This is an article I had my IT buddy write in response to a surge of requests from Asshole Consulting about the IT industry, how to get into it, what to specialize in, and should you go to college, bootcamp, or a 2 year community college. I am not an expert in the field, so I decided to outsource it to a professional to give us the low down on the industry and how to get into it in 2017 (and you can tell he's a professional IT genius because of his indifference for spelling and typos). Because of the constantly changing nature of IT I am kicking around doing an "State of the IT Union Address" each January. Regardless, you can find my IT friend here for all your IT and computer needs.
There is a cliche in consulting....the answer to any question is always: "IT depends". That cliche fits rather nicely into this topic.
College education will not land one a job, nor will it properly prepare one for a job in the IT field. IT as a whole moves far to fast for the typical four year college to design a program that reflect the jobs available. Two year and trade schools are far better in getting one prepared for entering the work force, however are often too focused and become out dated. However what a bachlors degree does is allow one to move further up the ladder further and faster, potentially management one day. It also puts you ahead of the next person(s) assuming the only difference is education. Two big reasons for that is, A. by completing a degree, it shows that the potential to learn is there. And B. a certain about of dedication and work ethic is present. Also as you may have already heard, a college degree is more of a passport.
Certifications are great. However one is probally better off being more well rounded and if the employer wants you to focus on one area then they will send you there. A couple of issues with doing certifications on your own, is that they are VERY specific. Is there an actual real demand for people having that certificiation? What happens in 24 months when things change and that certification is for the most part null and void? For instance holding a certification in Windows 2008, doesn't hold much weight any more. However if one achieves a multi-level certification say for instance: Microsoft Certified Server Engineer, VmWare Certified Professional, or Cisco Certified Internet Engineer; these certs. will always be a feather in your cap and will be an asset no matter how old they are. Even if one had a MSCE in Windows Server 2003; that communications that you have a good foundation of how things work and adapting to the newer stuff will be easier than someone coming in fresh.
SPECIFIC AREAS OF IT:
Server Administration: Server Virtualization has been hot for the past 10 years, and will continue to stay at the very least warm. In a nutshell Server Virtualizaiton is taking a single server, but making appear to the network as if there are ten servers on the network. For instance a cluster of three servers physical servers can present well over a dozen virtual servers to the network; and be able act as fail over for each other. All with out the end users or their computers knowing. VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V (known as hyper-visors) are the biggest players in this space.
This area is starting to cool a bit since "the cloud" has come to the grasp of mere motors. Now days any tech saavy person can setup their own servers using places like AWA (Amazon Web Services) . Thus bypassing the need for much of in house IT. Many smaller players also basically can provide a company all of their server needs as a subscrition service. A smart play MAYBE to become skilled in manipulating these types of enviroments.
Companies are shrinking thier budgets, thus requiring IT professionals do more with less. Thus anything that automates, scripts, or generally allows an IT person to get more stuff done in less time will be in demand. A good place to start is technolgies like Puppet, Cheif, and PowerShell.
Security is super in demand now, and will be for the near future. There are very few "industry standard" or commonally accpeted certifications in this area. Well other that a Cisco Certified Security Expert. To be good in this area one needs to know networking inside and out. Get expirence playing with firewalls, routers, and switches. Then go beyond that looking into white and black hack items.
Database/information Architechture has always been in demand and keeps grown at a slow and steady rate. A quick search on the buzz words "big data" or "Hadoop" show just how in demand they are. The basics of databases hasn't changed much in 20 years, however the implentation has. If one gets to be comfortable with Microsoft SQL either as a data designer or the implentation engineer, there will always be work for them.
Docker will be very big for those looking to get into code. Docker is essentially doing for applications what VMware did for servers. Docker provides a frame work for applications without all the heavy Operating system. It is a modular system. One can simiply load a Data base docker or a CRM docker etc and not have to install a Windows server for each appliation. One just sets up the Docker infrastructure then add and remove appliacation components.
Coding: Programing languages are very much like real languages. Learning the first one is real hard. Switching or learning adtional ones is easier. As your brain picks out methods and similarities. IE If one knows German, and needs to learn Italian it will be much easier for that person vs. the person learning Italian who only knows English. What am I saying? It doesn't matter what computer language gets taught; once you know one it becomes easier to switch to another down the road. The "hot" language changes about every 5~10 years anyways, however there will always be a demand for the "language of yesterday." Apps written in the older languages will still need to be updated/changed or re-writen.
HelpDesk/user training/assistance: Applications are becoming for web driven, computers have gotten cheaper and less repairable. This has lessened the need for the typical HelpDesk person on one aspect. On the flip side there will always be a need for people to do the "hand holding", the guiding, and trouble shooting for the end users. One just will not be doing nearly as much swapping out hardware components.
Do not take simply look at salary guides out there and make a career decision based mostly on that. To be sucessfull in IT, in general demands one needs to have a natural interest in the area, a desire to learn, fast learning and a trouble shooting mind set. If you are just chasing the money, you will fail or get an entry level job and stay at roughly that same position for life. Education is great, the more the better, it will never hurt you. Expirence is just as important. This industry is flooded with people who have all sorts of acrynyms behind their name but yet can't think worth a darn, think outside the box, or trouble shoot. Somethings just can't be taught in class. Or to use another cliche, they can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk.
Start anywhere looking for expirence. Start with getting a used PC and building/repairing it up. Start helping others with their technical diffuculties. Start playing around with networking gear. Start dabbling in scripting and programing. Often just having some expirence with a technology is all it take; mastery of the technology is often not needed to land a good job.