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#1 Feb 18 2013 at 6:08 PM Rating: Good
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So I'm unemployed at the moment and decided to finally go back to school for something I've always had interest in, computers. I don't want to go to a 4 year college and so I'm deciding to go the Tech. college way. There is 2 associates degree programs I'm looking at:

Network Specialist
Or
IT Support Specialist

I was also considering Applications Development, but I'm unsure if I would make a good code monkey, and not sure how much that would limit my job perspectives here (WI). Not to mention, even spending most of my days on PC, my wpm isn't that great, so typing fast isn't one of my strengths. Maybe one of you can shed some light on that path.

The point of this post is, from your (IT people) people, which set of courses or Degree should I consider looking at the hardest? I'm interested in both (or all 3), I was leaning towards Networking, since by my own logic I could be anywhere and as long as there is a company with 2 or more PC, or a POS system I could find work, and I have Basic-intermediate knowledge of fixing/repairing PC's (Windows) as is. I get the gist of networking but have no in depth know how of it.

The IT support on the other hand is where I have more of my knowledge in, and seems much broader in general. Which is both good and bad, possibly. Good for having flexibility to go many places in the field, bad =customer support hotline. (Yes I understand both jobs could cover customer support over the phone).

So from those inside the field, and from an a general outside perspective is welcome too, any insights, or thoughts on the matter? If you were in my shoes where do you feel you would be leaning? Is there honestly much difference when on job, or does IT and Networking specialist go hand in hand where it's a one of the other would limit my choices/options?





Edited, Feb 18th 2013 6:10pm by BeanX
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#2 Feb 18 2013 at 6:17 PM Rating: Excellent
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BeanX wrote:


Shoot for this...



But expect to do this.

Speaking from personal experience. Also make sure that the credits for the course are able to be transferred to your local colleges, which I did not do. Smiley: glare
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#3 Feb 18 2013 at 6:41 PM Rating: Excellent
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Don't forget to fill you your FAFSA.

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#4 Feb 18 2013 at 7:22 PM Rating: Good
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Elinda wrote:
Don't forget to fill you your FAFSA.

Just finished filling it out. :)

Quote:
Speaking from personal experience. Also make sure that the credits for the course are able to be transferred to your local colleges, which I did not do. Smiley: glare

This I was semi-confused about. I checked the UW Transfer system, but I honestly hadn't looked into any of the surrounding 4 yr. colleges courses. I'm semi limited with transportation so that is a factor, and as for the closest UW-Oshkosh(30 mins drive), UW-Fond du Lac(my city) I wasn't sure if any credits transferred. I mean I see some listed but was kind of confused by what it all meant. :s

I mean in the future when moving/better vehicle UW-Madison(little over an hour away) and UW-Milwaukee hour away) or the northern ones become more viable but atm I can afford to drive/commute.
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#5 Feb 18 2013 at 8:53 PM Rating: Excellent
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You should still call the Department of Admissions for each college and check with them anyway.
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#6 Feb 18 2013 at 10:21 PM Rating: Excellent
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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. IT budgets are still screwed across the board at the moment, so there isn't alot of hireing except in the high turnover burnout quickly spots.

Also, if you love command line interfaces, network equipment is for you. If on the other hand you view them as a necessary evil, run, run far away and go to any other aspect of IT.
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#7 Feb 18 2013 at 10:50 PM Rating: Good
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Well my first PC I was given was a true DOS box (2 5 1/4 inch floppies, one for OS, one for storage) and I had to learn how to use DoS on my first PC I had access to was a HP pre pentium 286 running I think Windows 3., but I spent most of my time in DOS playing Shareware games.

So, no, I don't fear command line interfaces.
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#8 Feb 18 2013 at 10:52 PM Rating: Excellent
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Confirming the network specialist.

Any kid can replace a hard drive. Companies need ones that can replace a 24 port switch without taking down the entire business for a day.
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#9 Feb 18 2013 at 11:15 PM Rating: Decent
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catwho wrote:
Confirming the network specialist.

Any kid can replace a hard drive. Companies need ones that can replace a 24 port switch without taking down the entire business for a day.

That's what qualifies as a 'specialist' these days? Smiley: disappointed
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#10 Feb 18 2013 at 11:26 PM Rating: Excellent
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I want to replace 24 1 port switches. That sounds fun!
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#11 Feb 19 2013 at 1:41 AM Rating: Good
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Computer IT work sounds so interesting, I would love to get into it. Alas, I think this course will be my last foray into schooling for a while. I have run up a nice little amount of debt in the last few years trying different courses out. Smiley: glare

#12 Feb 19 2013 at 7:33 AM Rating: Good
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My son just started into a similar program at some local community college. He went with the Network Specialist. He's only in his first class right now, so no feedback available yet.

It's nice though that the class is held on Sunday.
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#13 Feb 19 2013 at 6:06 PM Rating: Excellent
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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 ****). 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.
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#14 Feb 19 2013 at 6:33 PM Rating: Good
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Rate ups all around. I got my FAFSA back already and it was 00000 so that's good I guess. As Gbaji suggested I was really considering possibly taking some side courses/classes to get experience in both. I've worked on tons of PC's over the years, fixing old ones up and fixing my friends. I've seen a lot and can usually track down problems, figure out solutions.

One of the reasons I'm going into IT field is about 7 years ago I was in an accident and messed up my back, while its not debilitating, I feel safer not risking my future well being working in a factory again. Since then I've worked various retail and just found it to chaotic. So I hope I'll be able to find a job not being a wire monkey, well at least for long.

Idk, I'm taking this one step at a time. I've applied, setup my Accuplacer test date, Filed and received my FAFSA info. Next is taking the Accuplacer test, getting any financial stuff that left sorted (Grants/loans, etc), then the hard part is readjusting to a school type setting while being a 30 something.

If any of you have tips keep 'em coming please, and Thank you so much even the few responses have been very insightful and helpful to me considering where to go from the start, and hopefully where to head from here. So please keep the tips and tricks coming, any pitfalls I should watch for (bad loan ideas stuff like that?).
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#15 Feb 19 2013 at 8:41 PM Rating: Decent
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Just an FYI though, the computer support track will also likely involve some physical labor at the low end. You'll either be working a phone bank (which is problematic in terms of advancement), or lugging computers around and crawling under/around desks (which is more physical, but gets you into the whole "installing software/images", which can be a springboard to better things). It's not nearly as bad today as it was when I got into the industry though. You seriously do not want to know how heavy the old sun 24" wide aspect monitors were. Not fun. You kids with your DFP monitors. You don't know how easy you have it! <where the **** is the shakescane smiley?>
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#16 Feb 20 2013 at 1:27 AM Rating: Excellent
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One other thing to consider is a side branch of the network path is the server path. Network switches are relitivly light. Servers, especially disk pack servers, are the exact polar opposite of light. They make server move carts and all that, but most places don't have them. Its a good workout though, and typically you don't end up moving them all that much.

Lets see, other advice. I guess first, figure out where you are likely to start looking for work in your area. Call a few of the companies / government agencies in the area and tell them you are looking to start schooling and ask them what skills they are likely to need in a couple of years. You'll find alot of niche programs (for example, I do a fair amount of buisiness on the side working with Dental office computers and their specific dental interface software, not to mention the billions of specialized applications you end up dealing with in a government IT shop) Schooling will give you the basics, and don't ignore those, but you also want to plan your path. If you go with the workstation support side, learn how to work with computer imaging (ghost, imagex, gimagex, etc) and sysprep and creating enterprise class workstation images. Also consider becoming an expert in software license compliance. Both of those are generally higher demand skillsets that typically pay a little better than average to start, and can be picked up relitivly easily. On the network side, learn Visio for network diagraming, and become an expert in it. No one likes diagraming out server racks and networks, so someone who is good at it out of the gate, with work samples is a value. Again, not a difficult skill to pick up, but one that people don't necessarily like to do. Monitering and telemetry is also a good track to start with on that side. Learn how to interact with SNMP packets and monitoring software , etc. Lots of diffierent paths, make sure you find one that you like. don't force yourself down one you think you might not like in the end.

Also, don't learn filemaker. I hate filemaker so very much.
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