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Old 12-21-2008, 06:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default decisions, decisions...need some advice

HI all,

This is a bit of a long story but, here is some background info. I'm 36 yrs old, recently married and father of a 7 yr old daughter. I have attended college but never got a degree, my first major was Professional Pilot and then a few years ago I went back to work on a degree in computer networking but life got in the way and i had to drop out after only taking the A+ course.

I've been working on and building PC's since about 1991 and started a small home based business doing repairs and building custom PC's. The business didn't last very long due to the sporadic workload and customers who wanted $10,000 gaming systems on a $300 budget. the A+ course was a breeze for me and I really didn't learn anything that I hadn't already found out on my own years ago. However, I never took the actual A+ cert test.

I currently work for an airline as a ramp agent and i've been with them for 16 years. Basically my job is to seperate and load the luggage into the various carts for our flights and unload the arriving luggage.

So, Yesterday I was sitting here at my brainless, gorillaesque job, drool steadily dripping from the left side of my mouth due to sitting in an off balanced torn up old salvation army dumpster office chair enriched with a unique bouquet of aromas ranging from old moldy vinyl to stale pall malls with just a slight hint of cat urine. When suddenly I get this overwheling feeling of impending doom and epic failure.

It was right about that time I had an epiphany! it had suddenly dawned on me that I've just turned 36 years old and I have zero marketable job skills. I lead this polymathic existance which I was proud of for many years, jack of all trades master of none, that's me in a nutshell.

I came to this realization of epic failure just the other day whilst out applying for more brainless jobs, this time in the highly skilled food service upper middle class, a step above red lobster but not quite the tavern on the green type industry. I was in the process of filling out an application when I came across a line that said "Special Skills or Training" , so i thought for a moment and silently said "WTF, I dont have any of those"

So today, while on a break from the nonstop pummeling of eager, overzealous, cattle like holiday travelers luggage ranging from miniscule featherweight backpacks to the entire front end of a 1962 buick skylark or at least that was my guess at to what caused the bag to weigh so much, I decided to browse the interwebs in search of some type of career that may require just a small amount of mental capacity and lo and behold I found one or two, of course I am nowhere near qualified for but I digress.

They were Network Administrator and Systems Administrator, along with a few other various IT jobs such as Database Programmer and a fairly large amount looking for .Net Developers (I'm not even sure what they do)

I decided it was about time to get my previous $22k in school loans out of default and go back and get a degree in something I may enjoy doing. So I've been browsing the courses at the local college and ITT tech and trying to decide what I might want to major in.

I have experience with hardware and OS's (win 98-xp, some linux) but very,very limited experience in anything programming related, I learned to create a few VB scripts, did a little php for my website at one time and thats about all. I've also messed with MYSQL once or twice and honestly I know for sure I want nothing to do with Dbase other than a basic understanding of how to make it work.

I know I do enjoy fixing problems or trying to make something work when someone tells me it cant be done. for instance, people didnt beleive I could build a pc system for my car and intigrate the audio system and a touchscreen to run xp and I did it just to prove them wrong.

now my dilemma is deciding which path to choose, Network administration seems more my style but I'm not totally opposed to programming, I just dont know anything about it. I'm not really strong in math, matter of fact i really suck at it. I could probably learn but right now the highest level math I've ever had to learn was pre algebra. I know programming requires a high level of math but I'm not sure the reason behind it.

So with all that being said, could I get some advice on what type of degree program I should be looking at? preferably from someone who is working in the industry. I'm in Northeast Florida, so not a huge high tech area compared to California, if i were I would go for Video game design..working for Blizzard would be my dream job but thats not going to happen.

So can I get some practical advice on what I should be looking for? also if it makes much difference I'm a 2nd-3rd shift kind of guy, early mornings and the 9-5 aren't my first choice of work.

what kind of certifications will I need for the varios degrees..network I'm assuming A+. Network +, CCNA, MSCE, Linux/Unix+ and what are the costs associated with earning each?

experiences with places like ITT tech as opposed to local community colleges? I know sometimes it's difficult to get credits to transfer from private schools to universitys

thanks for the help, sorry for the long winded post.
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Old 12-21-2008, 10:28 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: decisions, decisions...need some advice

Start small and grow it into something big. You can EASILY overwhelm yourself by focusing on the large picture of a MCSE or CCNA and thinkg 'i can't do this' or 'this is too much.' Do one thing at a time. Times have changed a bit and the exams you will take for XP, Vista, or Server will be drastically different then anything you'd see for a win 95 or win 98 SE exam.

Every exam is different, and a lot of titles like MSCE require more than one exams. MSCE is like 9 exams in itself.

It REALLY depends on what you want to go into, you mentioned a few things like networking, programing, then some hardware as well. IMO you should decide what you want to do first, do you want to program, workin in networking, hardware support, or something else? If you don't know take one or two classes in each field to determine where you want to focus on.

IMO you should maybe take the A+, the Network+, then maybe a basic Java or VB programming class. At that point see what you like, then focus on that area and try to get an entry level position in that area after you either have an associates or some certifications in that area.

Vaterotte (sp*) college is a good choice, as well as ITT Tech if you are looking for classes to take certifications. Keep in mind for certifications like you've mentioned above (MCP, Network+, Security+, CCNA, etc) DO NOT require you to take classes. ALL THAT IS REQUIRED is you taking and passing an exam. IMO i would save the 1400 dollars at the local community college or online college for a 'boot camp' type class when you can spend 100 dollars on a book, 4 weeks of studying, and another 100-300 dollars for an exam and save yourself nearly a grand in classes. Really depends on how you learn.

Good luck whichever you route you choose. Maybe tell us what you really are looking for in terms of area of focus and maybe we can help you further.
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Old 12-22-2008, 01:08 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: decisions, decisions...need some advice

Thanks for the reply, I think I'm most interested in networking and network security.
I did the A+ course through the local community college in 2003 and I really seem to enjoy the technical side of things like diagnose the problem, fix it or design a better system.

I may take some basic programming classes anyway, it's nice to know even if i never use it. I don't think i could deal with "write a program to transfer every bank transaction with a remainder of 0.000001 cent to this account"

anyway, I did some research and this is a link to the program I'm considering from my local community college Program: Networking Services Technology (Network Support) (A.A.S.) (A156) - Florida Community College at Jacksonville - acalog ACMS™

with this program you can mix and match electives to focus on specific areas, for instance ,I could train in networking as my core but also focus on network security.

the other benefit to this is it can be done as an A.A. degree and fully transferred to a state university or the new BA degree program at the same college Program: Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications (B.A.S.) (S300) - Florida Community College at Jacksonville - acalog ACMS™

granted I could just save the money and do the certs on my own, however I would like to get my degree anyway and 99 out of 100 times the person with the degree will beat out the non degree applicant for a job.

So thats what I've come up with so far, I've got a few months until I can register to start any classes
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Old 12-22-2008, 01:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: decisions, decisions...need some advice

From my knowledge A+ was updated in 2006 to new standards so your old certification would not be valid anymore and you would have to take the exam again. Not fully sure though.

There is always Net+ out there as well. Cisco has some certifications as well for Networking.

While it is true most places prefer a person with a Degree dont rule out Certifications as well. Cause they go a long way. If you have the Certs along with a Degree you are doing even better.

A person with Certs and experience can get a job over a person with a degree and no experience most of the time. Places look for those with the degree and experience.
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Old 12-22-2008, 02:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: decisions, decisions...need some advice

It's all good, I never took the A+ exam, just the college course. I'm defiantly going to get a degree and certifications. Thanks for the advice..I'm really excited about going back to school, I just wanted to gets some thoughts from those who are in the industry because dont want to spend years in school and thousands of dollars to end up with a degree thats useless where I live because moving is not an option.
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