[OT] Career advice

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psycho
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[OT] Career advice

Post by psycho » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:23 pm

I have just started school for IT - even though I have been working with computers for 25+ years - mostly not getting paid for it. My original idea was to get an associates degree and get an IT job at a hospital (or another company with an in-house IT department).

In doing some job market research, I have discovered that I may need to rethink my plan. It seems that an associates degree will only get you a very basic entry level position answering tech support calls and whatever.

There have to be some IT professionals lurking around here... Am I wasting my time with an associates degree? Would I be better off spending more time/money getting a BS?

Right now, my choices are wide open as to what I study - IT or otherwise.

I tried to find a forum for IT pros but yahoo is not being very cooperative :( And, for some reason, google isn't working at all.

Kevin

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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by Dean Huster » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:55 pm

Paper.

I hate it. In the case of an IT specialist, he can work with networks, computers, operating systems, etc., do it quickly, do it well and some companies will only accept a person with the BS. And that person with the BS can be as incompetent as the day is long.

It's the same way with nursing. The older diploma nurse went to school for three years, usually as a resident at a teaching hospital, and in addition to the regular classes, had all kinds of shifts to work.

The AS degree nurse had a little more classwork and a little less hands-on experience, but still had two full years of good training.

The BSN has four years of mostly classroom "experience", almost no hands-on experience(it's a liability issue for the college, you know) and has picked up absolutely NO practical knowledge or experience. Most have only given IM injections to oranges or started IVs on dummies. Now, which would you rather be starting YOUR IV when you go in -- the fresh grad from the diploma program or the fresh BSN who can tell you all about art, music and creative writing while she's busy blowing one vein after another?

I teach college courses, but still, degrees are overrated, especially since it's a closed group that insists that degreed personnel are a much better investment.

Want to sell insurance, do insurance adjusting, sell pharmaceuticals or be a rep for fund raisers? You have to have a bachelors degree. Funny thing, it doesn't matter in what, you just have to have a degree.

Paper. Bah!!

End rant.
Dean Huster, Electronics Curmudgeon
Contributing Editor emeritus, "Q & A", of the former "Poptronics" magazine (formerly "Popular Electronics" and "Electronics Now" magazines).

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Bob Scott
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by Bob Scott » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:05 am

psycho wrote:There have to be some IT professionals lurking around here... Am I wasting my time with an associates degree? Would I be better off spending more time/money getting a BS?
Kevin
I think so. This is all my opinion. I think that most employers have a low regard for the quicker associates' degree. Most insist on a BS as a minimum, a baccalaureate. Even crossing borders, if a degree is required for entry into a job in another country, the BS is required.

I think that the "associates degree" is the recent invention of community colleges who envy the degree granting status of the real educational institutions, the established Universities. So now the colleges have reached their goal of having the enviable position of granting "degrees" to students, not just lowly "diplomas".

I wonder how many professional associations recognise an associates degree?
-=VA7KOR=- My solar system includes Pluto.

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Externet
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by Externet » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:56 pm

At my previous employer, servicing their line of products from production line flaws and customer units, I asked a top manager what would be the correct way to do repairs; if by replacing the suspect area components fast; or skillfully troubleshooting to pinpoint and fix the exact problem.

The answer was surprising :shock:

Miguel
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haklesup
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by haklesup » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:43 pm

A BS degree is a prerequisite for many jobs, period. Even for nearly identical jobs, it can mean 10s of thousands of dollars per year difference and that difference does not diminish over time no matter how smart you are. Regardless of Dean's opinion about actual intellegance vs certified intellegance, the BS is worth it in the long run.

Now if financially or time wise, a BS would be impractical, thats the case for many people, it just isn't an option available. But if you can do it, DO IT. It may put you in debit for the balance of your 20s but will put you well ahead of the crowd in your 30s and beyond (assuming you are in the low 20s now). Also lets not forget the personal social benefits from being in college.

In a thriving economy, employers may overlook the BS degree but in times like these it may mean the difference between a job or none at all or a layoff. For some people who don't like all the non technical classes that go along with a BS but want more than an AS, some schools offer an EET degree, which is somewhere in between. Some employers may not know what that is though. Unless your math is weak and you are pressed to start a career, go to a 5 year engineering school with a co-op program (assuming you can afford it)

If you do go all the way to a BS, your choice of career will probably be shaped by your learning experiences and the job market when you graduate. IT is not a glamour job, mostly its plugging cables and configuring software, IT guys usually aren't designers, they are problem solvers.

Look for some surveys about engineering pay. Many trade magazines run a survay and have results online. Search on salary survey or "engineering salary survey" IEEE has a good one and so does evaluation engineering and design news magazines, In fact most trade mags do.

If I had it all to do over again I would probably stay in electrical engineering but would focus more on embedded systems with half hardware and half software focus. Either that or DNA researcher.

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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by dyarker » Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:55 pm

Why not both AS and BS? When I went (a long time ago), most of the non-major classes for first two years of BS curriculum were the same as AS curriculum. Maybe some overlap in electronic classes too. Check with college to check which credits will transfer from your local community college. You might save big $$ doing first two years at community college. Or, knock off English 101, etc at community college to lighten your homework load when you go to four year college. There are all kinds of combinations, especially if you've already got some credits that will transfer.

Last minute thought ... check out CLEP to get credits for things you already know.

Cheers,
Dale Y

psycho
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by psycho » Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:13 am

I am hearing just about what I thought I would hear. I am almost 42, btw. I will have to make sure that all of the classes I take will transfer into a 4 year college (most likely, Purdue).

Thanks for all the replies!
Kevin

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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by jollyrgr » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:49 pm

I can answer your question with a simple basic computer program:
  • 10 Get Certifications
    20 Update Certifications
    30 Goto 10
I work in IT. I have a BS in Electrical Engineering. Have used computers since 1KB was a lot of RAM. Installed many systems involving computers for the company I work for including building automation, security systems, DVR for cameras, medical data collection, and so on. Another guy had a BS in computer science. Many years experience in database management, web development, and was even a manager for network administrators. Installed and configured firewalls, content filtering systems, and a number of applications. HR discovers we don't have "certifications" from industry recognized companies (Read: Novell, Microsoft, Cisco). HR decides we have 30 days to obtain such a certification or we won't have jobs. BS in related fields (that took four or more years to earn) no longer mattered. But a certification that could be obtained in 30 days "magically" made us smart.

I'd not bother with Novell. Get all the Microsoft certifications you can afford (MCSE/MCITP). Get Network+, get Security+, get CCNA, get LINUX+, and so on. The MCITP is where Microsoft is going for the high end. For the security minded (recovering computer evidence, malware invesigations, intrusion detection, etc.) consider CISSP. This cert covers more than just the basics and is geared to someone that has been in IT for a few years. Working in a job that requires CISSP should get you a six figure (USD) reward for your efforts.
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haklesup
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by haklesup » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:29 pm

jollyrgr, are you saying skip the BS and go straight for the certs? Or does your employer require both?

If no BS prerequisite for a job or the certification courses than clearly the certifications are a much faster path to a paying job than a BS. I suppose the job outlook is still good for those who are a step or two above a Geek Squad member.

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jollyrgr
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by jollyrgr » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:05 am

haklesup wrote:jollyrgr, are you saying skip the BS and go straight for the certs? Or does your employer require both?

If no BS prerequisite for a job or the certification courses than clearly the certifications are a much faster path to a paying job than a BS. I suppose the job outlook is still good for those who are a step or two above a Geek Squad member.
I'm saying you need both. The BS got me the job but in order to remain employed I needed to get a certification. And certifications need to be added to all the time. At least two people I have worked with are now former employees because they lacked certifications and didn't want to get one. No amount of convincing could get them over the test anxiety. A third relented at the last moment. They were intimidated at the thought of having to take the test and figured career change or early retirement would be easier. I (and others) convinced only one otherwise.

An AS or BS (or military equivalent training) is a much better flag on the resume but certifications are also required. High school diploma or GED alone won't do it.

There are many people that have years experience but no degree or certifications and will state how experience counts for more. To some extent that is very true. But with all this experience and no updates they become stale and know what they already know. Technical fields are constatly changing. They may have 25 years installing technical systems but now these systems use computers/servers. Refusing to learn computer systems hoping they will go away just isn't going to happen. The certifications show you have actually looked at the material and have been able to answer questions about it (more later).

What a college degree proves is you know how to learn. In high school they will hold your hand and help you pass. (I know, my brother teaches special needs high school students.) In college you need to learn the material on your own. This may mean more books and documentation than what is given in class. I highly doubt college will teach you how to format a hard drive, build a redundant RAID set, or install an operating system from scratch. But using your research skills learned in college will be able to research and learn how to do this. College could not have taught me to do the things I do in my daily job as most of them didn't even exist then!

The Microsoft certifications may mean you will have to "unlearn" things you know from real life. You will have to answer the questions the way Microsoft wants you to. One example I can recall is Microsoft's suggestion of using a Windows XP Professional (read personal desktop OS) computer as a print server. This works fine on my three computer network at home. You'd never use peer to peer if you want to keep your sanity in an office of 10 or more computers. But Microsoft still wants you to know how to setup a shared printer on a desktop OS.

As far as Geek Squad. Some of these guys are VERY good when they get into a corporate environment as they know computers. Many are "n00b wannabes" getting their feet wet. You must LOVE the technology behind it. The worst thing you can do is get into IT because of the money. Many of the Geek Squad guys get a bad rap because they are under pressure to get as many computers in and out as quickly as possible. They are also dealing with idiots that constantly infect and reinfect their computers with MALWARE.
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by psycho » Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:14 am

Well I have changed my plans to get a BSCIT degree. The associate courses will be at Ivy Tech community college and the rest at Purdue.

Some of you mentioned the Geek Squad. I applied for a position there but I won't do sales. If sales is involved, I will reject any job offer. I guess I am too honest. I don't believe in selling someone something they don't need. i.e. someone needs a basic starter computer and you try to up-sell them a more expensive one. I ran my own computer biz for 10 years and I would never do that because word of mouth is very important (to me, at least).

Now, I would recommend an extended warranty. No more than 2 or 3 years. Since most people don't want to know how to fix their computer when it breaks, this is good insurance for most people.

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haklesup
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by haklesup » Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:33 am

I mentioned the Geek Squad as a well known example of Consumer level IT support which is primarily associated with desktop OS and common stupid user problems. This as opposed to corporate level IT which needs a higher level skill and knowledge set often much deeper into server technology and large networks.

I now see the importance of certifications in IT, a rapidly and continuously changing field. Certifications are not as common in other engineering discaplines but continuing education of some form usually exists as a less formal replacement. These often come in the form of vendor seminars and industry symposiums.

There is always demand for highly knowledgable and skilled non-degreed individuals but unfortunately for them it is with bargain hunting employers who want to make you work like an engineer but pay you like a technician. Small businesses are more likely to do this than large coprorations with standardized hiring practices.

Congradulations on your choice. I'm sure there will be many opportunities waiting for you when you finish.

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kheston
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by kheston » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:31 pm

psycho,

It would be irresponsible to discourage you from getting a degree, I highly recommend one. But while you're working on one, here are some ideas:

I work with plenty of people in IT that don't have a degree at all or do have one in something unrelated. The VP of our division at my last day gig (I struck out on my own 6 years ago) was a Spanish Literature major. The guy wrote more code than most people in the dept. No one seemed to mind that he had an art degree.

I made it through 4 rounds of layoffs after the dot-bomb, the PhDs went in the first round. It was my problem solving skills and work ethic that carried me, not my degree. I've worked with people that were degreed/certificated to the hilt and needed help powering on their PC. Managers know about these people when the chopping block is nearby.

The only places that seem to make a BS a minimum qualification are public sector. However, if you're not going into gov't, there are many many reasons to finish a degree.

Whether you go for the degree or not, one path would be to find an entry-level position in desktop support or something else that experienced IT people often detest. Avoid gigs where you will only be providing support via phone, leave them to outsourcing. Get something where there's hands-on stuff to do and learn the lingo.

Take this time to figure out whether you would like to go into applications and/or network support. Be eager to help. Read about Mordac and always do the opposite of what he would do. Consider learning a scripting language or two like batch, vbscript or unix shell (e.g. bash). Hone your problem solving skills and be perseverant in finding solutions. Doing so will have you running circles around people who have merely sat in a half-desk for 8 semesters. Be slow to brag about your successes and quick to admit your mistakes. Never hoard information and help others succeed. People will notice because sometimes the world IS fair. Stay late and fix a few important people's problems and you'll be managing the department before you know it.

IT, in my own experience, is still a job where rewards are competence-based, rather than credential or tenure-based. People with a passion for it are (more often than not) given the opportunity to shine. Good luck!
Kurt - SF Bay

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jollyrgr
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Re: [OT] Career advice

Post by jollyrgr » Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:26 pm

psycho wrote:Well I have changed my plans to get a BSCIT degree. The associate courses will be at Ivy Tech community college and the rest at Purdue.
It was NOT my recommendation to skip the degree! I'm saying GET the degree but as you are getting it you need to obtain certifications as well.
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