Dread Lörd Kaolian wrote:
Network specilist will theoretically make you more money and teach you more useful things. The IT support technician program will get you employed sooner. The problem with most of the network technician programs out there in my experiance is that they churn out people who know just enough to be really, really dangerous around a production network, without a lot of hands on experiance. Those people tend to not get hired simply because the ones doing the hiring have been burned by the last crop before. The best advice I can give you is make yourself a generalist in computer knowledge. Someone who can fill any roll rather than a specific niche. The more hats you are capable of wearing, the more likely you'll fit into that one available job.
This. You have to be aware that both tracks are going to have a slightly different progression, but network specialist is more limited and more likely to result in you being "stuck" in a single area of expertise. The bottom is going to consist mostly of running wires around. Lots of lots of wires. You may do some phone support depending on the workplace, but expect to spend a lot of time punching wires in network closets. The middle level will likely consist of switch configuration and learning to trace problems to their source (and send the wire monkeys to go fix them). High end, unless you branch out into more general IT will consist of generating configurations for networks (so you'll be the guy deciding how to lay out a set of switches/MDFs/etc to meet data requirements for some network).
Basically, in a computer support track the bottom is going to be some combination of phone support (software) or carrying computers around and installing them (hardware). As you advance, the middle will consist of more phone support (but higher tier) and/or more advanced installation or management of more complex computer systems/software. The top end is more varied, and can be anything from high level management of hardware/software platforms, to vendor implementation/architecture, to configuration management, etc, etc. The advantage is that as you advance, you will likely be exposed to many different elements along the way, making it more likely for you to "fit" into any one of these.
There's some overlap, of course. Configuration and management of namespace, vlans, etc can be handled by folks from either track, but honestly, that often ends out being more of a general IT support aspect. It is a means by which someone who came up in networking can branch out into a more general IT track though, so if you do go network specialist, try to get some experience in those areas, since it gives you a broader resume down the line.
In terms of pay/advancement, it's somewhat of a mixed bag. If you're capable, it's probably easier/faster to get to the mid level on the network track than the computer support track (cause the latter can easily get you "stuck" in phone support hell). On the flip side, it's much easier to advance from mid level computer support to high level because of the many more disciplines that you are exposed to along the way and have available to move into. The mid level computer support guy will have learned computer hardware install/repair, image installation, software installation/debugging, application use, and network configuration/debugging from a software point of view. The equivalent network support guy will know how to change settings on various types of network equipment, and how to use various pieces of test equipment, and probably some of the software side of network configuration (although you'd be shocked how many don't). That's just more limited though, so it kinda depends on where you want to be in 5 or 10 years.
Um... There's also nothing that prevents you from doing/learning both (and you really should at least have a basic understanding of both in any case). Obviously, I'm biased, but I just think that it's easier to go from computer support to a more broad IT knowledge and thus make yourself more employable down the line. Most networking guys end out doing networking stuff their entire careers. It's just hard to laterally move from that track. That's not to say it can't be done, but it is harder.