Being the IT guy in a business can either make you the most hated person in the company or the man (or woman) of the hour. Most of the time, it’s somewhere in between, but it’s a highly-regarded position in any company.
The IT sector is one of the fastest growing industries in America, and that trend is expected to continue through at least 2020. So, why the huge growth, and why would someone want this job instead of another (besides playing on a computer all day for a living)?
Look at the Benefits
First, the pay certainly doesn’t suck. The average pay for a network engineer is $64,429 nationwide, and other disciplines net in the 75–100K range from day one. While managing the Wi-Fi for ranchers in Iowa probably won’t net this much, other areas pay substantially more (California, I’m looking at you). There’s a job shortage in IT, so everyone is competing with benefits, great pay, vacation — you name it — to get the top talent. To top it off, Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, Amazon and Netflix have some of the best places to work in the world.
Ok, so not everyone has a "nap room" like Google or unlimited vacation time like Netflix, but it is still a pretty cool gig, even at an average job and title. Some jobs are more engineering centric, while others are call-center oriented. IT is a very wide sector to get in to with many opportunities to cross-train, advance and get paid well doing it. My personal favorite reason, though, is because I love what I do. And if I have to work 40–60 hours per week, I might as well do what I love. It’s not for everyone — it requires a very unique mix of creative and highly analytical skills. Patience certainly helps in the troubleshooting process, but if you don’t have it, it’s helpful to remember computers don’t judge you for yelling at them — even if your coworkers do.
Start Learning Today
So, if you want to get into IT, what should you have or do? By far, the most qualifying credential is the love of learning and computers — and learning about computers. Despite popular belief, programming skills are optional depending on what field you want to go in to — but at least knowing the basic functions is handy. Sites like Code Academy and EdX help with that (I’m all about free learning — but for a wider and deeper approach, something like Lynda is certainly worth the dough). Some other notable sites to learn are ALISON, Coursera, and Udemy. Even Google is also absolutely invaluable to find documentation and forums, and YouTube "how-to’s" have helped me out of more than one pickle.
A college degree of any level is certainly helpful and provides the information necessary to get started. Certifications are also a great way to get noticed on your resume — especially if you have no college experience. With that being said, experience is king for most employers. If you don’t have any experience and don’t want to go to college, begin by getting some certs first. Cybrary is my personal favorite website to help get certification. Start with the smaller and more basic ones like CompTIA’s A+ and Networking+ for a solid Desktop Support or Helpdesk role, and work your way up to wherever you want to be. There’s a certification for everything under the sun, from Cisco’s entry level cert for networking to the coveted CISSP.
While certifications prove you know your stuff, experience is still the best option. Because nobody begins experience with experience, certifications (or college) can help to get your foot in the door. Besides, with the variety of options within the field, you can tailor your education and training to fit a future career that works for you.