Work in IT with an unrelated degree, what's next educational steps?
June 6, 2013 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Long story short, I have a Gen Ed Bachelors (with about 4 unrelated minors. I like to learn new things) and have worked in IT moving my way up from a general Helpdesk tech into a Senior tech position over the last 4 years. I'm ready to learn and move forward into a new position and probably a new company. I'd like to increase my education though and I'm not quite sure what are reasonable options. Obviously a Masters is nice but frankly, I struggle whether it's worth the cost. I've already got plenty of student loans and I'm rather cash strapped so finances is an important consideration. A local community college offers Associates in Network Administration or Programming for 2 years or 1 year certificate programs in either. There's also the obvious certifications such as A+, etc. Do I really need a masters at this point or would I be better served with a combination of other options? Any suggestions are much appreciated.

My boss has also made it clear that I'm overdue for a promotion, just no spots have opened up in my department for the last couple of years. I've been steadily gaining more responsibilities beyond my position and do regular work for the Network Admin and Security Admin as needed. Nothing too advanced but I've gotten my hands dirty. In addition, I've built my own PCs for 10+ years prior to this position which helped a lot in getting my foot in the door.
posted by guyarcher to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Keep up & document your security responsibility: CISSP after you've got the required work history is useful.
posted by tilde at 8:58 AM on June 6, 2013

You'd probably be better off with the Associates degrees or 1 year certificate programs.

I wouldn't bother with any certs like the A+. They're still ok for entry-level applicants but pretty meaningless at your level of experience.

And yes, the CISSP can be very, very useful, especially if you're interested in government contracting.
posted by erst at 8:59 AM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: Well, I'm still a ways off from the CISSP professional requirement but good info to know.
posted by guyarcher at 9:23 AM on June 6, 2013

guyarcher: "My boss has also made it clear that I'm overdue for a promotion, just no spots have opened up in my department for the last couple of years."

It's time to change employers.
posted by namewithoutwords at 9:56 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

A few things:

- Do you want to stay in IT? Do you want to stay in network admin? You fell into this path, so it's worth asking if it's really the path you want to be on. Have you thought about software development? IT project work? You have a few years of experience and if you want to change career paths do that NOW. The more experience you have in a specific area, the harder it is to change without taking a huge hit in salary and job level.

- How much tuition reimbursement does your employer provide? If they give you $3K a year, then use that every single year. It's basically free money but you have to jump through the HR hoops.

- Speaking as a manager, your manager isn't doing a good job. You don't let talented employees languish if they've earned a promotion. If there isn't an opening in his department, then he needs to push for you. That can be increased tuition reimbursement amounts, cross-train opportunities, stretch goals that expose your talents to upper management. If you've been ready for years, then he's damaging you.

Can you clearly articulate where you want to take your career? If not, please start with that step. There's no use to pursue degrees or certs that aren't going to get you to a long term goal.
posted by 26.2 at 2:20 PM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: I would like to stay in IT. I don't have a burning passion for it but that's the case for any career path really. Computers have always come naturally for me. I'm more of a practical kind of guy in that I have a talent for something, I'm a quick learner and I've got work experience to back it up. I need to capitalize on that, especially if I want to pay off the student loans a bit earlier.

As for a specific field, I'm pretty open. I have a little bit more experience with Network Admin and Security but not a whole lot. I enjoy creating small programs for my personal needs but not sure I could handle programming as a job constantly. I'm good at it but doing my own projects is a big part of what I enjoy with programming. That being said, a more project oriented position would probably suit me better.

I have been keeping my eye out on the local classifieds. The unfortunate part is that the company I work for is a great company. The pay is meh but it's a great environment. Welcome reprieve from previous employers. I recognize that it's time to move on though which is why I'm checking into my next steps.
posted by guyarcher at 7:50 PM on June 6, 2013

Well, if the company is great then you might try to get stretch assignments to give you opportunities in different departments. Jumping between companies has some advantages, but staying with one firm and building retirement and vacation accounts has its advantages too. If its a good company, then don't leave just because you can't advance under this boss.

Based solely on the fact that you like to learn new things, I was inclined to steer you toward project work - perhaps as a business requirements analyst for IT projects. Specing out new systems combines learning new things and technical acumen.

More than an additional certification, it sounds like some stretch assignments would benefit your career. Maybe your boss can step up and help you get some exposure outside your immediate area.
posted by 26.2 at 8:41 PM on June 6, 2013

« Older Cheapest sensible laptop for photography   |   Therapist/counseller recommendations for Mid... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.