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Experienced IT people - I need career guidance


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#1 Broseph

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 10:32 PM

Experienced IT people - I need your guidance.

How valuable are the CompTIA A+ and MCITP Server Administrator certifications?

I'm worried that I'm headed straight for a call center. I absolutely do not want that.

I just wrapped up my first week of Network Technology classes at the local vocational school and I want to make sure I'm headed in the right direction.

My goal is to work at a small office/small business or educational setting as a network administrator or all around IT guy.

Money-wise I'll take what I can get - after doing some reading 40k a year sounds like a reasonable expectation - or am I way off? I really have no aspirations of making seven figures. In fact, I want to avoid a high stress position even if it means making less money.

So! Experienced IT folks - am I headed in the right direction?

#2 gravel

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 12:20 AM

Network admin in an educational setting is definitely not low stress.

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#3 Temporaryscars

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 01:45 AM

Nope, it's not what I would call low stress, but I do love it. If you love working with technology, then you'll like the gig, even with the stress involved.

The certifications are always good.

40k? Depends on where you live. I make less than that, but I do quite well because I live in an area where the median income is much lower than everyone else. If you live in LA, I would say try to get more. If you live in Kermit, TX, then go for it.



#4 Jodou

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 02:16 AM

Money-wise I'll take what I can get - after doing some reading 40k a year sounds like a reasonable expectation - or am I way off? I really have no aspirations of making seven figures. In fact, I want to avoid a high stress position even if it means making less money.

So! Experienced IT folks - am I headed in the right direction?

Way off. You should be getting double that AT LEAST. I make six figures a year (gross) contracting IT work but I don't work on networks directly, so maybe I'm off for what you're looking at. I would expect a network engineer to be paid just as well, though.

#5 Clak

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 02:59 AM

A+ isn't worth shit, network + and the MS cert would be okay since you're thinking of network management.
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#6 Temporaryscars

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 03:46 AM

A+ isn't worth shit, network + and the MS cert would be okay since you're thinking of network management.


This. I didn't even think anyone still offered A+.

Do yourself a favor and learn virtualization. I think most companies are moving that way, despite how much I dislike it.



#7 dohdough

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 04:02 AM

Having an A+ is like having a hs diploma, but if you're going network admin, you should be looking at CCNA/CCENT with a Sec+ chaser. If you're young, in school, and don't have a Comp Sci/MIS degree you better look for some internships.

#8 Temporaryscars

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 04:20 AM

Having an A+ is like having a hs diploma, but if you're going network admin, you should be looking at CCNA/CCENT with a Sec+ chaser. If you're young, in school, and don't have a Comp Sci/MIS degree you better look for some internships.


Yup, the Cicso certs are highly sought after.

OP, you might want to try getting into a company at an entry level tech support/network admin position and work your way up. Many employers will pay for your certifications. They can get pretty pricy.



#9 Broseph

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 05:29 AM

This is the sort of thing I was worried about. In fact, I even described the A+ cert as a "high school diploma for IT stuff" when my brother asked about it.

I don't know how to go about this without spilling a bunch of personal information - but suffice to say, I can't afford to waste 22 months and several thousand dollars on these A+ and MCITP certifications if it gets me nowhere.

Time is at a premium for me - but I could spare a year or two if it gets me going in the right direction.

Is there another IT discipline that I can look into? Something I can do at some kind of vocational school? Something that I might have overlooked?

Thanks for your time guys, I appreciate it.

#10 Clak

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 12:03 PM

The Cisco certs are expensive, but they'll also do you the most good. Personally I went the system administrator route. The pay is good, and being a admin isn't as stressful to me. The IT field is very competitive, without a 4 year degree and/or experience you'll be fighting an uphill battle.
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. -George Carlin

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” -Mark Twain

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -Jonathon Swift

#11 Temporaryscars

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 01:27 PM

This is the sort of thing I was worried about. In fact, I even described the A+ cert as a "high school diploma for IT stuff" when my brother asked about it.

I don't know how to go about this without spilling a bunch of personal information - but suffice to say, I can't afford to waste 22 months and several thousand dollars on these A+ and MCITP certifications if it gets me nowhere.

Time is at a premium for me - but I could spare a year or two if it gets me going in the right direction.

Is there another IT discipline that I can look into? Something I can do at some kind of vocational school? Something that I might have overlooked?

Thanks for your time guys, I appreciate it.


I guess if you had nothing else, then A+ would be better than nothing. It would probably be enough to get your foot in a door, or if only to take up some space on your resume.

The Cisco certs are expensive, but they'll also do you the most good. Personally I went the system administrator route. The pay is good, and being a admin isn't as stressful to me. The IT field is very competitive, without a 4 year degree and/or experience you'll be fighting an uphill battle.


Clak pretty much nails it here. Get a good net admin position at a company that will pay for your certs. If you want something now to help with the job search, you can always get your MCITP cert. It's pretty basic stuff, but if you're new to this stuff, you'll probably learn something you didn't know before and the classes are a little less expensive than the Cisco stuff.



#12 dohdough

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 02:39 PM

This is the sort of thing I was worried about. In fact, I even described the A+ cert as a "high school diploma for IT stuff" when my brother asked about it.

I don't know how to go about this without spilling a bunch of personal information - but suffice to say, I can't afford to waste 22 months and several thousand dollars on these A+ and MCITP certifications if it gets me nowhere.

Time is at a premium for me - but I could spare a year or two if it gets me going in the right direction.

Ummm...22 months is less than 2 years?:lol:

If you're starting from scratch, you're going to need those 2 years period unless your brain is a sponge.

Depending on how long you've been fooling around with computers, the A+ is very easy. I've been taking computers apart and putting them back together for over 20 years, so I knew most of the hardware stuff, but needed to brush up on my windows knowledge.

Networking beyond setting up wireless at home was completely new to me and trying to learn it on my own really threw me for a loop. I could've learned binary on my own, but subnetting would've been impossible.

Now there are a few ways to go about learning this stuff. Instead of going to a vocational school, look into your local community college. Classes should be FAR cheaper than a place like ITT Tech. Many will also have Cisco Academy departments as well as getting discounts and free vouchers for certs after completion of certain courses. There are also online videos with free instruction like Professor Messer, whose A+ and Net+ vids are great, but should be supplemented with books.

For cert fees, you're looking at about $150 per exam. A+ and CCNA have two each for a total of 4 exams although, you can take a cumulative CCNA test for slightly less than the cost of the two exams. Net+ and Sec+ are one each. So you're already looking at $600-$750 on exams alone using the average cost of discounted vouchers.

Is there another IT discipline that I can look into? Something I can do at some kind of vocational school? Something that I might have overlooked?

Thanks for your time guys, I appreciate it.

Honestly, it doesn't matter which specialty you go into because the path is pretty much the same. Networking certs are more stable than MS certs because MS is always mixing them up every few years. If you learn quick, and turn learning into a fulltime job, then you can probably get this done in a year, but if you're a bit of a slacker like me, it'll take longer.

#13 Clak

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 04:16 PM

Does depend though, if you're going to be a MS Server admin, those MS certs are a good idea simply because it's a MS product. No different than Cisco offering it's own certs for it's products. Comptia certs are more general, not product specific. In general, be ready to put up with a lot of bullshit, unrealistic questions on these tests.
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. -George Carlin

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” -Mark Twain

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -Jonathon Swift

#14 Habbler

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 10:42 PM

Comptia A+ was redone in 2009 right after Windows 7 released. Thankfully you don't have to know about daisy wheel printers or any other antiquated technology anymore. I think Windows 2000 is still on the test though.

I got an A+ cert in 2008 and well I ended up in a call center. Been there for 4.5 years and desperately want out. It was a comfy gig, but without getting into too much detail the industry I work in is now being severely monitored by the government and we are all working on borrowed time. I need to get some more certs before they shutter the doors.

Would love to get into a system administrator/all around IT position in a decent sized office building. The opportunities are out there if you are willing to commute or relocate. I've grown accustomed to working only 5 miles from my house, but I know a perk like that isn't worth making less than 40k even after 4 years in this gig. I would love to think an A+ and 4+ years in the field would upgrade me, but I know I will need more certs. My employer offers tons of free study materials, but they won't cover the exam fees. Still it's better than having to do everything on your own.

#15 Temporaryscars

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Posted 25 August 2012 - 10:51 PM

Hang in there Habbler, I'm sure something will come your way.



#16 Burning Karma

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 04:24 PM

My two cents: A+ is worth something, if only to help get your foot in the door. A buddy of mine got a job (entry level, straight out of college) working IT support for a Neurosurgery practice because he had the A+ cert.

#17 Lokki

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 08:20 PM

My two cents: A+ is worth something, if only to help get your foot in the door. A buddy of mine got a job (entry level, straight out of college) working IT support for a Neurosurgery practice because he had the A+ cert.


This. A+ at least shows that you know the basics. I have a long list of certifications, but that was the first that I ever got, back in 1999. The tests have changed quite a bit since then though.

In the early 2000's, it was all about Certs, because most universities were only offering Computer Science for programming. Now they offer MIS degrees. The industry has shifted over to wanting degrees again and the certs are a bonus. If all you have are certs, then you'd be lucky to get around 40K. Certs & experience may get you a bit higher, but most major companies or DoD would want a 4-year degree + certs.

I went back and finished up my degree in IT in 2008. That plus my certs and experience have gotten me a pretty good job.

Definitely get familiar with networking concepts (CCNA, CCNP, etc), virtualization (HyperV & VMware) , and security (Security+, C|EH, CISSP, etc.).

If you want to get more hands on with Windows servers, you can download trials of the server software directly from MS and play with them in a virtual PC environment for free.
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#18 speedracer

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 08:40 PM

If you want a sweet IT gig that'll pay now and forever, go GIS.
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#19 Broseph

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:10 AM

I want to thank everyone for the replies. I appreciate it. I'm looking at everything mentioned here.

Keep the advice coming!

#20 Clak

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 03:23 AM

If you want a sweet IT gig that'll pay now and forever, go GIS.

I actually got to play around with that a little in college. Geography professor i had was fairly technically literate and we did a lot of GIS stuff. Never knew how easy it could be to look up the history of a piece of property.
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. -George Carlin

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” -Mark Twain

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -Jonathon Swift

#21 Lokki

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 10:28 AM

Yup, GIS is very big in the office that I work in.
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#22 clonesniper666

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 10:41 AM

If you wanna take the A+ exam try to find a college that offers a class that allows you to take it for free the 1st time. That is how I got mine and honestly it is one of the easier tests to pass. Just remember that the A+ cert has to be renewed every 3 years now.

Currently I am working on getting my CCNA and it has been a lot of hard work but the working with routers/servers/etc is so much fun that it is worth it to me.
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#23 Clak

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:05 PM

There is a place here that offers some exam classes, but they're incredibly expensive. I think for the CCNA they wanted something like $4,000 for a one week course, that included the exam voucher as well.
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. -George Carlin

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” -Mark Twain

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -Jonathon Swift

#24 Habbler

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:08 PM

It's usually corporations that pay for those crash course seminars to get their team all trained. I mean it's too rich for any individuals blood.

#25 Clak

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 02:33 PM

See that's the catch, and i think ti's a catch that the companies behind these certs ignore, reality that is. For example, if you read the descriptions for a lot of these certs, they'll say that they're designed for people for x amount of experience, but the catch is that often times you need the certs to even land a job, depending on what you're looking for. So you can't get the job (and experience) without the cert, but the cert is designed for someone who already has experience. It's like the companies (MS for example) aren't in touch with the reality of the job market.
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. -George Carlin

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” -Mark Twain

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -Jonathon Swift

#26 Broseph

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 05:06 AM

I wanted to dig this thread back up because I'm considering a more focused direction now. Something tailored to strengths and experience I already have.

Plus, this school is not worth paying for.

I blew through the A+ stuff with a 92%. That was a couple of weeks ago. I'm actually taking the exams in January. I'm confident I'll pass.

Network+ has been challenging. Made all the more challenging by the fact my "instructor" gave me the exercises and tests for the fourth edition of the book and sold me the fifth edition book. So after the bottom fell out on my tests I started asking around and doing some homework on my homework. This happened to another person in class, too. We got the situation remedied but not wholly to my satisfaction. I lost a couple of weeks, muddied something I was already struggling with and yeaaaah.

So I'm paying a little over two grand for someone to hand me worksheets and direct me to the cabinet with the correct Learnkey videos - and they can't even do half that right. The only employer the school has a solid relationship with is Dell so that call center thing I mentioned in my original post? Totally happening.

Long story short, this is not worth going into debt for. I expect I'll withdraw after I pass my A+ exams and cut my losses.

I have learned a fair amount about the industry in my short time here - enough to form a tentative plan.

I have a BA in Video Production and about eight years of experience in that - most of which is archiving old formats to DVD. I have about 3 years of photolab experience under my belt as well and enough customer service experience to choke a horse.

So I'm going for a CDIA certification ASAP and I'm going to start applying at one of the many local energy companies as an imaging tech.

My degree coupled with my real world experience and a few Comptia certs ought to get me going. At least, I hope so. Plus, scanning docs all day doesn't sound too bad. I'm sure it won't be magical and I'm pretty sure it won't make me rich but hey, it's a good start.

Any thoughts?