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Career change to degree or certs?

#1

I have been working in the direct care field the past 5 years with a BA Sociology degree. I want to get into the IT field, but have no official experience. I have been applying to low level positions like help desk tier 1 etc but, no luck.

I am thinking about getting a IT degree or getting my A+ or any other relavent certs needed to get where I want to be. I have been fixing computers as a hobby for 10-15 years doing easy stuff for my family and friends. I am able to build a computer from scratch and set it up and install everything needed. I am very knowledgeable will all technology in general. I know some basic things for networking and security on the consumer side. I learned anything needed to make my gaming experience better like opening ports, port forwarding, etc. I also have done some basic command line stuff. I have dabbled in Linux a little bit so I have some knowledge of it. I know how to use all the Microsoft software. I know how to wipe, backup, and recover drives using free software on consumer side. I have knowledge of diagnosing and troubleshooting issues. I’m trying to list everything off that I have done, I am sure I’m missing something.

I was originally going to college for CS degree but, it was programming heavy (c++) and I decided I did not want to program. What I like to do is fix computer hardware and software related issues(something like helpdesk/desktop support). I wouldn’t mind learning networking and or security on top of that to expand my knowledge. I want to know what you all think I should do. Should I get an IT degree or just get certs to get in and continue learning and gaining certs on what ever is needed. Should I do both? Get a degree and certs after to raise my salary? I’m in USA.

Any advice is greatly appreciated, thanks.

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#2

Sounds like getting some certificates wouldn’t be too difficult or take too long for you and should help you find an IT Support role. A degree will take longer and likely cost a lot more (I’m not in the US so no idea).

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#3

Guessing by your Caps avi youre in the DC area, Would recommend Sec+ as its required for DoD related jobs for the most par.

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#4

I was thinking of getting a degree because starting salary would be higher and I think it would benefit in the long run? I believe the degree should be around 2 years to finish because I already have a BA so I shouldn’t have to take any elective courses etc just the core courses.

I also want potential growth once I get in the field and get a feel of what I really like to do and want to master it and get to the highest position for that area available.

I end up just getting certs and going from there since it would be faster and cheaper. Thanks @BGL @mutation666

Any more advice is greatly appreciated

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#6

I’d keep applying for jobs and eventually someone will take a chance and hire you. Demonstrate good work ethic and interpersonal skills, which are job related skills that aren’t domain specific.

While you’re waiting, take some time to build a computer with you’re free time (or repurpose an old one) and use it to setup a domain controller and file server on your home network. Better yet, virtualize both.

That will give you some insight into corporate IT infrastructure - even if you don’t manage it yet, understanding can be helpful.

It’ll also give you something to talk about in your interview. If you want more fun and exciting things to do while your interviewing let me know - there’s a whole shit load of IT out there.

Cotton

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#7

Thanks I will start researching on how to do that while I’m applying and have free time to do it. I have never done that before.

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#8

Once you get your domain controller setup, try to join one of your computers to your domain.

Here’s a cheat sheet for getting Active Directory Setup: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/canitpro/2017/02/22/step-by-step-setting-up-active-directory-in-windows-server-2016/

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#9

Thanks I’ll check this out

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#10

Anyone else want to chime in?

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#11

I have decided to get A+ cert because it will be faster and cheaper than getting another degree. If an employer wants to pay for my degree then I’ll do it probably.

Should I only get A+ or should I do all 3 and get security+ & Network+ as well?

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#12

I was in a very similar situation as you.

Skilled trade (HVAC) for several years, got tired of it, decided to do what I actually liked. My first “IT” related job was, well, an ok starting point. I’ll say that. I didn’t have anything IT related for education or certs. Just walked in the door, said I knew about computers, and demonstrated it. Worked there for a year and a half, but quit when I couldn’t take the work environment anymore. Boss was very frustrating. Company went bankrupt a week after I left.

Sometime during that job I got my A+ in preparation for the next job, which I’m at now. Pretty similar scenario, just applied and said I knew a bunch about computers. I have pretty poor interpersonal skills, but manage alright. I work helpdesk and do other stuff in a small IT department for a medium size company.

So, that’s my advice. Do exactly what you did in the first post. Explain what you know, what you’re comfortable with, and there’s a decent chance someone will take the chance. The key is to be honest and also find a place that doesn’t put too much stock in degrees. I get the feeling that more and more places are realizing that degrees don’t mean as much as experience, even if it isn’t strictly professional experience.

Edit: Oh, and as for certs, I say go for it. The A+ was pretty easy. The Network+ and Security+ probably would help, but probably not needed initially unless specifically required for the job. I’m working on those two now to renew my A+.

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#13

Thanks for the input @marasm . The reason I’m considering getting the other 2 certs because there is a bundle deal and on top of that it’s on “sale.”

I’m going to sign up for a “boot camp” because I think that would be a better learning environment than studying by myself and then taking the test. They offer all 3 certs and more. I hear really good things about this company as well and what is good about it each cert course is only one week long.

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#14

No problem. Like I said, just be honest and confident. If you don’t know something, say so, but also say you’re always learning and always willing to learn.

One other observation. I love hardware. Always loved building and fixing computers. However, after maybe six months at the first “IT” job I realized I couldn’t fix and sell laptops on eBay for the rest of my life. Just not sustainable, and there was zero advancement path. The “skill” is developed quickly, and after that it just stagnates. Now, after almost two years at this helpdesk plus other things job, the hardware focus is very small. Much more software focussed. The “other stuff” part is sort of hardware focussed, but not really directly computer related.

Anyway, point is, just keep in mind the future. Always be thinking what’s next, and how to advance to it.

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#15

Yes I definitely want to advance as much as possible, but I need to get my foot in the door and I think getting my A+ and possibly the other 2 certs will definitely get me in. Once in I can figure out I like most and focus on getting more educated and continue advacing and learning

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#16

I was in your shoes a couple years ago. My path was mostly paved without certs, but I still recommend them, and I’m still considering some myself. All of my knowledge and experience that is applicable has come from working.
For reference, I am now a mid level IT manager, and this is the second office I am the sole responder for.
So, to start:

Start at the lowest level. I learned a lot fixing computers for a mom and pop shop, and later, a university’s computer re-seller. Here it is also important to learn people, and dealing with them. IT people get a bad rep because they don’t focus on interpersonal skills. I would start at places like these, the stakes are far lower and less corporate, and you aren’t responsible for something out of your league. I will say, they won’t pay well, but you have to understand (I was told this when I started in IT) that you will have 4-5 years of low level positions at a variety of places before you can reasonably expect to move up, even with certs. Certs do not grant you a position, your experience working does. Even with a cert, it’s likely you will be entry level without experience. All of my salary increases (at least, the major ones) and title improvements on the resume are associated with moving from place to place.

lol I actually have a side hustle that is selling computers on eBay and elsewhere. I do a variety of work for a variety of money- that is, the more I’ve learned, the more I’m able to reproduce it and sell it elsewhere. I mean I made some money a few weeks ago setting up a small network and running some cat6. I’ve constantly made money from friends, people I’ve met, etc under the things that I’ve learned. These kind of skills can up you up to the endless possibilities in IT personally, should you chose to use them.

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#17

Oh, I’m all for developing skills and using them later. I’m just saying don’t go into a job where that’s all you do with no chance of moving up. Pick the right job as best you can first, as job hopping generally doesn’t look good.

I need to get into some side work myself. Make a little extra cash.

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#18

That’s a hard find, imo. Not saying it’s not possible, but your ceiling moves up when you do.

eh, minimum one year and you’re probably fine. That’s been mine, usually more, ~2 years each.

hardware flips are the best I’ve been doing, imo. I’m about to buy some parts before the tariffs kick in, alot of components are gonna cost more soon.

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#19

IMO certs don’t hurt. There are some pentest places that scoff at various certs, but that’s a small community that inner hires from each other any how and it’s just a matter of time they even hate on the oscp. Do it right and there are colleges that get you a lot of certs as
part of the BS program- two birds one stone

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#20

I don’t mind lower pay for the first few years if needed but I definitely want to be able to move up and make more

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#21

Learn PowerShell.

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