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VOL. 40 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 12, 2016

Degree not always needed for high-tech jobs

By Linda Bryant

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College degrees are more important than ever in helping job seekers land good jobs, but there are always some people who manage to forge unconventional career paths. They either don’t have a college degree or they have a degree that’s not in their career of choice.

And even when career success is achieved in an unorthodox way, it will almost always require some kind of training, certification or license.

Jarrett

Tanya Jarrett has worked at various levels of computer programming for the past 20 years. Jarrett, who majored in English as an undergraduate and has an MFA in creative writing, drifted toward computer programming because she had a knack for it.

Computer-related technology jobs – from basic programming jobs to network and computer system administrators and computer security specialists – are listed among Tennessee’s most in-demand jobs until 2024.

“I was teaching and realized it wasn’t for me,” Jarrett says. “I’d taken programming classes in college. I got more and more involved in programming and coding. I realized there was good money in it. Plus, I really like the work. I enjoy logistics and procedure.”

Jarrett is still relying on her advanced programming skills as the lead software developer for Premise Health in Brentwood.

“It’s an absolutely normal progression to work [in computer-related technology jobs] without a degree in computer science,” Jarrett points out. “Of course, plenty of people do have a computer science degree.

“No matter what, you still have to keep on taking courses and training. You have to know best practices in the field, and best practices change. You can’t stand still.

“I’ve never had a problem finding a job,” Jarrett adds. “Nashville has always had a high demand for these [computer-related and programming] jobs. Once you’ve established yourself here in Nashville, there’s a built-in buddy network.”

Jarrett believes the ever-increasing demand for data will continue to generate computer technology jobs in a major way.

“The demand for data is 24/7,” she says, adding that there’s a need for computer professionals who can explain technical procedures and topics to non-technical workers.

“It’s a certain kind of servant leadership,” she says. “Explaining how things work without having to talk in technical-ease is really an underrated skill.

Sales in the 21st century

One Tennessee job that’s expecting growth, sales representative, doesn’t necessarily require a four-year degree.

“You don’t really have to have a traditional academic background in sales, unless you are working in medical or pharmaceutical sales,” says Cindy Houston Hazen, owner of Sales Executives Professional Recruitment in Brentwood.

Hazen

“While a degree is less important, you do need a very important skill set to succeed.”

Many of the sales professionals Hazen finds job matches for began as sales reps, made a name for themselves and advanced to higher level sales management or leadership jobs.

“These days [clients] want the person who can cold call and prospect and be comfortable with meeting people all the time,” she notes. “They want the rainmaker, the hunter. You have to have that passion, that whatever-it-takes attitude.”

In other words, when it comes to sales an entrepreneurial spirit can compensate for a lack of a degree.

Sales representatives in wholesale and manufacturing who have a high school diploma or the equivalent, (excluding scientific and technical products) have a median salary of about $51,000.

Sales managers have a median salary of about $87,000.

Hazen advises those who think they want to pursue a sales career to look for a job with a stellar sales training program.

“Become a superstar and blow out your numbers,” she says. “Get in that circle of excellence. Then you can keep advancing. You can name your price.”

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