Author Topic: Getting a career in network admin/IT  (Read 4238 times)


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Getting a career in network admin/IT
« on: July 29, 2015, 02:32:41 PM »
Yet another career advice question and my apologies in advance if similar posts already exist that I may have not located...

So, a little bit about my situation: my background is in classical music, and as I approach my 30's, things like working ridiculous hours for crappy paying gigs to barely make ends meet has become less and less appealing. After a lot of research, contemplation, speaking with various people in different fields, I have settled on moving into the IT sector. Initially, my thought was to try and pave my way into programming, however, after more research, talking to people, etc...I can picture myself better in more of a network admin. position. It seems to me like all of the factors I'm looking for in a job are there - decent salary, stability, positive job outlook, and it's something that I can picture myself feeling reasonably content doing for the next however many years of my life...

At first I thought I could just get an entry level position and work my way up - however, I've been advised by some others in the field that without at least some certification, no one but no one will hire me for anything, even your most basic help desk position. So, I have been looking at this program here:

It is 10 months long with an optional internship at the end. It also costs a little over $11,000 CAD. And it's a full time program, which would also mean I would probably not be able to work full time during this next year, in addition to the expense of tuition.

Although these problems are not insurmountable, my concern is, is the investment worth the possibly payout? I'm moving out to Victoria, Canada at the end of August, and based of what I've seen on the internet, median salaries out there are around about $55,000-65,000. Frankly, I was  a little surprised - not that that's not a decent salary, but somehow I expected the earnings to be more.

My other thought has been to just get a basic front desk/admin job (which is what I'm doing currently, however, it is a temp position that ends at the end of the summer) with the aim of moving up within a company. I could be wrong in my assumption that after staying at one place for awhile, I would end up making a similar salary? Or perhaps the ceiling is higher in network admin?

Anyway, I am open to any suggestions/thoughts/advice that anyone can offer!


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2015, 02:47:20 PM »
I worked for about a year as a "systems programmer", and hated it so much I wound up moving to greener pastures 1000 miles away.  Not exactly a network admin, but closer to that than to "programmer".  But I am much more of a software / business analyst type of guy.  Reading documentation & doing routine tasks for at least 6 hours a day in between "Holy shit we have a big problem" moments really wasn't for me.

Do you have an aptitude for tech stuff?  Will you be really good at it?  That's what you've got to figure out.  If you're really good, you will make a lot of money, but if you're going to be a more middle of the road person, you'll make middle of the road money.

Anyway, nothing too specific to say, but good luck.  I'm hoping to be more involved in classical music after I retire - not nearly enough time to get really good right now.


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2015, 03:09:01 PM »
Thanks for the input!

Honestly, I'm not really sure if I'm tech savvy or not, and I think that's part of the problem. I'm not sure if there's really a way to know without trying it in "real life", which means like many things, the initial investment is a bit of a risk.

That being said, I like to think that I'm smart and capable, and I certainly enjoy doing things like taking apart my ipod and fixing it, but whether that translates into useful skills in the real world, I don't know.

Good luck with the classical music! I'm hopeful that after some space I can maybe enjoy it again in my retirement as well :)


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2015, 09:19:03 AM »
I'm a Linux, Windows, and network admin (basically do all the IT for a small company) in the US. I have been working in IT  for over 20 years. Things are a lot different now than they were before the dot-com bust.

Unless IT is something you truly love, I would recommend strongly against it. Without a degree in Computer Science or Information Systems, it is very difficult to get the high salary jobs. I went back to school at 36 and got an info systems degree, and only now am I in the salary range you mention.

The $11000 training would likely only qualify you to work a Geek Squad kind of job in the US. If you want to do something like that, to get experience, I'd recommend doing the CompTIA A+ certification instead. It's much cheaper and you can start to get a feel for the available jobs.

For any decently paid IT job, you will need one or more certifications. In the US, to get entry-level network technician work, you would need at least the low-tier Cisco certification. For sysadmin work, MCSE/MCSA and/or Linux certification would be best. The high salaries are difficult to attain without certifications and several years' experience and/or a degree. You'll still probably start as a technician rather than an admin, even with certs or a degree.

In my University program, I watched the less technically adept students and the ones who didn't truly love the field wash out or fail to find work after graduating. The ones who do work in the field make much less than I do, thanks to my years of experience before the degree. All of us work varying degrees of on-call. Since a lot of IT work would impact the business during work hours, we spend a lot of time working those off-hours. It can be grueling.

If you don't love it, deep down, and know that it's your life's work, I would recommend programming instead. I work for a small software company, and we have programmers from different disciplines, mostly not computer science grads. The main requirement is aptitude and familiarity with different toolkits. For example, if you want to be a GUI programmer, jump into Qt or maybe even Gtk. There's a lot of work available getting web systems integrated with legacy systems.

Programming is easier to get started in, and it's easier to move up. The money and hours are better. If I liked it, that's what I would be doing.


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2015, 10:13:12 AM »
I've been working in the IT world for about 20 years. I will start by saying I hate this industry and hope to never see a computer again once I retire.. lol

Though I do agree the money is great, only reason I'm still here.  I never received a degree in IT basically worked my way up through the ranks.  I work in Storage area networking designing the SAN switching environments for an extremely large company. The good thing about SAN is that theirs not really a degree for it, about the best you can do is a certification from Cisco called the CCIE. There are different CCIE tests depending what you like to work with, but these test can be tough without being in the industry to get experience on millions of dollars in equipment.  Though there are a few lower ones you can get to work up and get an entry level position where you can get some training.

I actually started with certifications(MCSE, A+, CCNA, etc) on the desktop and server side of the world, and just worked my way up from a desktop grunt, to servers, to now storage architecture.

I would just say to make sure you like working on computers first, as if I had any other choice that paid this much and let me work 100% from home I'd probably move to it.


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2015, 11:42:33 AM »
My husband followed a similar track on what you are contemplating except his training came with a much heftier price tag ($25K).  He doesn't enjoy what he does, but he is good at it and has more than tripled his salary in the last 5 years.  His biggest regret was participating in the program.  He learned a lot and it helped him get where he is today.  The problem is that after doing the course and getting his certifications, he discovered individual courses that cost $600 each that helped you get the certifications that essentially cost him $25K.  The certifications were basic as well, which didn't open a whole lot of opportunities.  He is very good at interviewing and just happened to catch the eye of a company.  He had to work very long hours while being on call and pay his dues.  The starting pay was $24K for his first job, but the company was sketchy.  My advice would be to first look into trying to get the basic certifications on your own through free online tutoring or by spending a little on some books.  This will help you to see if this is something you want to do and will save you money in the long run.  If you prefer a class setting, look up places that teach a class for a specific certification and won't cost you nearly as much.


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2015, 11:56:00 AM »
I am currently enrolled in a CIS (Computer Information Systems) program at the local community college. I would recommend getting a certification that is the equivalent to a COMPTIA A+ certification.

For really good free information I would check out

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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2015, 11:59:36 AM »
My husband works as an IT systems administrator - essentially what it sounds like you are looking to do.  Now, I don't know a single thing about the job market in Canada, but he would have never been able to move up past technician without a Bachelor's in CIS.  And honestly, the technician jobs he had before he only got hired at because he was in school for his Bachelor's.

Maybe look online at companies near you to find people who currently hold the job that you are looking to get into.  Many people who are happy in their career are happy to tell you what you need to do to get there.

Good luck!!


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2015, 12:15:45 PM »
IT might be hard if you're not "techy" by nature. You mentioned you like things along the lines of taking apart your Ipod and tinkering, etc. Seems to me you do have a technical-oriented mindset and that you could enter the field.

Are you the "IT guy" in your family or among friends? Are you comfortable navigating Windows or Mac and figuring out the 'level-deeper' things like making sure you're applying updates for Windows/Mac and other software? Or things along those lines?

If this all sounds pretty 'normal' to you I don't see why you couldn't get into the field but without the degree or cert I do agree that you might have a harder time getting a foot in the door. Though, I graduated with "International Studies" (whatever that is LOL) and ended up working as a level 1 tech support for Linksys (pre-Cisco) and as a temp. I was pretty technical prior to this though, and had worked at the computer store in college as well as the network & computing services for a short stint. Was always around computers growing up though. Got my first job in QA through a coworker from the computer store (so [social] networking is important!) and that's where I exponentially grew in my technical knowledge of OSes, scripting, troubleshooting, etc... I basically learned Linux there.

Essentially, to go far, you have to pick stuff up and learn fast when it comes to the technical parts. TIP: You never want to say things like that (e.g. "I'm a fast learner and pick things up quickly") on your resume of course, because it's sort of assumed you obtain those qualities already. It's generally cliche for people to put stuff like that in their resumes and can actually turn recruiters/hiring mgrs off a bit.

And I can't stress networking enough - if you have friends who are in the field, it's really important to ask them questions and even ask for leads on any openings. For the most part, a lot of people start out in tech support or even customer service prior to that. I concur on obtaining certs as well - the Comptia A+ that someone else mentioned is a pretty good baseline standard.

As far as salary goes, I'm not sure what you're expectations are starting out but you mention $55-65k - I'm assuming that's as a network admin? That sounds more like a junior/mid-level salary for that type of position. But I don't know - it could the normal median for your area. It always varies. Salaries in the Bay Area, New York and Southern California will always typically be the highest in the nation on average. For Canada, I don't know. Again that's the *median* and if you're exceptional your salary could always be negotiated higher. It all depends on location *and* company. The salary 'guestimators' provide a decent baseline but are never 100% accurate.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2015, 12:28:22 PM by jplee3 »


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2015, 02:20:03 PM »
I would definitely NOT spend that kind of money on a certification.

I've been in IT for about 17 years (career change).   I started out part time (referred by friend) working for a consulting firm's contract at a large company doing "operations" (armpit).  Since then, I've done network operations support, and am now Supervising a combination help desk/network operations support team (not thrilled with it, but I make good overtime).  I've achieved Cisco CCNA (Cisco Networking Academy), Microsoft's MCP, ITIL V3 Foundations.  I am trying to move into Project Management and recently got a CAPM certification and having a hard time landing something in Project Management. 

It is difficult/impossible to get a job based on a certification alone.  Mostly, it's about networking (fingers crossed, I may land a PM slot soon...via a friend in the biz...).  I would either try to land some kind of entry level position first or get a cert through self study (I've done all of mine through self study, except CCNA (the classes didn't help much)).


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2015, 02:39:06 PM »
I've been in IT for about 20 years (no college degree).  There are a lot of thing I love but also hate about it.  I've done Unix for 19+ years and recently have gotten into mobile technology.  At this point in my career I am working as a consultant, making really good money, and feel like there is no where else for me to go.  This makes me happy, however I see a lot of the younger set struggling because the degrees they have did not prepare them for the realities of technology.

This industry moves very fast and you have to be able to move with it. 

Starting at the helpdesk/support is not a bad way to start.  I have known MANY people who started in helpdesk and have quickly risen through their company IT depts.  The key to doing that is making sure you are learning as much as you can and making sure you stand out.


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2015, 02:49:22 PM »
I just retired from an IT type job of just under 30 years.

Certifications and/or degrees are sometimes important, sometimes not.  It really depends on what area of IT you fall into.  I worked in unix/linux/security and, to be honest, certs are just not that important in those areas.  (Every place I've worked had that one guy that everyone went to.  And in every case, it was a guy that was really good at what he did, but had no certs and no degree.)  Unfortunately, what *is* important is experience, which obviously takes time.

Most tech jobs have a progression.  You start working at the bottom end:  help desk, PC repair tech.  The good ones are easy to spot and move up quickly.  In a larger corporation, they'll probably move to the Network Operations Center.   From there, the good ones end up going into 3rd tier support/engineering.  Don't expect to grab a job on top right away.  If you're starting cold, you're probably looking at 5-10 years.

Where I've seen certs more important is in Cisco shops.  They're going to want Cisco certs.  The first one is relatively easy to get... but they get harder quickly.  It's not something you just study for and take a test.  You pretty much have to be working in Cisco gear all day every day.

If IT is an area you want to pursue, I'd try to get one of those bottom tier jobs.  On the side I'd start playing at home with linux/windows. 


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2015, 03:13:26 PM »
My husband was in a similar situation.  Personal trainer - long hours, no money. Totally non techy. He enrolled in a cisco academy at the local community college. The courses also counted towards an aa degree. Got his ccna, net +, a+ certs.   He finished that in I think two years. He interned at the library to get IT experience for a few months and landed a beginner position as a network technician for a contractor.  He now has ccnp cert and is doing fairly well.  He's been in the field for five years. You definitely need to know your stuff to do well in the field. So- it can be done. Good luck!


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Re: Getting a career in network admin/IT
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2015, 07:45:19 PM »
Network Admin is a mid-level job. My company has some of the best paying Network admin salaries I have seen in my city, and they pay 55-80k. Most are in around the 60-65k range. Luckily, I am one of the exceptions that are at the top of the pay. It is generally production break/fix so you have to be on call and it is generally higher stress.

Its a good stepping stone to a lot of other positions like Network Engineering. I used it to monkey branch into Network Security and vulnerability management, which hasn't landed me more money yet, but will in the long run.

For training I like CBT Nuggets CCNA and CCNP videos. Anything with Cookbook in the name, like apache/wireshark/etc cookbook, I have read several.

I like the RHEL/RHCA official study guide for linux. F5 training university is pretty good and free for F5 products. No reason to spend a lot of money on training. You will end up in a help desk or grunt job to start off with whether you have them or not.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2015, 07:49:49 PM by stlbrah »