Author Topic: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?  (Read 15407 times)

anastrophe

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IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« on: July 26, 2013, 11:00:58 AM »
My spouse has a B.A. in liberal arts and works full-time for a small nonprofit with a horrible work environment and low pay. Main job is being "that person" who maintains the network, images the machines, fixes hardware, and makes calls to tech support (along with doing payroll and working with customers). She's good at it, but doesn't have enough experience to get a different job more specifically in IT--stuck in a rut, and needing a career boost.

The options seem to be:
  • Self-teach...not sure this will work. We're not talking about a very motivated self-starter here, and burnout is making it hard to even get up some days nevermind brush up on Java.
  • Second bachelor's degree in CS at the state university. Total cost $10-15K, approximately 2.5 years of full-time study. This is just barely within what we could afford without taking out student loans, is it worth it to have the full B.S. degree? They offer concentrations in software engineering, security, networking, search, and other stuff like robotics and AI...too academic? Not useful?
  • Certificate in network administration or security from the community college. Total cost $5K, 1 year full-time study. There's also the option for an associate's but that doesn't seem to make sense IMO when she already has a 4-year degree.
I get partial tuition remission through my job (reflected in above prices). She'd keep working the horrible job part-time. We probably wouldn't have to take out additional student loans but it would bring our savings down to zero for a time. That thought makes me anxious but if our household earning power increases significantly, I'm okay with it.

So, sysadmins and tech industry workers of MMM, what should we do? What's the most employable option, with the best possible mobility and pay?
« Last Edit: July 26, 2013, 11:20:47 AM by anastrophe »

wing117

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Re: options for a CS/IT career: advice needed
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2013, 11:22:41 AM »
If you're looking at network administration, start looking at diving heavily into the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification, if you can work your way up the chain of that certification you become incredibly employable. You can look at Network+ by CompTia as a foothold or introduction, but CCNA, CCNP and CCIE certs is where the money is.

There is also the Juniper Networking cert, network security, etc...  If your spouse has a degree already, I'd start focusing on industry supported certificates.

For Networking: Cisco Certified Network Associate to start. Then look at some other technologies like F5 Local Traffic Manager, Cisco Nexus equipment, JNCIA (Juniper)

For Server/DataCenter/Desktop Virtualization: Vmware Certified Professional (VCP5 currently) - then look at the VCAP.

For Windows Server Administration: the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)

Security - Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CISSP, CAP, SSCP. (CISSP is the big one)

Linux - Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)

If I get some more information as to her interests, I can provide some good starting material. Some tests require you take a vendor's training class first. Does her employer provide any training credits or budget?

[added] - For the 'focus' degrees, I haven't seen many yet that are still relevant by the time a student graduates. I run an internship program for students where I work and most of them are Juniors/Seniors with pretty worthless knowledge to work as a SysAdmin.

If you want to be employable at 60-120K/yr in any town in America get this solid trifecta: VCP5, CCNA and RHCSA (In that order).

If you want to make 80-150K in all major cities, go the next step up with the VCAP and CCNP.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2013, 11:33:09 AM by wing117 »

willn

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Re: options for a CS/IT career: advice needed
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2013, 11:52:05 AM »
If you're looking at network administration, start looking at diving heavily into the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification, if you can work your way up the chain of that certification you become incredibly employable. You can look at Network+ by CompTia as a foothold or introduction, but CCNA, CCNP and CCIE certs is where the money is.


Completely agree.

If she likes IT administration, it is a practitioner's art. Certifications (especially Cisco) get you interviews immediately.  Because systems vary widely and update fast, being adaptable, good at multitasking, and translating jargon for end users are key skills.

CS degrees are best for programming. The programmers I know have a different mindset than Systems Administrators.  It's a lot of math, algorithms, and not quite as much interactivity with users.

CCNA and Microsoft certs can be done very nicely with self study, but finding a mentor is very helpful.  Commercial boot camps are expensive but may be worth it if you know what you want to specialize in. Community college courses can help but usually are a step behind in technology and move a bit slow.

I always recommend CCNA to beginning IT pros as the network is foundational, and knowing the details gives you an advantage over the guys who can click their way around server menu's but aren't certain what's happening behind the scenes.

Career path? Big trend of companies is centralizing IT staff with managed service providers. Lots of companies outsource their 2nd level support and server infrastructure while keeping a 1st level help desk staff on site.   Lots of guys who used to work in a 3 person IT department at a 100 person company are now running around to three sites a day for a managed service provider.

Be ready for change, constant upgrades, and continuuing self study of new products.

High demand specialties are network administration (CCNA/NP), VMware, Security.


Spork

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2013, 12:05:59 PM »
Third on Cisco certs if you want to do networking.  It's questionable whether "they teach you anything" but they've become a defacto standard for hiring in that area.

I've stayed outside of the Microsoft side of the world for 25 years.  In times that has helped me... in times that has hurt me... but right now it means I don't know squat about what might be required.

On the Linux/Unix/Security side: I seriously don't think certs matter.  I don't think a degree matters.  Experience matters.  I have a CS degree.  I have a few certs.  I really don't think they've made a lot of difference.  I've known lots of guys (really good guys) that didn't have the education/certs and they've worked along side me and made pretty much the same money.  If this is the path you're interested in: self study and a low-end job doing it are the way to get in.  A friend already in that area that can bring you in doesn't hurt a bit either.  Everywhere I've been the network security jobs have arisen out of the unix areas.  This probably comes from the time where firewalls were not commercially available and the unix guys built them from scratch.  (Yes, I'm that old.)

The ability to write some sort of code does matter in the unix/security side.  (Egads, not Java!  At least not if this is what you're interested in!)  Some form of complex scripting is extremely important: python, perl, shell, ruby, etc.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2013, 12:16:58 PM »
I am not a tech geek, I just married one. My spouse gets emails twice a week, looking for Python programmers. It is a really easy language to learn and it seems like it is in big demand. He can pick up freelancing gigs pretty easily, too. Maybe she could try learning Python and freelancing to build up her cred?

My spouse is self-taught, by puzzling over problems and writing code to fix them. He was stuck in a boring job that he knew he could automate with some code; his supervisors were too scared to let a computer do it, so they didn't want to implement anything; my spouse wrote the code, optimized his personal workload, and spent all his free work time programming more. And then got a job as a web designer. Granted, I think his ability to teach himself is mind-boggling; but he is the techie, I'm not. I've taught myself how to do other things, that interest me. So if your spouse can find something that really grabs her passion, maybe the self-teaching thing isn't so out of reach for her.

rugorak

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2013, 12:36:26 PM »
I have a BS in Computer Science and a VCP cert and work as a sys admin. I have to agree at the point she is at go for certs (as in the ones everyone else ahs posted about, not the ones you mentioned). It is the more cost effect (and time effective) option. The MS certs only cost for the exam. So under $200. Even VCP which requires the class and the exam will run you under 5k total. Not sure on the Cisco costs but I'm not doing much with networking.

In truth a degree and/or certs will just get her past HR to the hiring manager. After that it is about experience, problem solving, ability to learn/adapt to an ever changing field, and how well you mesh with the rest of the team. I have coworkers who worked their way up from the bottom of the ladder just learning new stuff. In fact we just had our jobs re-evaluated and got 3 levels instead of one (so I got a nice promotion and raise and have no change in responsibilites, etc). But HR told our boss that had they been considering us off the street instead of working for this place for years most of us they wouldn't allow in the positions we have (I was one of the exceptions). Depending on the size of the place and their needs some experience and the right problem solving tactics and personality may be worth more than years of experience. But experience never hurts.

So I'd say she just needs to work the ladder. Get some certs and then try and get a better job even if it is just a partial step up. Put in some time there, self teach on the job, maybe pick up some more certs and go from there. Maybe even get lucky and find a job that will pay for a degree and then give a promotion afterwards. And then you can keep going with all your financial goals while still improving things.

anastrophe

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2013, 12:38:27 PM »
I hear you all on the certs and I will pass that on.

On code--she does know some Python, actually, but doesn't have any samples to show off yet AFAIK. She has excellent writing and communication skills but she's very introverted and would prefer not to work with people if at all possible. So tell me a little more about programming: how and why? And what? Any suggestions for hobby project type things would be helpful.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2013, 12:41:36 PM by anastrophe »

Spork

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2013, 12:43:18 PM »

She has excellent writing and communication skills but she's very introverted and would prefer not to work with people if at all possible.

This is the actually the normal profile of a wide range of computer people in general and systems admin people in particular (myself included.)

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2013, 12:46:02 PM »
I hear you all on the certs and I will pass that on.

On code--she does know some Python, actually, but doesn't have any samples to show off yet AFAIK. She has excellent writing and communication skills but she's very introverted and would prefer not to work with people if at all possible. So tell me a little more about programming: how and why and what's the job outlook like?

She will not need a ton of personal skills to be a programmer! That's one reason why my spouse's job is so great -- work is very low-key, I think because a lot of programmers are a little anti- or awkwardly-social. At least, that's the case where he works.

SO picked up freelancing jobs on elance.com and then through networking at conferences like PyCon and hackathons, and a local MeetUp group. Elance gives you a test so it can endorse you as a Python programmer, so she may not need samples.

The job outlook appears to be more secure, better-paying work than being a lawyer these days. His non-profit job makes more than my for-profit lawyer job, and we know he could make more $$. Maybe it's because we live in a tech-saturated place, but there are startups and well-established companies who are always looking for Python programmers.

anastrophe

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2013, 12:46:31 PM »

She has excellent writing and communication skills but she's very introverted and would prefer not to work with people if at all possible.

This is the actually the normal profile of a wide range of computer people in general and systems admin people in particular (myself included.)

Good to know we're on the right track;) When we met in college she was studying Latin and mostly spent her time translating Catullus. Somehow I think it's not that different from writing code.

Spork

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2013, 12:53:00 PM »

She has excellent writing and communication skills but she's very introverted and would prefer not to work with people if at all possible.

This is the actually the normal profile of a wide range of computer people in general and systems admin people in particular (myself included.)

Good to know we're on the right track;) When we met in college she was studying Latin and mostly spent her time translating Catullus. Somehow I think it's not that different from writing code.

...or maybe even crypto if she has mad math skills.

anastrophe

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2013, 01:21:47 PM »

...or maybe even crypto if she has mad math skills.

Not so much, but definitely the ability to tinker with stuff until they work without talking to anybody for days or getting up until it's done...

Spork

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2013, 01:24:04 PM »

...or maybe even crypto if she has mad math skills.

Not so much, but definitely the ability to tinker with stuff until they work without talking to anybody for days or getting up until it's done...

again: that absolutely describes me (and probably half the people I know).  It drives my wife crazy.

willn

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2013, 01:53:52 PM »

She has excellent writing and communication skills but she's very introverted and would prefer not to work with people if at all possible.

This is the actually the normal profile of a wide range of computer people in general and systems admin people in particular (myself included.)

And a big problem in general.

If you get a chance to read "Taming Information Systems" http://www.amazon.com/dp/0195374126  you'll see why.

These guys (social scientists) essentially did an ethnographic study of sysadmins "in their natural habitat". Filmed them, recorded them, made notes.  The big takeaway was how many problems were solved, or prolonged, by communications issues.

IT systems are so complex that communication (or lack of) between techs is of utmost importance.  Knowledge domains have to be shared and grounded between people.

Tech knowledge isn't uncommon.  Add interpersonal skills and you can have a spectacular career.

basd

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2013, 03:06:13 PM »
Tech knowledge isn't uncommon.  Add interpersonal skills and you can have a spectacular career.

This. I'm not one to boast much, but what has got me to where I am in my career (though I feel it's still at the beginning) aren't my technical skills, but the ability to apply them and communicate to clients what I've done and how it solves their problems. Especially that last bit gets you ahead of the pack.

There are far better programmers and technical guys and girls out there, but somehow I end up ahead. It can't be my good looks.

ender

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2013, 05:01:05 PM »
Tech knowledge isn't uncommon.  Add interpersonal skills and you can have a spectacular career.

This is most definitely my plan ;)

Micheal

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2013, 11:16:46 PM »
AS it sits right now, she has experience in IT, so I would go after certs, some CC's offer single courses that include the certification tests at the end, or you can study for them independently and pay for the tests yourself, I'm not sure which is better, but if she isn't a self starter for study then the CC might be worth it.

JellyBean

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2013, 09:48:30 AM »
Any good sources for VCP5 training information?

wing117

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2013, 09:02:02 AM »
Any good sources for VCP5 training information?
Get Mastering VMware vSphere 5 by Scott Lowe. Best jumping point for written. To actually pass the VCP you'll also want to pick up Duncan Epping's book VMware vSphere Clustering Technical Deepdive. Amazingly written book and was actually a fun read.

Also look at getting a copy of ESXi (free) and install it on a spare computer. Set it up, configure it, install a VM inside of it and start playing around with the general settings. The book will help you expand that setup. Also look up Elias Khanser, Scott Lowe, Simon Long and Duncan Epping

Also sign up for your local VMUG (VMware User Group) and attend some events, check out Meetup.com for any local Vmware geek out sessions. A good mentor goes a long way so you can bounce ideas off of them and they can assist in pointing you in the right direction. Also memorize your Configuration Maximums for the test.

Hope that helps get you started!

wing117

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2013, 09:27:07 AM »
I hear you all on the certs and I will pass that on.

On code--she does know some Python, actually, but doesn't have any samples to show off yet AFAIK. She has excellent writing and communication skills but she's very introverted and would prefer not to work with people if at all possible. So tell me a little more about programming: how and why? And what? Any suggestions for hobby project type things would be helpful.

Didn't see this post till now! For Python coding check out http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/python
They also have a nice "Code Year" track as well that covers JavaScript, JQuery, HTML5 and CSS: http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/code-year

LearnStreet.com also has some great resources for python as well: http://www.learnstreet.com/lessons/languages/

Last, make sure to check out Google's Python resources (Google LOVES Python). The first video for the Google Python Class is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKTZoB2Vjuk The whole class is online.

Tons of resources out there. Also, if she's going into any Windows/VMware administration, start looking at PowerShell (PowerCLI for VMware). Super powerful scripting language.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2013, 09:30:12 AM by wing117 »

Baylor3217

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2013, 09:38:12 AM »
Most IT resumes I see do not have CS degrees but more whats generally called ISY or MIS (infoation systems or management information systems) that are lighter on the coding.

Then it's all about experience.

rugorak

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #21 on: July 28, 2013, 06:30:06 PM »
Any good sources for VCP5 training information?

http://mylearn.vmware.com

To actually get the certification you have to have taken an official class. So no use in spending the money for anything else until you do one of their official classes (which will be taught either by a VMware instructor or an independent contractor certified and authorized by VMware). It also has the exam blueprint (basically a PDF with links to all the other PDF's you should read). I'll say from personal experience getting my VCP4 that even though they say that if you read the blueprint you'll be all set it isn't quite that easy. They have some gotcha questions that you'll only know the answers if you dig really really really deep into some of the secondary PDF's.

hybrid

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #22 on: July 29, 2013, 08:12:39 AM »
My spouse has a B.A. in liberal arts and works full-time for a small nonprofit with a horrible work environment and low pay. Main job is being "that person" who maintains the network, images the machines, fixes hardware, and makes calls to tech support (along with doing payroll and working with customers). She's good at it, but doesn't have enough experience to get a different job more specifically in IT--stuck in a rut, and needing a career boost.

The options seem to be:
  • Self-teach...not sure this will work. We're not talking about a very motivated self-starter here, and burnout is making it hard to even get up some days nevermind brush up on Java.
  • Second bachelor's degree in CS at the state university. Total cost $10-15K, approximately 2.5 years of full-time study. This is just barely within what we could afford without taking out student loans, is it worth it to have the full B.S. degree? They offer concentrations in software engineering, security, networking, search, and other stuff like robotics and AI...too academic? Not useful?
  • Certificate in network administration or security from the community college. Total cost $5K, 1 year full-time study. There's also the option for an associate's but that doesn't seem to make sense IMO when she already has a 4-year degree.
I get partial tuition remission through my job (reflected in above prices). She'd keep working the horrible job part-time. We probably wouldn't have to take out additional student loans but it would bring our savings down to zero for a time. That thought makes me anxious but if our household earning power increases significantly, I'm okay with it.

So, sysadmins and tech industry workers of MMM, what should we do? What's the most employable option, with the best possible mobility and pay?

Fifteen year sysadmin giving a recommendation.  It sounds like your wife has some solid, basic IT skills.  But not a self-starter???  Damn well better learn to be a self-starter if she ever wants to get beyond Help Desk!!!!

I know that sounds rude and I don't mean to sound rude (emphatic instead), but there is a very good and very simple reason why sysadmins make significantly better money than help desk analysts.  For the exact same reason doctors outearn nurses.  When I was in your wife's shoes 15 years ago I got an MCSE and a CCNA by reading the books and taking the tests.  And I learned a whole lot along the way that helped build my skills set, even though there was a bunch of info I never used.  I got better jobs while others stayed put in their routines.    If your wife really wants to take the next step then absolutely no one is going to spoon feed her the skills she needs, she simply has to make a choice to get better at her job.  And that means some self-starting.

Get that CCNA like others said.  There is a wealth of good information there about basic networking whether or not one ever touches a Cisco switch or router.  Same with the Microsoft exams.  If she isn't up to this task, then soul-searching is in order.  She can either be content with her low pay IT job or do something about it.  If the answer is she's not up to it, think about a different career path.

anastrophe

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #23 on: July 29, 2013, 08:21:26 AM »
Fifteen year sysadmin giving a recommendation.  It sounds like your wife has some solid, basic IT skills.  But not a self-starter???  Damn well better learn to be a self-starter if she ever wants to get beyond Help Desk!!!!

I know that sounds rude and I don't mean to sound rude (emphatic instead),

I definitely agree with you. Perhaps I worded too strongly, I don't think she's not an inherently motivated person, I think she's burnt out and depressed from working a crap job that sucks her soul. She's signed up for a python course through Coursera and spent two hours yesterday brushing up on math on Khan Academy, so I have hope.

There is a wealth of good information there about basic networking whether or not one ever touches a Cisco switch or router.

Basic question about this that should be obvious to me (but it's not my field): is it easier to learn if you do actually have a few machines to experiment on?

basd

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #24 on: July 29, 2013, 08:27:51 AM »
Didn't see this post till now! For Python coding check out http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/python
I'm currently doing this one as well. Already have some experience with Python / Jython, but that's mostly self taught and this is a nice way to learn it in a structured manner.

Codecademy itself is a highly impressive web site, by the way.

hybrid

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #25 on: July 29, 2013, 08:56:01 AM »
Fifteen year sysadmin giving a recommendation.  It sounds like your wife has some solid, basic IT skills.  But not a self-starter???  Damn well better learn to be a self-starter if she ever wants to get beyond Help Desk!!!!

I know that sounds rude and I don't mean to sound rude (emphatic instead),

I definitely agree with you. Perhaps I worded too strongly, I don't think she's not an inherently motivated person, I think she's burnt out and depressed from working a crap job that sucks her soul. She's signed up for a python course through Coursera and spent two hours yesterday brushing up on math on Khan Academy, so I have hope.

There is a wealth of good information there about basic networking whether or not one ever touches a Cisco switch or router.

Basic question about this that should be obvious to me (but it's not my field): is it easier to learn if you do actually have a few machines to experiment on?

There were software simulations at one time for this sort of thing.  But yes, in general, it is always easier if you have some equipment to work with.  For example, the only real way to get good at Windows Server 2008 R2 (a very popular option in many IT shops) is to actually load it a few times, learn by the scerwups you make a long the way, and press forward.  If your wife works with imaging software I'll assume she has a few machines lying around she can play with, and hopefully has access to the software as well.

The burnout is your bigger issue.  Think of it like someone who needs to lose weight but cannot get started.  Losing weight is work but it's very doable for a motivated person.  It's damn near impossible for someone not willing to put the effort into it.  This is no different.

Your wife needs to look past her current shithole and appreciate that there are much greener pastures if she is willing to do what is required to get there.  That is easier said than done, but it's the truth all the same.  Help her with "I'm doing all this extra work to get the hell out of this place (and I'll get paid better too!)".

Spork

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #26 on: July 29, 2013, 08:56:19 AM »

There is a wealth of good information there about basic networking whether or not one ever touches a Cisco switch or router.

Basic question about this that should be obvious to me (but it's not my field): is it easier to learn if you do actually have a few machines to experiment on?

Well, it's easier for me if I am doing instead of just reading... can't speak for everyone.

Linux is easy in this regard as you can get 2-3 systems and just start setting them up as servers, clients, etc.  There is also a pretty decent routing package  (quagga/zebra) that sure feels a lot like cisco.   (It'd do for small experiments and some very edge case dedicated projects... you probably don't want to use it to run your entire network in the real world.)

willn

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #27 on: July 29, 2013, 09:03:09 AM »
There is a wealth of good information there about basic networking whether or not one ever touches a Cisco switch or router.

Basic question about this that should be obvious to me (but it's not my field): is it easier to learn if you do actually have a few machines to experiment on?

Yes, it is easier.  Networking has a strong physical component in cabling.  Hands on practice with making cables, and other tasks like recovering passwords is a big help.  Doesn't take much though.  Two old Cisco 1721 routers with T1 CSU/DSU cards goes a long way and probably can be had for < 50$. 

For intense configuration study there's an amazing hypervisor platform for virtual routers that loads the actual OS (which you have to provide). It's called GNS3.  http://www.gns3.net/  I've built entire networks of 10 routers on it and it works great, though I don't think you can run the most recent code on it.  But 99% of the CCNA can be done using GNS3.

Switching is harder to virtualize so GNS3 doesn't work quite as well though many subjects can be covered.  Again you could get a couple of old 2950 switches on ebay for cheap.

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #28 on: July 29, 2013, 10:46:00 AM »
I'm going to hijack and ask my own question here. Should I bother with the Network+ cert or start focusing on the more serious Cisco/Microsoft (that's the direction I think I want to go) stuff?

I'll graduate in the spring with a bachelor's in Management Information Systems and a minor in Computer Information Technology. I just finished a networking course last semester that my instructor said would make the exam very easy, but not sure it's worth the time/money.

DoubleDown

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #29 on: July 29, 2013, 11:37:13 AM »

Tech knowledge isn't uncommon.  Add interpersonal skills and you can have a spectacular career.

This can't be overstated. I hope any IT/science/engineering/introverted person (or spouse) recognizes just how important this is. Being able to relate to people as a "regular" person makes all the difference in the world and will set you apart. You don't have to like being an extrovert, and you don't have to change your personality, but if you can suck it up and learn and apply those soft skills, be able to have a smooth conversation where you can explain things quickly without boring the sh*t out of people with techno-jargon, your career will go into hyper-drive. Just act like you enjoy being with people. We all know hundreds of tech geeks, but the more rare combination of decent tech skills + winning interpersonal skills = $$$$.

rugorak

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #30 on: July 29, 2013, 12:08:20 PM »
I'm going to hijack and ask my own question here. Should I bother with the Network+ cert or start focusing on the more serious Cisco/Microsoft (that's the direction I think I want to go) stuff?

I'll graduate in the spring with a bachelor's in Management Information Systems and a minor in Computer Information Technology. I just finished a networking course last semester that my instructor said would make the exam very easy, but not sure it's worth the time/money.

All depends on the type of place you want to work at. Smaller places look at any cert favorably. Larger places may prefer more specific certs. So in the end you'll have to figure it out yourself. Hit people up at the type of place you think you would want to work. Alumni networks are great for that sort of thing.

Spork

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2013, 12:33:17 PM »
I'm going to hijack and ask my own question here. Should I bother with the Network+ cert or start focusing on the more serious Cisco/Microsoft (that's the direction I think I want to go) stuff?

I'll graduate in the spring with a bachelor's in Management Information Systems and a minor in Computer Information Technology. I just finished a networking course last semester that my instructor said would make the exam very easy, but not sure it's worth the time/money.

All depends on the type of place you want to work at. Smaller places look at any cert favorably. Larger places may prefer more specific certs. So in the end you'll have to figure it out yourself. Hit people up at the type of place you think you would want to work. Alumni networks are great for that sort of thing.

I can only speak for the places I've worked... but:

Network+: I don't see requirements for that.  That doesn't mean it doesn't encompass some useful set of skills... I just don't see it.  YMMV.

Cisco/Networking: The cisco certs are absolutely worth it.  The more the merrier.  They're not just "get your foot in the door" but often they are "how much do you get paid?"  Where I work now the networking guys' job titles are DIRECTLY TIED to what level of cisco certs they have.  Want a promotion?  Get the next level cert.

Microsoft: IMO this is a different direction from the Cisco side.... though both skills are marketable.   Requirement for MS certs really varies wildly.  IMO, it's a "foot in the door" cert.  Once inside, the guys that got ahead were "the cream that rose to the top."  I've seen some seriously smart MS guys with zero certs.  I've also seen guys with MS certs out the wazzoo (one of which was a super duper specialty contractor sent out by Microsoft) that couldn't tie their shoes.  (Seriously: this guy put a cpu in a very very high dollar computer BACKWARDS -- only by standing on it to get it to seat.  After he realized his mistake, HE DID IT AGAIN WITH THE NEXT SERVER.)  This in no way means MS certs don't mean anything on their resume... just that it's a thing to make you stand out.

suntailedshadow

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #32 on: July 29, 2013, 12:46:14 PM »
I'm going to hijack and ask my own question here. Should I bother with the Network+ cert or start focusing on the more serious Cisco/Microsoft (that's the direction I think I want to go) stuff?

I'll graduate in the spring with a bachelor's in Management Information Systems and a minor in Computer Information Technology. I just finished a networking course last semester that my instructor said would make the exam very easy, but not sure it's worth the time/money.

All depends on the type of place you want to work at. Smaller places look at any cert favorably. Larger places may prefer more specific certs. So in the end you'll have to figure it out yourself. Hit people up at the type of place you think you would want to work. Alumni networks are great for that sort of thing.

Speaking as someone who is directly involved with almost all the hiring for our network team I can tell you that anyone who knows what they are looking at is going to prefer the CCNA over the Network+ (I have both). However if you are just looking to get your foot in at the ground level somewhere, the Network+ can be a fast easy win. Starting from a total of almost Zip networking experience I studied for a week and passed it first try (The CCNA took much longer than that). Long term however you are going to want to get the CCNA and climb your way up from there. Be sure to spend the needed time practicing and not just Brain-dump it because at least with my company the cert can get you the interview but if you don't know what you're talking about we will figure it out real quick ;-)  Good luck on whatever you decide to do.

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #33 on: July 29, 2013, 01:16:37 PM »
I work for a mid sized brick and mortar company. Our job titles have been watered down now to two tracks: Business Analyst and Application Developer Analyst. I know for BA a degree is required. Not sure on ADA. As a hiring manager self starter resumes move to the top of the pile. So a degree in about anything, some sort of certification passed and then some entrepreneurship/moonlighting make for a direct top of the heap applicant.

So many of my family and friends got that "anything" degree, but it really isn't enough on its own. You must do something for that resume to stand out in the crowd.

I worked full time, was paid 100% for school (BS in Computer Science) and I simultaneously got my MCSE+I which the company only had to pay for the tests because I self studied. I also owned my own computer services business since 1994. I am a very motivated person and a good salesman which helps.

If you are not quite self motivated enough, find a "buddy" to study with. It is nice because sometimes you are dragging and your study partner can light a fire under you, but then sometimes its the other way. Be ready to console them or be consoled when you fail tests. I only failed once, hated that! Made me study all the more and I never failed one after that. I did not get reimbursed for the fail.

IT is a constant learning curve, technology changes all the time. The best IT folks are self starters who love puzzles and do well with minimal budget. If you end up in the server or networking department you likely will get to spend money for the company and actually build stuff and that can be very satisfying for some folks.



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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #34 on: July 29, 2013, 05:55:57 PM »
Damn, the more I read this thread the more I want to get my CCNA current again....  The previous comment about golden handcuffs sure applies in my case.  I've been sitting on those old laurels for 12 years now...  I know copy run start and copy start tftp hasn't changed, but still....  Hmmmm......

tpozywio

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #35 on: July 30, 2013, 01:17:05 AM »
Udacity has a variety of computer classes available for free.   Might be a good middle road between self study and paying for classes
https://www.udacity.com/courses

wing117

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #36 on: July 30, 2013, 07:53:12 AM »
Damn, the more I read this thread the more I want to get my CCNA current again....  The previous comment about golden handcuffs sure applies in my case.  I've been sitting on those old laurels for 12 years now...  I know copy run start and copy start tftp hasn't changed, but still....  Hmmmm......

12 years? You're going to love NX-OS. And the 2960's (and others) have graphical web interfaces now! Whoaaa (when they first released that, I felt it was cheating the system).


I'll chime in on CCNA. Not likely that you will really need this much if you are a Sysadmin with a larger company. Usually the folks in the ivory towers own the WAN side of things. If she becomes the Jane of all Trades. For sure CCNA will be good. She'll need to figure out big or small company. Larger companies are usually offering golden handcuffs like pensions. Smaller companies can usually adopt new technology more quickly. Pickup on the Windows certs. Those are good. Be ready to have some specialty items for the future employer.

I've always pushed my interns and technicians to find their mile-deep subject, but also make sure they are very well rounded on all aspects (Network, Server, Storage, Virtualization, End Points and Customer Service) Even if she doesn't join a networking team, understanding how it all goes together while she's architecting the latest project build and participating in design reviews will significantly help her. The best SysAdmin's I've worked next to also "happened" to have their CCNA. We wont even go into the movement to Converged Infrastructure and what that means for SysAdmins.

You can train skills but not personality.

100% +1 A+++ I use this line daily. Absolutely true.

DoubleDown

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #37 on: July 30, 2013, 10:41:59 AM »

You can train skills but not personality.

100% +1 A+++ I use this line daily. Absolutely true.

Since I often enjoy being the contrarian -- I disagree! But we're still friends ;-)

Okay, we could argue about the definition of "personality", but I think probably what we're largely talking about here is "social skills." And I'd say it is absolutely possible to become better at those skills through learning and training!

One example: My wife and really enjoyed a TV show that used to be on, where a dude who was a chick slayer would train really awkward, socially inept male virgins (some as old as 40 years old) who were absolute wrecks with the opposite sex -- unkind people would probably call them "losers" -- to become chick magnets. And they did it very successfully with quite a few. These guys' "personalities" or social skills were immensely improved. They made these prototypical IT/star trek-loving/laugh-snorting/nervous-around-women geeks into guys that women flocked to. In interviews, they were also all immensely happier with their own transformations. They didn't feel like they lost who they really were, just that they had learned how to better relate to people, and to be interesting and attractive.

It was one of those elimination/reality shows where someone gets booted off every week, so it's possible they could have improved every single one of them if they continued to spend time on all of them.

suntailedshadow

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #38 on: July 30, 2013, 11:28:59 AM »

You can train skills but not personality.

100% +1 A+++ I use this line daily. Absolutely true.

Since I often enjoy being the contrarian -- I disagree! But we're still friends ;-)

Okay, we could argue about the definition of "personality", but I think probably what we're largely talking about here is "social skills." And I'd say it is absolutely possible to become better at those skills through learning and training!

One example: My wife and really enjoyed a TV show that used to be on, where a dude who was a chick slayer would train really awkward, socially inept male virgins (some as old as 40 years old) who were absolute wrecks with the opposite sex -- unkind people would probably call them "losers" -- to become chick magnets. And they did it very successfully with quite a few. These guys' "personalities" or social skills were immensely improved. They made these prototypical IT/star trek-loving/laugh-snorting/nervous-around-women geeks into guys that women flocked to. In interviews, they were also all immensely happier with their own transformations. They didn't feel like they lost who they really were, just that they had learned how to better relate to people, and to be interesting and attractive.

It was one of those elimination/reality shows where someone gets booted off every week, so it's possible they could have improved every single one of them if they continued to spend time on all of them.

I would second the thought that Social Skills can be taught, although generally it is easier to teach technical skills than to teach social ones (at least to a certain level, there comes a point that if they are just not sharp enough, they won't be able to fully grasp it).


12 years? You're going to love NX-OS. And the 2960's (and others) have graphical web interfaces now! Whoaaa (when they first released that, I felt it was cheating the system).

Not to mention XR....
« Last Edit: July 30, 2013, 11:31:21 AM by suntailedshadow »

wing117

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #39 on: July 30, 2013, 02:26:41 PM »

You can train skills but not personality.

100% +1 A+++ I use this line daily. Absolutely true.

Since I often enjoy being the contrarian -- I disagree! But we're still friends ;-)

Okay, we could argue about the definition of "personality", but I think probably what we're largely talking about here is "social skills." And I'd say it is absolutely possible to become better at those skills through learning and training!

One example: My wife and really enjoyed a TV show that used to be on, where a dude who was a chick slayer would train really awkward, socially inept male virgins (some as old as 40 years old) who were absolute wrecks with the opposite sex -- unkind people would probably call them "losers" -- to become chick magnets. And they did it very successfully with quite a few. These guys' "personalities" or social skills were immensely improved. They made these prototypical IT/star trek-loving/laugh-snorting/nervous-around-women geeks into guys that women flocked to. In interviews, they were also all immensely happier with their own transformations. They didn't feel like they lost who they really were, just that they had learned how to better relate to people, and to be interesting and attractive.

It was one of those elimination/reality shows where someone gets booted off every week, so it's possible they could have improved every single one of them if they continued to spend time on all of them.

I'm glad we can still be friends! I completely agree with you, actually... (hold on I'm not contradicting myself!) social skills CAN be taught and learned. However someone's core personality is hard to change, especially at an older age. My example is I had a high school worker we nick named "Google", due to his brilliant ability to quickly retrieve answers for me (I need to know exactly how many computers and devices are in this room. 325 computers, 220 monitors, 250 keyboards, 80 mice. The kid was good.) He had a good personality, but NO social skills. I slowly forced him into more and different social encounters involving talking with end users, assessing problems, getting answers out of people, etc... By the end of the two years he was on the team, the guy had changed 180 degrees and was now very out going.

I had another kid who had the social skills, would be able to walk into a room, gather the required information on the issue and troubleshoot. He had good computer skills, but was a complete asshole on the team with a 'better than thou' attitude. Could I fix that? Absolutely, given enough time. I used a tactic to essentially strip him of his self worth, give him absolutely no successes, point out all his failures and, after a few months, give him a small compliment in passing for something he'd done right, a simple "good job" while walking through the hallway, and it would mean the world to him and I'd start building back up his confidence and skill set. I've done that with two student workers before, I've never had to do so with a FTE, thank god. But is it worth the time I put into it? The headaches? Me feeling horrible going home at the end of the day after having berated this person, waiting for the moment I can give him that little complement to start the new road to recovery? Nope. I don't ever wanna do it again if I can avoid it. (Lets not discuss my methods in this thread... :) It was just the best example I had off the top of my head)

That's how I differentiate social skills and personality at least. The first kid was socially inept, but had a goodhearted and cooperative personality.  The second was socially outgoing, but his personality sucked.

DoubleDown

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #40 on: July 31, 2013, 10:12:05 AM »

That's how I differentiate social skills and personality at least. The first kid was socially inept, but had a goodhearted and cooperative personality.  The second was socially outgoing, but his personality sucked.

Ah, I see where you're coming from now. Yeah, I don't know how to fix those kinds of problems!

hybrid

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #41 on: August 01, 2013, 08:03:13 AM »
Damn, the more I read this thread the more I want to get my CCNA current again....  The previous comment about golden handcuffs sure applies in my case.  I've been sitting on those old laurels for 12 years now...  I know copy run start and copy start tftp hasn't changed, but still....  Hmmmm......

12 years? You're going to love NX-OS. And the 2960's (and others) have graphical web interfaces now! Whoaaa (when they first released that, I felt it was cheating the system).


I'll chime in on CCNA. Not likely that you will really need this much if you are a Sysadmin with a larger company. Usually the folks in the ivory towers own the WAN side of things. If she becomes the Jane of all Trades. For sure CCNA will be good. She'll need to figure out big or small company. Larger companies are usually offering golden handcuffs like pensions. Smaller companies can usually adopt new technology more quickly. Pickup on the Windows certs. Those are good. Be ready to have some specialty items for the future employer.

Oh, it's not that I haven't worked with Cisco, I just don't have a current pretty piece of paper from Cisco....  But there is no doubt I could benefit from some brushing up by going through the book again.  Doubt I'll need to know how to configure an ISDN line anytime soon like the test had in 2001....  ;-)

In regards to all the comments about being outgoing and having good social skills - could not agree more.  I am a jack of all trades in an 85 person firm.  I have to know a little about a lot (so we get consultants for the big one time upgrades).  I have to go chairside with attorneys a lot.  Having good social skills makes a huge difference.  I would not be a good fit here without them.  In smaller outfits in particular a sysadmin will not be confined to an IT department, he may be the IT department.

Oner last thing, good writing skills are something else IT folks tend to lack.  As a stereotype IT guys just want to work with the computers and cannot stand documenting.  Someone who has strong documentation skills will set themselves apart from the crowd.  When I was a supervisor of sysadmins in my previous job my best guy was the guy who could write.  He didn't have to be the best tech. 

Sebastian

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #42 on: August 01, 2013, 03:08:05 PM »
I work at a staffing firm specifically for IT infrastrucutre, and if there is one thing I learned. College degrees don't mean shit! I would highly recommend getting so certs, but more importantly it's all about who you know! Network network network! I'm trying to learn IT myself now because I have some interest in it after working here.

I have a degree in Marketing and no certs and no IT experience. I was speaking with one of my managers the other day about me possibly getting a help desk job at an awesome company.

Moral of the story don't waste your money on a college degree!

rugorak

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #43 on: August 02, 2013, 08:41:02 AM »
I work at a staffing firm specifically for IT infrastrucutre, and if there is one thing I learned. College degrees don't mean shit!
....

Moral of the story don't waste your money on a college degree!

I'll provide another perspective on this. College degrees can mean something. First hand as a Sys Admin there is a big difference in my experience in the way those with degrees approach problems/projects than those without. People with college degrees approach it methodically and know more theory which helps them understand where the problem might be. People who learn only by doing and certs don't usually understand the inner working theory of operating systems and algorithms so never fully understand what it is they are doing. Can they learn the approach without college? Sure, but in my experience it seems that it is doesn't really happen. Second some employers will require college degrees for certain jobs. Right or wrong they tend to pay more if you have a degree as well.

Now all that being said I still stand my initial reply that you should go after certs first. They are far more cost effective. But a college degree isn't worthless. I am glad I got one. And although I had student loans and wouldn't have done it the same way knowing what I know now I am still glad I did it and financially it has paid off for me. I would suggest you do follow SethBahookey's last piece of advice though. But in a different way. Try and find a job that the employer will pay for your degree. You could do like the Mad Fientist is doing and work for a college that lets you take courses in anything you want. Or get some certs and get a job in your field with an employer that has some sort of tuition reimbursement benefit.

Spork

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #44 on: August 02, 2013, 08:53:41 AM »
First hand as a Sys Admin there is a big difference in my experience in the way those with degrees approach problems/projects than those without.

I have had exactly the opposite experience.  ...just sayin'.

suntailedshadow

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #45 on: August 04, 2013, 04:41:16 PM »
I would agree that Degree's are not "worthless" but obtaining them needs to be prioritized as stated. Cert's first, then get that company to pay for your degree. I believe the obtaining a Degree is an excellent way to fill in the "Well Rounded" part that Certifications lack. I find I appreciate the business decisions being made around me more and more the closer I am to finishing my degree. Besides, if you ever decide you want to move into a more managerial role that degree that was "Worthless" before will have suddenly have a lot more credence.

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #46 on: August 05, 2013, 08:36:36 AM »
CompSci college drop out who worked his way up from tech support here.  Both certs and degrees can be useful.  Certs are more useful for getting past HR and a degree generally provides the best theoretical understanding of the field.

In this case it sounds like she needs to get her foot in the door at a full time IT gig.  For that I'd go for a cert, as you can get it much faster.  But I'd also recommend finding local user / professional groups in the area and start going to those.  As much as the anti-social nerds among us might wish it otherwise, knowing people is the best way to get a job. 

If her work situation is as toxic as it sounds, I'd make getting out the first priority.  If she's not having luck getting entry level IT jobs (help desk / tech support), try looking for other entry level jobs somewhere she can move into IT.  I've known several receptionist or administrative assistants who have moved into technical roles.  Hiring people is always a risk, so if she can prove she's willing to work hard and meshes well with the team, that can make up for a gap in technical skills.

As most entry level IT jobs involve windows I'd prolly look at getting a Microsoft certification first.  You can get the study guide for around $50 and then the test will be a few hundred.  A typical week long IT class can easily run $2k-5k.  Some vendors also have other options that can reduce the cost.  For example SANS (one of the better known infoSec education shops) has a work study program that will drop tution to $900 ( https://www.sans.org/work-study ).  Avoid Network / Security plus, it's a bottom barrel cert. 

Once she's got her foot in the door, there are a lot of different IT specialties in demand.  I'd try to pick one that she enjoys and is desired in the local market.  That could be a Unix sysadmin, DBA, infosec, or programming.  The nice thing about It is that there are a ton of different roles from extreme specialists to generalists and it's pretty easy to move around in them. 

DirtBoy

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #47 on: August 05, 2013, 06:16:44 PM »
I would recommend the UNIX (Linux, AIX, Solaris, BSD, Mac OS X, etc.) path.  It has served me well.  I didn't even technically finish high school yet I have been earning 6 figures for the last 8 years of a 15 year career.

Higher barrier to entry means generally less competition and larger more expensive deployments means you get access to lucrative positions.  It is also a skill set whose fundamentals have not changed much since 1975.  Yet there are always new exciting technologies popping up all based on UNIX. I agree with everything else in here as well.  CCNA, VCP, and Python,all are good to know.  I would also add shell scripting and Perl to that list.  The path that has served me better than all my tech brothers and sister that took the Microsoft path has been to master UNIX.

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #48 on: August 06, 2013, 07:54:16 AM »
I would recommend the UNIX (Linux, AIX, Solaris, BSD, Mac OS X, etc.) path.  It has served me well.  I didn't even technically finish high school yet I have been earning 6 figures for the last 8 years of a 15 year career.

Higher barrier to entry means generally less competition and larger more expensive deployments means you get access to lucrative positions.  It is also a skill set whose fundamentals have not changed much since 1975.  Yet there are always new exciting technologies popping up all based on UNIX. I agree with everything else in here as well.  CCNA, VCP, and Python,all are good to know.  I would also add shell scripting and Perl to that list.  The path that has served me better than all my tech brothers and sister that took the Microsoft path has been to master UNIX.

The caveat: unix seems to be a "big city thing".  I notice you're DFW ... that's where I did most of my unix work.  When I moved to the sticks, jobs were seriously hard to find.  They existed... but very few per square mile.  And the salaries were waaay lower.

anastrophe

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Re: IT certificate or computer science B.S.?
« Reply #49 on: August 06, 2013, 10:07:21 AM »
The caveat: unix seems to be a "big city thing".  I notice you're DFW ... that's where I did most of my unix work.  When I moved to the sticks, jobs were seriously hard to find.  They existed... but very few per square mile.  And the salaries were waaay lower.


We are probably only going to live in the Eastern Seaboard Megalopolis so that's all actually very good to know. I've wondered, actually, since my job we have both a Unix* person who runs our big data servers and a Microsoft person for the staff/client computers.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2013, 11:20:07 AM by anastrophe »