBSCO for 19 years. "I'd rather invest in myself than drop that money into a mutual fundespecially with the way the economy has been the last six years."
Continuing education is such an important component of IT professionals' career plans because it exposes them to new ideas, new technologies, new processes and methodologies. And it does help them stand out to recruiters and employers.
"When a manager or recruiter is looking at your resume and they see you've taken classes, earned certifications and pursued advanced degrees, it shows them that you have dedicated time to advancing your career and knowledge," says Bonnie Diehl, the SANS Technology Institute's chief academic officer. "It shows a willingness to learn and improve, and it's a real positive thing to see."
Here, Hally and other working IT professionals offer seven tips to help you fit continuing education into your busy work and family life.