Career Change

I'm 23 and a year out of college... graduated with a worthless sociology major/english minor. From U of I whose computer department was killer. I've always wanted to get into computers but their program sort of detered me. I want to get into the IT field, and have been looking into programs at devry and westwood. One of my friends who is in the IT field told me just to get my certs and I could get a job. MSCE he mentioned. I was wondered what you all thought would be the quickest and best way to get into the IT field for me. I'm really interested into going into networking. Any help you guys could give would be great.

hey man-

I made a big long post to you the other night, but it must have gotten eaten somehow.

I'll make one again in a bit.


the first bit of advice is to realize that the technology market is not like it was in the early 90's.

you're going to have to work and work hard to advance, keep training yourself in new technologies on your own time, and probably take some shit jobs like doing tech support calls for end-users.

the prospects are looking up for the compentant, though.

as the economy grows, tech will keep doing better and better than it has been.

the market was truly abysmal for tech workers just a few years ago, now it's not great but not bad either.

anyway, some advice for you-

  1. start fucking around with technology.

read forums. I will make a list, people can add to that.

try shit out! don't be afraid you'll break something, you may but you will also learn how to fix it!

a good start is always building your own computer. You can go for the A+ certs while you are it, if you want.

get a friend at school in IT or CS to get some legal copies of MS software like Win 2003 Server to you play around with - school gives them out for free.

install the OS'es on the computer you built and play with the software and administrate them.

after that, install a copy of Linux onto your server and play with it. Fedora/Redhat and SuSe/Novell are the standards for business, but Ubuntu will be fun for you to play with.

maybe get a MCSE cert or a Redhat, Novell Linux, or LPI cert.

while you're doing that, you should get some time in playing with Ciscos.

you can get Cisco simulators for cheap, there are free labs for CCNA-level Cisco equipment on the Internet you can access via SSH, and you can pay for access to more powerful equipment online, or go to a real training facility for Cisco equipment if you have one near you.

getting a CCNA wouldn't be a bad idea. It's probably the best of the entry-level certs.

remember the certs, at best, certify a minimal level of compentancy and familiarity. And there are a lot of bad certs out there that do a poor job with that.

you want to go BEYOND the certs, to absolutely, positivly, know your shit cold.

certs will not get you the job, but they may get you past HR into having a interview.

  1. Don't go to Devry, ITT, or any other tech school along those lines.

they are a ridiculously overpriced joke.

state or reputable private tech schools are OK, state or reputable private colleges/universities are better.

  1. Figure out what degree you want and what you want to do.

IT degrees are OK. Some are tougher than others.

a CS or CIS degree is a LOT tougher than most IT degrees.

your potential employers will notice that on a resume, and it's not uncommon for CS or CIS majors to do IT.

remember that certs must be renewed, while a degree is forever and counts for quite a bit.

more coming...


so you want to be a network guy.

well, not to disappoint you, but you may start off pulling low-voltage network cables for a job.

don't worry though - it gives you good experience, let you see how network centers and data centers are constructed, and you'll move out of it pretty quick if you keep studying hard.

ask as many questions about things you don't know about on the job as you can without pissing people off.

most people are glad to talk if they have time.

for network admins, you want to get up to a CCNP and CCDP cert as soon as you can. maybe go for a CCSP cert as well so you secure networks.

so start with doing the CCNA and CCDA certs.

wireless networks are big time now.. the CWNA, CWNP, and CWSP are the standards in the field, along with the
certs Cisco does for their wireless equipment.

ttt for rfquinn, who is actually a network guy.

IMO, you have a degree, don't waste your time at devry. Get some entry-level job, and study for the cert on the side. Certs can take a while though (if working at the same time). CCNA can take 3 months, CCNP can take a year, and MCSE can take a year.

Revolver and asdf have lynched the correct and beat it down with an ugly stick. Very good advice.

I'll third the opinion of Devry/ITT - type schools. Bang-for-your-buck, they're a poor choice.

You said, "I'm really interested into going into networking." Do you mean working on routers and switches, or overseeing servers?

Router/switch administration = Network Administrator

Windows/Linux/Novell Server administration = Systems Administrator

Those titles are mixed up quite a bit.

I'd say the best job you could hope for getting into the field would be a desktop repair tech or helpdesk support. That's where most network/systems admins start out. To land one of those jobs, you'll need to know hardware and software troubleshooting very well, along with some general network knowledge. To learn hardware, I'd suggest starting off by building your own computer from scratch, ordering each component separately while understanding WHY you chose each component. These sites will get you going on the hardware side:

At the same, start on your A+ certification. It's one of the most popular entry-level certs around for a reason. Software troubleshooting, IMO, is a little tougher to become good at. There are a limited number of hardware components in a computer; while there are endless problems that can go wrong on the software side. A+ covers some software as well, but I'd suggest studying for the 70-270 MCP exam to start to learn the innards of XP. (It's one part of the MCSE)

What you'll need to know on the network side should be easy compared to the software/hardware side. If you'd like, I'll give you a list of networking technologies to learn.

The most important advice on your path into IT, is consistancy. asdf advised me a while back on keeping consistant with my studies, and it made all the difference. Spend, at minimum, an hour or two per day on learning SOMETHING IT-related, and you'll be there before you know it.

I just hired three PC technicians where I work. The three biggest things that mattered were technical skills, attitude/personality, and experience. Since you don't have experience, your other two factors should be top-notch. Try and get on, well, anywhere at first; but concentrate on looking for jobs at smaller companies. The chances are greater that you'll get your hands on many different types of technology, instead of being pigeon-holed in a particular area.


Oh yeah, sorry I forgot about the network sims, Rob. I'll send those in just a minute.

I'm in the same place right now, same degree too!

I'm glad that I used the search key before I posted a new thread on this.

My brother in-law is a Network Admin. He's been giving me advice on my current situation. He has no certs at all. but he echoed everything that has been said here. How you have to educate yourself, do something atleast for an hour a day.

Keep up with as much as you can. He's even going to give me a couple of computers so I could start playing around with them.

I do feel the same way as you guys do when it comes to those schools. I think getting a cert will give me the foundation I need to get started and everything else has to come from self-education.

I am really interested in security, I think that this is going to give me the best opportunity in landing a career, and possibly landing a job with a police department or something(just a thought).

I am looking at a CISCO cert through my local community college.

What do guys think?

any more advice would appreciated since this thread is about 2 years old


I'm also a network guy. This field can tend to be a little difficult to break in to but don't let that discourage you. Others have already mentioned. Certs are good and can help you learn. The CCNA might not get you a job but it will teach you a TON. It might be a bit much for a complete n00b. You might start with the A+/Network+ and dicking around with your own PCs and making a little network.

Also after you've gotten familar with IP addresses and a small network, learn a *nix. (linux, unix, BSD, etc...) Even if you want to be a pure cisco goon in the future it will teach you a ton about the types of things you'll see going across your network.

Once you kind of know what you're talking about, network (the human guy) and try to find a mentor. This will save you a TON of time and might give you that first 'in' you need.

PS: On the low voltage cable pulling. Man, I don't know if thats the path to being a network engineer but then again I know a guy that pulls mid 50k just fishing wire around. That is awesome when you've got entry level techs making $12 an hour!


More things to consider. I'm not jumping right into it looking at the fall semester.

I would like to take a guess "feeler" class and see if this is what I would like to do that.