Which qualifications are worthwhile?

Howdy folks, I'm considering a change of career from my current medicinal line of work and stepping into the great grand world of IT. My current plan is starting in helpdesk work and moving up through network admin jobs (i.e. a junior position and working upwards). Most of my current IT skills are self taught; it&# …

This topic was created by Thomas 4 .

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Re: Don't bother....

Folks, your problems are crappy jobs. Get some experience, become a contractor/consultant, rake in the cash and have a new workplace every few months!

If you just sit in the corner being the underpaid geek, all the while hoping someone's going to hand you a pot of gold, then of course your life's going to seem miserable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't bother....

Same for anyone in any industry! If you think your manager/company is going to offer you an automatic pay-rise/new job title every year, forget it. If you're within a co and can see a jump, you have to construct it yourself professionally and let management and the seniors around you do the hard work. No need to go solo, but personally; the option is a very good one if you specialise and understand a lot of stuff under different job roles in the same basket.

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Re: Don't bother....

Anonymous Coward: I'd stay there. I've worked in IT all my life and this golden, plush future with endless pots of cash is crap.

Well, the 1990's were pretty good. I remember getting big raises and bonuses every year and calls every week from recruiters trying to steal me from my current employer with promises of more interesting work and/or more money. The years leading up to Y2K, management was throwing money at IT like never before. I expected to retire comfortably by the time I was 50.

Then early 2000 everyone discovered that they had more computer power, storage, and bandwidth than they needed and since we upgraded all the hardware and software preparing for Y2K that there wasn't enough work. Management no longer looked at IT as a resource to invest in but rather an expense to be cut. Most shops fired half of their IT staffs and used the threat of pink slips to get the employees who remained to work harder, longer, and for less money.

IT was a pretty good ride in the 90's but now the party is over. I managed to stay employed but I haven't had a raise in 10 years and now I'm under so much stress and so overworked that it is straining my family life and ruining my sanity and health.

I feel thoroughly stuck. I'm too close to retirement to realistically change fields but IT is getting to be such a drag.

If IT is what you really really want to do than go for it. As I like to say, no mater how crowded the field there is always room at the top. If you want to get into IT for good pay, nice work environment, and a good career/life balance than you are probably barking up the wrong tree.

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Stop

Re: Don't bother....

"I'm also self-taught"

There is most of your problem, I would love to offer you a job but taking you on would be too much of a gamble, I have no idea of your competence level and my manager would kick my ass if you turned out to be a bad call!

IT is a field that requires skills and the right mentality, if you don't have qualifications or experience, then there is absolutely nothing that shows me you can do the job or even have the aptitude for IT.. My advise is do an apprenticeship or go back college/uni (or do an evening course).

Good luck with whatever direction you choose :)

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Pint

Re: Don't bother....

@David Hicks

Folks, your problems are crappy jobs. Get some experience, become a contractor/consultant, rake in the cash and have a new workplace every few months!

Bollocks, I've been contracting for years, and right now I am on the same rate I was on in 1999. In the past 4 1/2 years I have been out of work for nearly a year, wiping out any gains I made contracting.

@Thomas 4

Like you, I changed careers after 15 years in one profession, I obtained an IT qualification, and changed to IT in the same company. The biggest problem you will face is that you will be competing with the PFYs from day one, you will be a 35 year old person competing with a 20 year old PFY with a diploma in some aspect of IT who is prepared to work for a lot less that you are.

As somebody has already posted, any sort of qualification is only to get you on the first rung of the ladder, after that experience counts, but you may still some IT qualifications to get past the initial box-tickers in HR.

Potential employers are also going to be thinking that you only want got get experience quickly and then move on to a higher paying job, after all, you're older, you may have more commitments than the PFY. And when you are a 55-year old IT worker you will be competing with a 40-year old IT worker with the same level of experience and skills as you do.

My recommendation to you would be to try and build on your current experience, play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Is there any aspect of your current job that you could build on and push in the IT direction?

And forget the helpdesk work, my experience of helpdesks' is that they exist to prevent contact between customers and useful help. I also suspect that a lot of helpdesk performance management is not based on the quality of help given but on the number and duration of calls. Have a clear idea of what you want to do in IT, working on a helpdesk will not get you a job as a programmer or as a hardware technician.

Sorry if I come across as a hard case and cynic, 20 years in IT will do that to you.

Cheers and good luck

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't bother....

The guys moaning on here sound like they are sitting on their ass waiting for the pot of gold to land on their lap.

In 2011 I got a minimal 2% pay rise then in 2012 I got 3%. In December I applied for a job after looking for a few weeks and got a 13% pay rise with my new salary.

The jobs are out there but you may need to be prepared to move. I am in Aberdeen and do appreciate we are in a bit of a micro bubble (apparently Aberdeen never went into recession) so my views and experience may not be replicated across the country.

If you have good people stills you can go a long way in IT, at my last job we really struggled to recruit people with the right people skills, you can teach IT skills but not how to deal with people so that was a big thing for us.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't bother with an IT degree

Seriously, steer well clear of anything IT related. Go for a pure science or engineering e.g maths, statistics, physics especially with electronics, chemistry or electronic/mechanical/chemical engineering. The skills you'll pick up won't do you any harm, and the qualification will be far more valuable when you find someone has moved your cheese.

Why ? Well... I've never come across anything in the workplace as tricky as partial differentials or General Relativity. You might also want to take a minor in history especially ancient, medieval and renaissance as it will help you with the office politics.

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Re: Don't bother with an IT degree

Depends if its "IT BSc" or various flavors of comp sci i graduated (first class honors) with a security and networks BSc which combined with the ccna i did between 2nd and 3rd years (paid for myself and studied over the summer) got me an interview to a major tech companies grad scheme.

i got the job, have got some very strong qualifications in networking (although all my final year project was building a distributed cryptanalysis system) and am nearing the end of a company funded MSc. Most of the big companies grad schemes will take you regardless of age (i was 7 years older then some of the grads) but have to be graduated from uni within 3 years max of applying.

All depends where you want to go, generic "IT" then helldesk route is fine, networks go cisco certs (initially), sysadmin red hat certs etc. Ignore people that tell you certs are worthless, they are if all you do is download pass4sure and collect them but you will be called out on it in an interview. it is the knowledge that you learn along the way that is worth it and not the piece of paper (job wise the knowledge i acquired whilst getting my CCIE is worth way more than the 3 years of things i did at uni). The flipside of this is don't believe the trainers that tell you that "X cert = X money"

End of the day go with what you want and feel happy piling the hours in to, as long as you are learning that is all that matters.

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Childcatcher

Application Development

If you have a degree already, there probably is no return in getting another one at this point, so I wouldn't worry about that. I don't know how burned out you are with your current work, and I do not know the state of medical software in the UK, but with those two caveats I suggest you consider programming medical software. If you have dealt with it in the past, you probably have some opinions about what works and what does not. You are probably aware of various rules and regulations that influence the area, too. I hear a lot of complaints from my healthcare providers about the apps they use, so there would seem to be a market for this sort of work at least in the States.

Good Luck!

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Meh

Heathcare sector in the UK

I do work in UK healthcare IT - and have done for 15 years. I have no formal IT qualifications just clinical ones.

UK healthcare IT

1. Is totally dominated by one utterly ignorant, imbecilic and fickle customer - the NHS (or in fact the DoH)

2. The money is cr@p unless you can get on the increasingly elusive consultancy circuit. Gone are the heady days of Nu Labour and management consultancies throwing zillions at morons.

However that doesn't mean you shouldn't try this sector given your background.

Robet Helpman makes an excellent point. Domain knowledge is helpful and even valued by most sensible IT companies.

Also IT work is not restricted to taking a monkey wrench to hardware and cutting code. Good systems analysts, people who can read and write functional specs and documentation, trainers etc AND have worked in the industry the software is being supplied to are few. If you set out on that path you may find yorself with plenty of choice of work in this sector - but as I said - don't plan on retiring to the Caribbean at 35.

And don't kid yourself it's an escape from the NHS. If you work for a supplier to the NHS - you'll still be at the sharp end of the Political BS.

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Happy

If I was hiring an entry-level tech for my team (which does internal and customer support for cellular networking), I'd look for A+ and Network+ certs, a solid work history in anything, and a knack for troubleshooting. While I understanding that an entry-level anything requires mentoring and OJT experience to get better, they need to come in being able to support themselves from an IT standpoint and have the basics of IP subnetting and such already down pat, else I might as well hire "want to get into IT" people from within our company instead.

And, good luck to you!

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Pint

Hrmm. Difficult

I drifted into IT after not having the werewithal to do things like law post first degree. I started with a first line desktop job and moved into server support and then made the jump to UNIX/Linux from Windows. I did do half of an MsC in Computer Science at Birkbeck (well worth considering). I even use (abuse) some of the stuff I learn't there.

The vendor specific courses are often good but very expensive and the current climate in companies to pay for training seems to be built round the harsh laugh and FOAD principle - others can disabuse me of this idea.

One of the troubles is that the industry is in a state of change and the traditional sysadmin role is going to disappear quite soon. In my view anyway.

I would start with working to expand your knowledge by building different stuff at home. E.G. put linux on an old PC and then try to get samba and ldap working so you can get some knowledge of how these things work. You could also play with things like apache and such like in this way. Of course, this won't let you put x years experience with Linux sysadmin on your CV. Hell desk jobs tend to be poorly paid and not located in London

Good luck with the career change.

Beer because you will need it :-)

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It all depends, doesn't it?

It all really depends on what area in IT you'd like to get into. IT is a wide field.

One quote that comes to mind is that one should everything about something and something about everything.

It requires time and a modest investment on your part. Most of what you'll need is freely available online or available at a modest cost.

I always recommend learning SQL and databases to people who want to get into IT. Most companies store their data in a DB, even if it (and often it is) a MS Access or FileMaker Pro DB. Turning data into information is a useful skill. Adding reporting experience with Crystal Reports etc helps further.

Furthermore, once you know one dialect of SQL, getting into the others isn't that difficult. The server software ranges from free (Postgres, MySQL, MS SQL Server Express, Oracle (I think) to affordable (MS SQL Server Developer Edition is about $150 up to the insanely expensive.

There are many entry-level books available in good bookshops which walk one through the theory and the practice. There are many helpful sites online, such as http://www.simple-talk.com.

Finally, many companies offer certification exams which I have personally found to be very useful at application and interview stages.

If you can, avoid helpdesk jobs. In my experience, the people who work there are overworked and underpaid. It is usually stressful and the remuneration in no way justifies it. People in Helpdesk tend to last no longer than 9 months, with the exception of the lifers, and they usually get little respect. they are at the bottom of the foodchain.

If you can survive on very little, your time will be better spent practicing at home.

At the end, though, you have to ask yourself: what do you enjoy doing? what do you do in your spare time? If you are fond of tinkering with networks and seeing what they can and won't do, then networking and systems administration would seem to be the way to go.

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For the love of all things holy DON'T DO IT!! (Oh go on then....I'm just bitter from over 10 years in IT).

Essential skills:

1) Ability to consume vast amounts of junk food and caffeinated drinks, with little ill-effect.

2) Ability to explain complex technical things to senior managers in the most basic of language (sometimes more difficult then you would think)

3) Ability to keep something working long after it should have died (Born out of necessity)

4) An infinite amount of patience.

Qualifications:

I found these actually count for very little in the IT world. What you know means almost nothing compared to what you have actually used and what you have done. But there are a few that help establish a "baseline":

1) CompTIA A+ (Easy Peesey)

2) CompTIA Network+ (Almost as easy as the A+)

3) Maybe an MCP (or whatever they are now called) in Active Directory/Windows Server/Exchange (They are the most general.

4) Cisco CCNA.

All the rest tend to be for a specialisation.

What might help, is if you have an IT department in your current job, see if you can do a bit of shadowing with them. I had a guy in my last job that shadowed me for 6 weeks, and I managed to teach him many of the basics in that time. He then moved up north and got a job with NetApp, where he now works as a storage specialist....he used to be a part time security guard!

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Happy

Why do you want to get into IT?

If it's for the money, then you might be wasting your time. If it's because you love tinkering with computers, you *might* get lucky and the money will follow later on.

Get yourself a linux box and use it to learn scripting, admin and programming (Python, Ruby).

Go onto the Khan Academy and Code Academy sites and run through some of the tutorials.

If you are serious about networking, sign up with the Open University and learn all the skills you would need for a CCNA. This will cost you, but you'll get a lot of hand holding / tutorials and at the end of it you should be ready to take the CCNA exam.

Get a Raspberry Pi, and get it to do something interesting.

Pick an area that interests you personally. Is it's media players, then install XMBC and Navi-X. If it's programming then learn a bit of Perl and install ImageMagic module and get it to, I dunno, make thumbnails out of hundreds of your photos. Hang around on internet forums and ask loads of questions (after you've searched carefully for the answer already of course!)

You'll get none of this from studying for a qualification, and most companies are looking for experience and a can-do attitude.

About your idea of starting with a help desk, I think that's risky as most help desks these days seem to be just about logging calls with very little chance of career progression.

Good luck! I've been doing IT for 20+ years and I still love it. :-) (actually 30 if you count BASIC programming on the Vic 20)

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Unhappy

DON'T DO IT!!!!

This field is pretty much the same as medicinal. It sucks.

The only people that I've ever met who actually enjoy working in the field are those who are married with children and can't stand being around them and therefore welcome the long hours / mandatory weekends that are indigenous.

If you enjoy life, friends (real, not chat room/Facebook friends), the opposite sex, hobbies, outdoor activities and being treated like a human being by your employer this is absolutely not the field for you (or me).

Turn back while you still can!

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Meh

Required skills

Beyond knowing what you are doing the following are requirements where I work.

CompTIA security+

Some kind of platform certification for your platform of choice. (Linux is most popular at the moment)

ITIL Foundations.

Those three plus some verifiable lies will get you in the door.

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Hi - I have been in IT (mainly outsourcing in the UK) for about 17 years.

Its obviously role dependent but in my experience, a degree isn't totally essential for a career in IT. I dont have one and have managed to work my way up from the Service Desk to IT Manager to Head of Division, now saying that I do realise that for me to move into board level position I will have to get a degree as it is pretty much a requirement here in Canada. So it depends how far you want to progress.

With regards what to focus on to get in the door, I would recommend A+ and Microsoft MCDST (or whatever the modern equivalent is) for a good grounding. You can then choose which direction you want to go from there.

If your more technical then managerial then the tech cert route is definitely the way to go over a degree. You will gain much usable experience and earn much more cash in the long term in consultancy roles than as a senior manager.

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Stop

Avoid support

Support is the easiest part of IT to get into because the bar to entry is so low. Anybody can start as a call logger and then progress to 1st line and then do some stuff like an A+, N+ or some Microsoft bits. The problem is because anybody can do it and many do there is no progression. The only support people who do well are those who focus on a specific product and in general that's very hard to do at most companies who expect you to be a generalist. Support becomes a grind for the vast majority who are fed up of users making the same mistakes and requests day in, day out. It is one of those areas that challenges rarely come along and doesn't allow for any expression of creativity. Realistically your only way out of support is management or project work\management both of which require retraining later down the line (ITIL, Prince2 etc).

I would consider SQL as a really good skill. It allows you to have flexibility, there will always be people looking for somebody to develop for SQL if that floats your boat and if it doesn't so many applications rely on it that you'll never be short of support options. If you like a particular area of SQL (SharePoint, web back-end to name two) then you can elect to develop along those line when it suits you.

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Teach yourself at home.

There's a wide field of stuff to learn. Personally, I wouldn't focus on a particular certification but instead learn as much techie avenues as you can.

I'd start with virtualisation (VMware, Citrix...) You can then get a small Virtual Server Farm up and running at home with which to build on. From there you can further build your skillset. Microsoft, Linux, Solaris, MAC OS all run happily of virtuals.

http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-610840.html - teach yourself. Once you get really comfortable, then try and get the basic certs in whichever techs you are interested in.

VMware, in order to get a cert you have to have attended an approved training course and take the exam. Others it can be as simple as learning the stuff and taking for the exam.

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tricky

but I would say do not even consider Microsoft Windows certifications - nobody cares about those.

VMWare is a good suggestion from Scuby

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Headmaster

So what qualifications *do* IT recruiters look for in a newcomer?

Well generally around about three years of Windows 8 experience, (or whatever the current vogue is). Just a thought mind, why do you want to get into IT? Answering that question should answer all the other questions you have.

ps

Was in a hospital the other day and radiology is apparently crying out for people at the moment. (So you can do tech and medically type stuff if that's your interest).

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IT Angle

Besides which qualifications to study, the main question surely should be can you "afford" to change careers at this stage of the game. Depends on were you live etc etc but helpdesk wages are very low and generally only good for those skipping out of school/college with no commitments etc. If you have wife/family/car/house any or all then you will need to look at the average salary for helpdesk and desktop support to see if you can survive the 2-3 years on average it takes to rattle through those positions.

Helpdesk positions generally do not require any certifications, only a certain mindset so dont go thinking that you need a certification before you start looking for helpdesk work if its feasible.

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Anonymous Coward

Agree on mind set, I got out of doing helpdesk with a lot of - These people are meant to be smart engineers why do they keep treating PCs, LAN as though it's the same as at home ARGH!! Stupid <blank> users. Went to 2nd / 3rd line and could give helpdesk / support some simple training and never got bothered by 90% of the rubbish again.

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Helldesk???

If you plan to work on the Helldesk then the first thing you need to do is de-evolve a few thousand years until your knuckles touch the floor. Then you will fit right in with the majority of Helldesk fools...

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Qualifications? Maybe. Experience = Must-have

Ok, sometimes qualifications are important in certain areas and *can* help as always get you a job, i'm not dismissing them but...

What employers really are looking for is experience, which trumps qualifications which go out of date very quickly anyway in IT most of the time, and certain skills cannot be taught quickly or easliy like problem-solving.. For example .. why the application server crashes randomly and how to create a quick workaround so it doesn't any more so the customers can get on with using the system..

There is a lot to learn and it will take years and years to learn it, either you pay loads of money to do this or learn it yourself (which is the number 1 skill you must have in IT, be able to teach yourself new skills)

My advice is to try and get your foot in the door in a company, and have something to show; a project to show your skills, whether done on a course or on your own.

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It's attitude, not qualifications

First let me just say that if you are looking at getting into the Helpdesk as an entry level support provider, YOU DO NOT NEED ANY QUALIFICATIONS.

None.

They are looking for a warm body who is semi-literate....because you'll have a script you'll read from, certain trouble-shooting steps that MUST be followed (even when the customer tells you they've already rebooted, did a System Restore, updated their drivers etc etc).and essentially you'll be taking (usually incomplete) notes for the people who will call the customer back and actually try to help them.

Helpdesk is a good first step, but get the hell out of it as quickly as you can.

How, you ask?

By showing that you have CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS.

These are woefully lacking in many IT techs...who are generally socially inept, have poor hygiene, and talk to you like you're a mushroom (in the dark and covered in shit).

You need an active interest in the technology involved.

You need to be enthusiastic and engaged.

You need to be a consummate listener.

You need to want to help people with their problems.

You need to follow up with problems and close the issue WHEN IT IS FIXED.

Because as I always tell my staff, we are in the business of helping PEOPLE.

We provide the tools they use, and the environment they work within, but without the PEOPLE it all means exactly zero. So even if you are installing additional RAM in a server, rebuilding a RAID array, or establishing new backup procedures, you are, in the end, doing it to support the PEOPLE who are actually making the company money.

The knowledge of IT, the ability to work with the equipment and software, of how things work together and how to MAKE them work together, that's down to the environment of the company you are working for, and inevitably it's on-the-job learning.

Get yourself the best attitude before you start looking at qualifications.

Get in at the ground level somewhere and find out what they need.

Then begin to read.

Then make yourself your own test environment (so you don't fuck up theirs).

Learn it yourself, learn it well, then wait for someone to screw up, step in, fix it, and get noticed.

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IT Angle

Don't forget the non technicals...

Most people here are suggesting technical skills you might want to learn. That is certainly a good start but for your first support role I feel it is more important that you can show your future employer that have all the other qualities that make a good support agent.

I used to interview for 1st line helpdesk positions and 90% of the time we went for the person who had the better communication and troubleshooting abilities rather than techincal expertise. If you do get an interview, make sure you comunicate clearly and focus on your ability to provide the best possible service to your customers (the user base) and try not to portray yourself purely as a technical specialist.

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Meh

Re: Don't forget the non technicals...

Yep, but being a technical site, (supposedly), it might be worth pointing out that 'shit floats'. The original poster should know this from their medical background. Mind if that's they way they want to go, I couldn't blame them. (Mind shame and guilt arn't the way to riches).

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Anonymous Coward

Find out what you like, then do it.

Some years ago, I moved from a medical related job in to IT. I found that I enjoyed making web based applications more than I liked playing with pipettes, and wanted to make a career of it. I already knew what I enjoyed, which was a start, so I set about making a portfolio of my hobby projects. I used this experience to get a volunteer position writing the website for a charity, used this experience to get an evening job doing IT support (while still working my day job), then used this evidence of my skill / commitment to get my first job as a web programmer.

I'd suggest that you don't worry about certificates, but find out what you enjoy doing. Offer your spare time to a worthy cause to help with their IT, write apps, write websites, do anything to show that you have commitment, initiative and basic skills. Then use this evidence to get your foot in the door with an employer.

Avoid the commodity jobs of help desk or IT support if you can, look to see if you can use your medicinal experience to your advantage. Medicine is becoming increasingly computerised, someone needs to install, maintain and certify the equipment. Someone with experience in installing OSes, trouble shooting networks who also knows some of the medical technical terms, or who at least has some knowledge of the constraints of a clinical environment, would have a big advantage over anyone with simply an A+ cert.

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IT Angle

Experience. Build (or better still write / code) something

Virtually any academic qualification is out of date as soon as you get to the field. Being able to demonstrate logical, analytical reasoning to solve a problem backed by some experience in a particular tool will put you in much better stead.

Better to be able to create something (code) or have an intimate knowledge of the market sector you will be servicing and great communication skills would be good.

To get on the ladder, network (sic) like mad.

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don't forget the value of your current skill set

Before diving blindly into a course - think for a moment where you're looking to end up. IT is a very wide field. You suggest you want to go the support/network admin/techie direction - as opposed to IT sales, programming, management direction. These rolls can be found in many sectors and industries and in many forms.

Just consider how much time you have to put in the hours and hours of training (read: mucking around and honing skills) that others may have done while growing up or studying full time. These people, and those who are willing to work for incredibly low salaries, are going to form the fat end of the wedge you're going to be competing with for a position. There is a good chance you're simply not going to have the experience and nous (simply due to lack of time) that these people do (if only in some recruiter's eyes).

However, you have a medicinal background, and no doubt experience in this sector. Combining your IT skills with your current skills is likely to land you with core skill set that is pretty unique, and if sold correctly, very valuable. If you are able to do this effectively, you will be able to compete far better than those with a pure IT background.

So don't just think about the obvious areas that require the skills you're about to gain - where everyone heads the moment they need a job. Think about those that you already have access too and see if there is a way to leverage them when choosing your course/plan of attack.

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Happy

I was in the same position 6 years ago. I had to take early retirement at 35 and wanted to start in IT. I got a first line support job with a major computer manufacturer doing hardware support with just the A+ cert.

From there I moved up the company and added more certs along the way.

The starting positions are desktop support - Get the Microsoft Windows 7 or 8 exams. If you want to go further start on the server certs. Once you have done 3 of 4 Microsoft exams you will be bored to tears with them but you should be in a better position to make a decision on where you want to go. If you choose to go with the Linux route then most of what you learn will be self taught but Cloud and Virtualisation jobs seem to be showing up a lot in job searches. I am VCP - Vmware Certified which my company paid for and if you can find a company that is willing to invest in you the sky's the limit. When negotiating for a wage always take slightly under what they offer if they are willing to pay for some training that way you help build more marketable skills. There are a LOT of specialisations out there but really you would need at least 12 months doing the basics before you decide what you want to go after next. If you decide on cloud technologies you will need SAN technology experience and will need to go after some Linux skils rather than Windows.

To make yourself the most marketable in the 12-18 month of your career a couple of Server 2008/2012 with exchange and SQL of some sort will help you apply for an Administrator role but you would need to be pretty dedicated to learn all that on your own with lots of matchsticks and coffee to keep you awake.

Definitely do ITIL foundations 2011 is the new version its boring but a dawdle to pass.

Do a networking cert CCNA does seem to be the most popular but there are other Networking courses out there that certification pays better. The Network + exam from Comptia is pretty easy and will give you a grounding in the basics.

There is no quick solution in your first couple of years but good luck.

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No qualifications but...

As with most IT people, our career comes from an IT hobby. Mine did. I did go to a 2 year evening class for a HNC but what I was being taught was really out of date and completely irrelevant. in the end I left.

I have been self employed since 2000 and in all the at time I have only ever had one phone call which asked if I had an MCSA (or something like that).

Simple fact is its raw experience which counts.

There is a place for getting qualifications, but that's usually to get the bigger paycheck by specialising in a specific area. Not even Technet can teach us everything

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Anonymous Coward

When recruiting a Junior I'll ignore technical qualifications and the like. They tend to have very little to do with the real world slog of IT, what I look for is general enthusiasm for the subject at hand and basic common sense (you'd be amazed how few people have this.)

Though I havn't been involved in large companies or helpdesks so most people I work with may be specialists in an area but are also generalists, and so we look for juniors who have the potential to do the same.

I'll take an college drop out who built his own pc, plays counter strike and, when faced with the desk pod file access question says "I'll ask if the other users have the same problem" a job any day over a Comp Sci grad who constantly answers "I don't know..." with no effort to expand into "But I'd try and find the answer on google/colleagues/books".

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From what i am reading here, I think I agree

my career started out in early college, I was doing a btec in aerospace engineering, thought it sucked and played around with computers, that was fun, it was a hobby, I loved it, then as a job I was an A/V tech, that was also awesome! ok, I was paid poopy, it was a small company, but it was so varied and the sense of accomplishment was actually quite warm and fuzzy! I needed more money took a warehouse job at British Airways, it paid great, benefits were good, but like a turd I thought I was destined for IT greatness, so I left that job, (moved to America married a local) and waited.

My first job was helpdesk, and I thought it was the bees knees, I was in IT OMGWTFBBQSAUCE! I was a computer god all powerful! feel my root account of wrath!

oh wait... "good morning this is [$name] who can I help you?"

"I see your aol isn't working, and you cannot access your brokers account I can help with that..."

"oh and it is my fault and I am a moron for breaking your aol, it worked yesterday.. I see"

"oh it works now, yes I know I am an idiot and I will not let it happen again thank you"

so I got some Microsoft certs and a couple of others A+ etc, still happy in the knowledge I will be seen as some day saving superhero, fast women and fat paychecks will be my rewards!

In reality it was Fat women and fast paychecks...

Now don't get me wrong, SOME parts of the job are interesting, but, it was a HOBBY then it became a CAREER, now all the passion has gone, there is no sense of accomplishment you fix one thing, and a day later it is broken again, you stop a massive issue that would have brought the company to it's knees, and no one knows, or if they do, they do not care, they only care when their widget app does not work or their email is stuck for 5 minutes, they only care when something bad happens, then you are the evil asswipe with the attitude. It is very hard not to get an attitude too, you are sitting there with console windows open, RDC windows open telnet sessions, you are conversing with the rest of your team trying to figure out why the XYZ platform is in the process of dying and taking the web app with it, and some manager comes up and asks inane questions about how can we stop this? is there anything I can do? why did this happen now? do you know this is affecting customers? Every bad thing that happens looks bad on you, every good thing that happens nobody notices until it breaks.. thankless

I think Devs might have more fun out of their jobs, they at least produce something and it is noticeable.

In short get industry certs, the current trendy boys are Cisco Microsoft, and virtualization, Linux is also quite well paid now for good admins, beg copy and steal erm... evaluate all the operating systems you can. If you really are interested in IT and I mean INTERESTED, it consumes your every moment (not gaming, not building home networks but interested in mundane scripting, switch configs firewall rules, updates, automating updates talking to idiots erm frustrated users, making a server or a network hum and buzz with activity, and you do not mind the thankless late night, long day,s weekends and holidays making sure nobody notices the next disaster ( that WILL happen) then you will enjoy it..

Otherwise go to college the OU or whatever get an BA in business or an MBA and find work as an executive manager CEO etc, it will be more rewarding ( just remember us poor IT weenies when you are :D)

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Stop

From what i am reading here, I think I agree

my career started out in early college, I was doing a btec in aerospace engineering, thought it sucked and played around with computers, that was fun, it was a hobby, I loved it, then as a job I was an A/V tech, that was also awesome! ok, I was paid poopy, it was a small company, but it was so varied and the sense of accomplishment was actually quite warm and fuzzy! I needed more money took a warehouse job at British Airways, it paid great, benefits were good, but like a turd I thought I was destined for IT greatness, so I left that job, (moved to America married a local) and waited.

My first job was helpdesk, and I thought it was the bees knees, I was in IT OMGWTFBBQSAUCE! I was a computer god all powerful! feel my root account of wrath!

oh wait... "good morning this is [$name] who can I help you?"

"I see your aol isn't working, and you cannot access your brokers account I can help with that..."

"oh and it is my fault and I am a moron for breaking your aol, it worked yesterday.. I see"

"oh it works now, yes I know I am an idiot and I will not let it happen again thank you"

so I got some Microsoft certs and a couple of others A+ etc, still happy in the knowledge I will be seen as some day saving superhero, fast women and fat paychecks will be my rewards!

In reality it was Fat women and fast paychecks...

Now don't get me wrong, SOME parts of the job are interesting, but, it was a HOBBY then it became a CAREER, now all the passion has gone, there is no sense of accomplishment you fix one thing, and a day later it is broken again, you stop a massive issue that would have brought the company to it's knees, and no one knows, or if they do, they do not care, they only care when their widget app does not work or their email is stuck for 5 minutes, they only care when something bad happens, then you are the evil asswipe with the attitude. It is very hard not to get an attitude too, you are sitting there with console windows open, RDC windows open telnet sessions, you are conversing with the rest of your team trying to figure out why the XYZ platform is in the process of dying and taking the web app with it, and some manager comes up and asks inane questions about how can we stop this? is there anything I can do? why did this happen now? do you know this is affecting customers? Every bad thing that happens looks bad on you, every good thing that happens nobody notices until it breaks.. thankless

I think Devs might have more fun out of their jobs, they at least produce something and it is noticeable.

In short get industry certs, the current trendy boys are Cisco Microsoft, and virtualization, Linux is also quite well paid now for good admins, beg copy and steal erm... evaluate all the operating systems you can. If you really are interested in IT and I mean INTERESTED, it consumes your every moment (not gaming, not building home networks but interested in mundane scripting, switch configs firewall rules, updates, automating updates talking to idiots erm frustrated users, making a server or a network hum and buzz with activity, and you do not mind the thankless late night, long day,s weekends and holidays making sure nobody notices the next disaster ( that WILL happen) then you will enjoy it..

Otherwise go to college the OU or whatever get an BA in business or an MBA and find work as an executive manager CEO etc, it will be more rewarding ( just remember us poor IT weenies when you are :D)

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Trollface

MSCDEX

Do you know what MSCDEX is? Can you get a Soundblaster card working in Windows 3 without using QEMM?

If not, I wouldn't bother.

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Meh

Re: MSCDEX

meh... Soundblasters were easy, if you really want a challenge you want a 'soundblaster compatible' card! A high end model like a BluePoint card :)

In all seriousness though, there are some other admin areas which underlay pretty much all companies out there. A passing knowledge of MQ admin wouldn't steer you wrong for a lot of places, although teh IBM courses and certifications are definitely in the "my company is paying for it" price range.

It's not sexy, but almost every company has some sort of messaging infrastructure holding everything together and it needs administration. It's also pretty platform independent too, distributed MQ skills are pretty transferable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MSCDEX

Yes, I remember those days. Even before that in fact, Pagemaker with the runtime Windows included. The earliest DOS installer I saw was 1.25 and remember dblspace mess and dr-dos fiasco with Win 3.1 error.

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s10
Alert

Re: MSCDEX

Kid's stuff. How about WfWG 3.11 creating a share / sending messages to/from a dual 5.25" floppy 8088 4MHz and not a lot of RAM.

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Silver badge

Depends on your aspirations, but consider a course that teaches you how to conduct research, especially research using the Internet. Support roles are typically about finding the problem, then applying a fix, so skills in applying a logical diagnosis are key (and this is applicable to life, not just technology).

There are very few technical course out there where the knowledge is not available via google, bing, yahoo, etc, IF you know how to look, and HOW TO SIFT the useful answers from the rubbish answers (this is the important bit).

After a couple of years in IT, if you've been any good you'll get your next job because of your last or current one. It really is that nepotistic. Qualifications go out of date very quickly, unless you're prepared to invest in continued re-certification (and in my experience, people with too many certificates are usually useless at most of it)

Getting that initial job might be difficult, so you should only rely on the words of a recruiter to tell you what you need. Find a friendly agency or two to phone and ask them what skills they are recruiting now.

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Stop

My first advice is don't do it.

IT is not the glamorous well paid job that some people think it is. It is often tedious, stressful and constantly changing. (You know how to set up an Exchange 2000 server? Well bully for you, because we're moving to an Outlook fog/cloud.)

You'll be stuck in an office for the rest of your days. Might be nice on rainy winter days, but most of the time you'll be wondering what that strange glowing orb outside is.

If you insist on doing it, figure out what it is you want to focus on. You mention networking - get yourself a CCNA. You can practice using a Linux box and dynamips. Heck, even set up a few Olives for a Juniper qualification.

Want DB administrator roles? Get yourself a few Oracle courses (NB. these also change all over the place).

Some places ask for degrees, but some don't. We've interviewed a university dropout before, and have an ex-factory worker who is one of the most knowledgeable people in the place. Look at the job adverts for the type of roles you would apply for, and what they are asking for. A lot of the time your CV just needs the buzzwords to get past the HR drones, before the techies can really quiz you to see if you know your stuff.

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You can do a degree in London at night at Birkbeck

http://bbk.ac.uk

Also if you're considering a change of career I'd recommend professional career counseling.

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Silver badge

Tricky...

One thing to consider - however good you are at building a home PC working in a corporate environment is very different. Helpdesk requires remote troubleshooting without being sat at the PC and dealing with users who are scared to even tell you what the full error message is. It isn't fun and it isn't glamorous, however it is the first step on a rung of a ladder (usually to second line support).

With the amount of graduates who are looking for IT jobs who have got a computer degree and are willing to work for minimum wage the market is tough out there. I would agree that for an experienced candidate a degree is little more than icing on the cake and doesn't stand for much in real terms.

So your first step is to decide whether you want to be a specialist or a generalist. Then look at the job boards for jobs you might be interested in. Keep a spread sheet of every qualification they state is either essential or desirable. Mark them down as such.

After looking through 50 jobs in your area you should be able to see which qualifications are deemed the most sought after (or even the minimum) you need for your role.

Then check out the length of time it takes to do the course (and availability in your area and your timetable), the costs and any extras you need (like time in industry or software or reading materials).

Your spreadsheet should now show you the best qualifications V cost V time to complete. This should give you a good idea of which course is the best to invest in.

Entry level jobs could be either helpdesk or a support technician. A technician is a bit more hands on and usually works for smaller companies. It is (IMHO) more interesting and allows you to quickly build up a skillset. A helpdesk can be a bit monotonous and could be specialised to a certain sector or package and so it isn't so valuable.

If you are lucky enough to get a job then keep pushing for promotions every 12~18 moths or look elsewhere. You will gain the most experience if you move around a bit and don't get stuck in your ways picking up bad habits from one company. Also try to extol the benefits of your employer paying you to train on the job.

In reality getting your first job will be your hardest at this stage and so you really do need a spot on CV (don't waste much time on your home build PC work it's not very relevant, work more on your logic problem solving, people skills text), a great interview technique and an instant likeable personality.

Good luck.

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Re: Tricky...

DaLo is spot on here. As a manger in a corporate environment, I expect anyone looking for a career in IT to spend a fair amount of time playing with tech at home. It shows that you are interested in the subject, however, a corporate environment is no place for someone to be playing.

Environments are protected by change control and desktop images are standardised for a reason. I would not hire someone who could not see their way past downloading and installing a piece of freeware to solve a users problem. (You've invalidated the standardisation, now no-one else can support this user. Chances are this application is not backed up nor encrypted. You've added a new application to the Service Catalogue that the rest of the team will have to support, and chances are you've pissed off the Security Director who is going to get his bum kicked by the auditors.)

I know lots of really good desktop support guys with Network or Server qualifications, all trying to get their big break and make it into SysAdmin teams. They are really good but it's tough to get the Desktop Support label removed.

Certifications are only useful to prove that you are not bluffing when you are trying to get your foot in the door, so despite lots of other respondents saying they do fine without them, remember they already have an IT job.

I'd go for the real value-adding jobs - network admin, SQL DBA, web developer, programmer. Support is unfortunately just seen as a commodity.

Use your medical experience. Follow the charity route. Maybe even a medical charity. Good luck, in the right role, IT can be a really rewarding and fulfilling job.

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Janitor

I would also say don't bother with IT support - unless you are lucky or know the right people, you will end up as the digital janitor. And it isn't fun.

But if you are determined then I would say don't work for a small company in a support role. Unless you are lucky and pick a start-up that becomes successful or that gets bought out, you will get stuck with little prospects and little income to train your way out of that rut. A large company will likely offer paths for progression and training.

Also avoid on-line training companies. The material is usually very poor and quite often wrong. That said not all on-line training is bad. I have taken a couple of free on-line courses from Stanford University and they have been very good though don't come with recognised qualifications.

As for what qualifications *do* IT recruiters look for in a newcomer? Probably about 3 to 5 years experience in the thing that you are only likely to get experience on if you have been working at a large corporation for 10 years...

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Silver badge

It depends

What industry and what role are you planning to do/

I have never bothered with a qualification and make about 36k for a technician support role. Of course, I am quite lucky, and have proven time and time again that a degree or course does not make you a better candidate. However if I was a fresh faced noob the I would probably go for ITIL and a few of MS courses to start with.

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Go

Certification

As others have suggested, if you can't do a degree, get some type of certification. You'll never get in the door for an interview without some sort of credentials.

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IT is a nasty business, we all know it.

Get some niche training on niche products that have high value. Things like the top end VM ones are highly sought after, same goes for specialist security software like the enterprise security such as CSP

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