This discussion lasts for ages and will never stop, at least in some in the near future. However, we do believe that the reasons given below could give you a solid basis to make an well-founded and balanced judgment.
1. One single standard
Microsoft Certified System Engineer is Microsoft Certified System Engineer anywhere in the World. The same applies to certificates of Cisco, ISC, Red Hat, Exin etc. People taking certification exams have to demonstrate approximately the same level of knowledge and skill. Thus, when you pass the exam, it no more matters if you learned the stuff in Switzerland or in Swaziland. However, no one can guarantee the same in case of degrees: a lot depends upon the university or college itself and employers do not usually spend much time verifying university credentials.
2. Certification is skill-oriented
What makes a professional different from an amateur is skill. Modern IT industry needs people who not only know how to do something, but really can do that something. Theory is not what money is paid for in IT, especially when it comes to annual amounts one needs more than 6 digits to write down.
3. Certification is less time-consuming.
You don't have to attend lectures during whole semester to take a certification exam. In most cases a month or two will do perfectly. Certification training is all about weeks, whereas degree is all about years. It is even more time-effective if you use specialized certification training software and certification exam software.
4. You get exactly what you want.
If you want to learn more about Cisco routers or Microsoft Networks Administration or Red Hat Linux, and later confirm that with proper certificate, no one will make you take philosophy or history of arts just because it's a college policy.
5. Employers search for staff with a skill, not with a degree.
Any HR officer will rather employ a Certified Welder than an MSc, Metal Processing if a vacancy to be filled implies a lot of welding. In IT industry this rule is even stricter. Cisco Certified Internetworking Engineer (CCIE), Microsoft Certified System Administrator (MCSA) or Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) means much more than just MSc, Computer Science.
As well, certification cannot be granted for playing football for the college, like in case
of many degrees.
6. Certification is cheaper
Although not cheap at all, the certification accepted worldwide is at least five times (!) less expensive than a degree accepted worldwide. And mind the 'hidden' cost of a degree, which includes accommodation, food etc. i.e. the money that will never get you closer to real knowledge or skill.
7. Certification is always more up-to-date
Curricula for certification training and appropriate certification training software, as well as examination software are developed by large market players to support their products: really, who will buy the stuff if no one knows what a good it can make. That is why curricula, training and exam software often appear at the same time with or right after the new product release. On the contrary, curricula of universities and colleges may be updated once in several years: too long to wait in rapidly-changing world of modern IT.
8. You don't have to leave your job to take certification training.
It is very important, isn't it? Just ask your employer if he/she is willing to give you a two-year vacation to complete a master's degree and then welcome you back with a promotion. We do not think the answer will be positive. On the contrary, the certification training, even day-time, rarely takes more than two months in a row, and there are a lot of evening, weekend and distance learning options available. Taking a one-day vacation for exam itself will hardly be a problem, if such a vacation is required at all.
9. You can prepare for certification exam at home and evaluate the tests online
Save your time by preparing yourself for certification exam at home. It is also easy to pass Certificate training online not losing precious time. It helps greatly, as many now-certified engineers and administrators admit it. Here is a list of the most useful certification exams (Microsoft. Cisco. Red Hat. (ISC)2. Exin ) to evaluate your skills for necessary certification.
10. Certification pays off faster
Not only certification costs you less money, but also does provide greater return on investment. Increase of salary - or a new job, why not? - will cover the cost within a year or two, while the money spent to obtain a degree may return slowly during five or ten years.