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Old 03.10.2015, 22:22
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Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

I started my IT career at a young age and decided to skip college as my practical / working knowledge was far beyond what I could learn. I currently have over 10 years of professional experience in systems administration, programming, networking and over 5 years of professional experience in business management (administration, marketing, customer relations, etc).

I currently have no certifications as for the past few years I've been running my own businesses. But would not be an issue to progress down the chains and obtain a few high level certifications (such as RHCA, CHFI, etc).

Would getting the certifications be sufficient in order to obtain employment in switzerland? Would there be any issues with the government due to the quota or minimum education requirements?

I am a non-eu citizen.

I've already started sending out my resume (probably 20-30 submissions). I've received some "no thanks" replies and I've received "we'd be interested to hire you but you don't speak [german | french]." replies.
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Old 04.10.2015, 00:56
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

While some places look for degrees, some are (sensibly) more interested in experience. Relevant certificates might help reinforce that, but not necessarily when they're very recent. Your best bet is to make sure you have a good CV, highlighting what you're good at.
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Old 04.10.2015, 03:42
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

In my experience, many (if not most) Swiss HR staff filter at least in part based on Swiss-recognized credentials. Experience is still valuable, but not a substitute for one or more degrees or certifications.

Also, age seems to be a growing factor in IT as there are ever more young folks fresh out of school with knowledge of the latest technologies willing to work for much less, also costing less in terms of mandatory retirement contributions.
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Old 04.10.2015, 12:00
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

When hiring, I use a uni degree as one of the filter criteria to give HR. So it's unlikely your CV would make it to my desk.

If you have highly specialist skills in a very specific area of IT (and for reference I don't mean "sys admin", I mean deep experience in some highly obscure variant of HP-UX that nobody should be running but for some reason someone is on a mission critical box, and they need a guy who understands the nuances of that version), it might be different, but you're going to face a struggle, particularly given that you're non-EU and appa entry don't speak the local languages. I would advise you to look elsewhere, but wish you luck nonetheless.
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Old 04.10.2015, 12:04
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

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Also, age seems to be a growing factor in IT as there are ever more young folks fresh out of school with knowledge of the latest technologies willing to work for much less, also costing less in terms of mandatory retirement contributions.
This is something anyone in IT should think about before coming to Switzerland - IT, until recently a growth engine, is now contracting here. Swiss wages are too expensive for many IT functions. Many companies are facing pressure to cut costs wherever possible. (And often where not possible. But that's another thread...)

Many IT folks have been laid off as jobs have been moved to lower cost locations, and the trend looks to continue.

Additionally, as Texaner points out if the jobs stays here often older IT employees are being laid off, to be replaced by younger less expensive folks. It's perfectly legal to do this in Switzerland - you can be fired for any reason, or no reason. Early retirement all too often is not one's own choice.

Read a bit about what is happening to the 'Ü50 generation' in Switzerland - across many industries, not just IT. Switzerland's high wages and generous pensions may not be sustainable going forward. In today's economy a global company has difficulty justifying Swiss wages and pension contributions against lower cost markets.

So... be aware that there are fewer IT jobs in Switzerland, be aware of the competition for those jobs, and think how you might position yourself with today's reality in mind. And given the instability in IT today it might be wise keep an exit plan in your back pocket.

Wishing you all the best.
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Old 04.10.2015, 12:53
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

What is the legal structure of your business and where is it registered?
What permit do you have?

I can't help thinking if your company is successful and established, you could set up some B2B relationships.

And did you know many years ago, one of the simple prerequisites was having a degree to get a permit?

For some junior roles, I may consider people without degrees but it doesn't pay as well as you would probably want. Your location also limits you too.

You could try companies like Bechtlé and Swisscom IT Services.......if you have not already.
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Old 04.10.2015, 13:52
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What is the legal structure of your business and where is it registered?
What permit do you have?
Over the years I have started 4 businesses. 1 was a delaware c corp, 2 were LLCs registered out of kentucky, and 1 was an entity registered out of hong kong. I've been successful and sold 2 of the previous businesses. I currently have no employment after my last business failed miserably and left me in a bad way (one of the LLCs registered out of kentucky).

All of my businesses were B2C.

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When hiring, I use a uni degree as one of the filter criteria to give HR. So it's unlikely your CV would make it to my desk.

If you have highly specialist skills in a very specific area of IT (and for reference I don't mean "sys admin", I mean deep experience in some highly obscure variant of HP-UX that nobody should be running but for some reason someone is on a mission critical box, and they need a guy who understands the nuances of that version), it might be different, but you're going to face a struggle, particularly given that you're non-EU and appa entry don't speak the local languages. I would advise you to look elsewhere, but wish you luck nonetheless.
Would RHCA (Redhat Certified Architect) or CHFI (Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator) be sufficient? I could very easily progress down those certificate chains and get to that point. I use the word system admin lightly as I do have a lot of experience with *bsd variants, irix, solaris, and even hp-ux that you mention.

The reason I have so much professional experience is that I didn't go to college. I'm still relatively young at 32 years of age. I only have a few years on those who would be fresh out of university.

I'm also to a point where I can speak italian (I need another 3 months or so of real world speaking experience). But given that only 8% of the population speaks Italian, and almost all business is conducted in swiss german, I think I'm asking a lot there.

Last edited by 3Wishes; 04.10.2015 at 14:25. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 04.10.2015, 14:19
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

You seem to be a jack of all trades. I would say if you get CHFU, CEH and some experience, you might be able to get into that line of business - but with no investigation experience, you will struggle. If you do such certs then also go specific with certifications for EnCase and so on.

The last thing someone wants is for you to have the certs but break the chain of custody or not know how to use a write-blocker when acquiring evidence. Also consider you will be asked about your qualifications when you appear in court - and in that business you will.

RHCA is all well and good but what about project evidence to show experience? Since you focused on B2C, you don't have it I think?

To put a positive on this, you may find that a resumé specialist will help you change your first impression.

Are you prepared to come in at the bottom of the chain?

And what permit do you have?
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Old 04.10.2015, 14:28
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

I have no permit. I've been staying in switzerland as a tourist for 3 months every 6 months. I was there for the first time in June 2014 meeting with another business to see if there was any potential to form a working business relationship with them. Since then, I've spent a total of 6 months in country since then and fell in love with the country. Specifically the bellinzona area of Ticino (for which there are almost no IT jobs).

I'm not worried about the pay to be honest. I'm after the visa more than I am a 100+K/yr position. I'd work for minimum wage in exchange for the visa. I can always make money elsewhere (as a consultant, or starting my own businesses).
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Old 04.10.2015, 14:34
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

What's his or her name?
Would you move?
Do you speak Italian?

I'd start with Swisscom IT Services - they cover the whole country. But your issue is being non-EU as well as ensuring you show tangible skills on your resumé.....
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Old 04.10.2015, 14:48
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

haha -- Even if it doesn't work out, I'd still like to stay in switzerland. It's why I'm after a work visa as opposed to looking for a fiance or other form of visa.

Yes, It's not an issue to move.

I speak some italian but not enough to deal with customers or interact in a business setting. Those verbs...

Thanks -- I will take a better look at swisscom. I've seen a few job postings from them but if I remember correctly off hand they were requiring a 4 year university degree. I was hoping to find a job as an overqualified reset button pusher in a datacenter out of lugano. But there are only a handful of DCs in the area and I've already sent my resume to all of them.
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Old 04.10.2015, 14:55
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

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I … fell in love with the country. Specifically the bellinzona area of Ticino (for which there are almost no IT jobs)...
I don't mean to dwell on the obvious, but one could easily live there (I love Bellinzona too) and commute south to Lugano or Locarno.

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...I'm not worried about the pay to be honest. I'm after the visa more than I am a 100+K/yr position. I'd work for minimum wage...
That's something maybe worth communicating up front in the most friendly-yet-professional way possible, and with convincing sincerity. Even so, looking at your history, don't blame them if they don't believe you, fearing you could want to use a low-paying position to get your foot in the door, then bolt at the next better opportunity.
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Old 04.10.2015, 15:27
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

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I started my IT career at a young age and decided to skip college as my practical / working knowledge was far beyond what I could learn. I currently have over 10 years of professional experience in systems administration, programming, networking and over 5 years of professional experience in business management (administration, marketing, customer relations, etc).

I currently have no certifications as for the past few years I've been running my own businesses. But would not be an issue to progress down the chains and obtain a few high level certifications (such as RHCA, CHFI, etc).

Would getting the certifications be sufficient in order to obtain employment in switzerland? Would there be any issues with the government due to the quota or minimum education requirements?

I am a non-eu citizen.

I've already started sending out my resume (probably 20-30 submissions). I've received some "no thanks" replies and I've received "we'd be interested to hire you but you don't speak [german | french]." replies.
A relatively large proportion of the Swiss workforce have no degree (apparently only 60% of the workforce of one of the main re-insurers in Switzerland have a degree), and while not having one can certainly put you at a disadvantage in terms of comparisons to your peers, especially at the beginning of your career, I would not say that it would "stop" you getting a job, especially with the kind of experience you listed. Far from it.

And yes, relevant internationally-recognised professional certifications are surely a good help, because they usually require a certain amount of proven experience before they become active.

I would say the biggest stumbling block in Switzerland is possibly being non-EU.
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Old 04.10.2015, 15:54
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

Can only reinforce all that's been provided in this thread. Came here a long time ago on the same premise, and it worked for me. But things have changed substantially since then. All major companies (don't know about the smaller ones) have focus on cost-cutting - so are out-sourcing to cheaper locations e.g. India, Eastern Europe or U.S. wherever possible.

Also, the talent coming out of the CH Unis in this area is amazing (e.g. my daughter ).

You do have to specialise if you want to make a career in the field here i.e. in development/business architecture/analysis/project management, and probably also within a specific industry e.g. banking (can't vouch for that though). On the other hand, there's a huge contracting market out there where they are looking for good experience - have you tried these?
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Old 04.10.2015, 19:31
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

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A relatively large proportion of the Swiss workforce have no degree (apparently only 60% of the workforce of one of the main re-insurers in Switzerland have a degree), and while not having one can certainly put you at a disadvantage in terms of comparisons to your peers, especially at the beginning of your career, I would not say that it would "stop" you getting a job, especially with the kind of experience you listed. Far from it...
For whatever it's worth (perhaps a little encouragement?), I got my first job in CH without a degree and only 10 years experience in IT, and it was the best salary I had ever seen.
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Old 04.10.2015, 20:16
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

Certifications are no substitute for a degree so forget them (think this is clear from the above). Keep working on the language intensively. I think that is the biggest improvement you could make in the shortest time.

Better still just get over here ASAP, my feeling is the longer you stay there the harder & more competitive it will get in CH. Even with a degree, banking experience, and certificates, without the language you will be taking second dips in what is an over skilled market place. Many grads here with local experience and permits already either struggle because of no language, or take pay cuts and compete with outsourcing companies, or worse still, find themselves with no alternative but to subcontract themselves to an outsourcing body shop at cheaper and cheaper rates. Maybe study something non IT as an undergraduate, do a degree in something else in Italy, Germany, etc. In Germany you can take a degree taught in English. You then learn german while there.

Rates have been decreasing slowly over the past 10 years in finance for example, a once key $$$ segment. All those formerly well paid techies are looking to switch out to other sectors as outsourcing, and service companies continue their relentless march on cost cutting deals. Many of those here for 10 years will have language skills that are not quite up to it but good enough. You are competing with them.
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Old 04.10.2015, 21:11
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

I do a fair bit of interviewing and generally we look for people with experience over a degree (big bank IT). Our adverts always say degree required but i think that's just an HR thing.

I have never said at an interview "tell me about your degree" ..
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Old 04.10.2015, 21:19
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Re: Are IT certifications sufficient in lieu of a 4 year degree?

I get the feeling that you think getting a permit to live/work here will be reasonably easy. Sorry to disabuse you of that notion, but as a non-EU national you're last in the jobs queue behind the Swiss/EU nationals. It's not impossible, but it is very difficult.

And yes, not having a degree could seriously hurt your chances of finding a job here.

"Cadre, specialists and other qualified employees will be admitted. "Qualified employee" means, first and foremost, people with a degree from a university or institution of higher education as well as several years of professional experience."

The criteria for being able to hire a non-EU national is given here:

https://www.bfm.admin.ch/bfm/en/home...zulassung.html

and the procedure an employer's application has to go through is here:

https://www.bfm.admin.ch/bfm/en/home...ensablauf.html

Unless you can stand out from the crowd and offer something no one else can employers simply won't bother to go to the time and expense of trying to get a permit for you.

The other thing you have to consider is the fact that Americans aren't that welcome in the banking world these days due to the US's FATCA law. You would need to sign a W-9 form to open any account here to allow the bank to pass said account info on to the IRS. You still have to do your US tax returns and depending on what you earn you could owe US tax on top of your Swiss ones. You'd also have to file a FBAR form if the aggregate amount in your account/s comes to more than $10,000 at any time of the year.

Start your research here:

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Inter...g-Requirements
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