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Switching Careers: Do Research Before You Commit

Updated on November 29, 2009

 The past year has been a life altering event for millions due to the job losses, loss or denial of unemployment benefits, denial of extending benefits, medical etc. Many have faced the stark reality that whatever career they were in must now be changed. This is no easy task and does not happen within a couple of months.

Many attempt to hold onto their old careers in some manner because of longevity in it and because of the good income it provides. It is hard to face at any age but much harder when you are 40, 50 or even 60 yrs. One needs to face retraining, starting at the bottom with those half their age, and deciding what career will pay off in the shortest period of time because time is no longer on their side. The issue of money to retrain and live on enters into the equation, family enters the equation, desire and need fuels one drive. Some facing this simply toss in the towel and due to their situation are resigned to working at a low paying field usually associated with uneducated professionals, immigrants, making a fraction of what they did and what they feel they are worth.

It is a life altering and humbling experience for someone who has worked 20 yrs in a profession.

Many, look at the IT field for the answer. It seems like a sure thing for re-education. Tons of schools and ways to become certified (qualified) such as, online, traditional, DVD, or combo. It seems like IT is needed wherever you go. Must be a ton of jobs out there, right? Yes and no, depending on what you choose to do. IT is so diverse that deciding will be your biggest problem. Does one enter the network side focusing on routers, Cisco exams etc., or the Microsoft Admin server side? Each has a path for taking different exams for certification.

Whatever you decide, more bad news: many, like you, are switching careers to IT for identical assumptions. What they do not know is that the jobs in the field, at least the majority of them, require 2+ yrs of experience in whatever your qualifications are. It is seldom not just the education that will land you the job. Thus, its the catch-22, can't get your entry level job because you lack experience even though you are certified to do it. Any IT person will tell you that what you learn in a class is different then what you learn on the job.

Many IT pros will tell you everything starts at the help desk or low level tech desk positions even though your certs may be MCSE because you have no real experience. Basically, you must pay your dues in IT. Experience is more important in IT, although, being certified tells an employer what education level you are at. Also, there are many unemployed seasoned IT people looking for work also, so switching to a new IT career will not be lucrative quickly as you might think.

The general consensus  for a newbie to enter an IT career is becoming certified in A+ (beginner) Network+ (beginning network). From here, one must decide the road, either Cisco networks in general or Microsoft server Admin. If the latter, most agree that being certified in MCSA (microsoft certified Server Administrator) or MCSE (Microsoft Cert. Server Engineer) is a good goal, but good entry level choices include, MCTS (Microsoft Cert. Technology Specialist) before the MCSA etc.

Receiving a certification in these would show you are well educated for an entry level systems administration, help desk, sys engineer, assuming you find a job that requires no experience. The only way to obtain some experience is during your education in a computer lab or creating your own by downloading VM workstation, VMserver or Virtual box to mimic real life problems.

The pay is generally anywhere between 25-35K for the entry level IT held desk kinds of gigs. If you have the time, taking an online course will expedite things as you can study at your own pace, take the exam, and move on. But still, it will take many months or a year for the education alone.

Another field many turn to for a new career is medical. It seems the entry level medical jobs, this field is more willing to tolerate no experience. Finish a EKG Tech online course, take the state license test, and you can get a job. The same applies for Pharmacy technicians, after a 4-6 month course, passing the state exam, you are ready for a job. They all pay about the same as entry IT jobs.

 

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