Career Advice


Limp Gawd
Aug 7, 2001
I know there are many people who have written for career advice on this forum, so I figure it won't look so bad if I join the ranks :)

See I have a dillemna, I have always been highly interested in everything to do with computers since I the first one I got to use when I was 14 back in 94. For many years I have been somewhat of a computer hobbyist, dabbling with a little bit of everything, hardware, networking, software, programming. Due to some life choices I made early on in my life, I have spent the last 8 years in the US Army, doing a job that has nothign remotely to do with computers. Now because of personal reasons I plan on leaving the Army when my term is up in 2011. So far I am a little bit over halfway to an AAS in Computer Science Information Technology from a small college. My question is what kind of job I could expect on the outside (civilian life) as far as the field of computers? It is not likely that I can go to school full time because I have a wife and two kids. If I can't acquire a four year degree, should I try to get some sort of certifications and which ones? I consider myself highly capable of learning just about anything new. I would say I am somewhat of exceptional intelligence, I just don't have the formal education to prove it.

In a nutshell, I am asking what should I set my sites on or should I just accept a regular mundane career and keep computers as just a hobby? Is it feasible for someone coming out of the US Army after 12 years with only an AAS to get a decent paying job, ie 50+?
my advise is to not market yourself as the "Guy Who Knows All About Computers", that will instantly pigeonhole you into a lousy help desk or PC Repair tech position at some big box chain store.

Information Technology, much like the medical field, is all about specialization nowadays. Find one specific field in IT that interests you and make that your goal, whether its Database Administration, Systems/Network Administrator, Web developer, Programmer, IT project manager, etc. And any of those disciplines can be further specialized in terms of platform, language choice, etc.
Since you're still in the Army and have clearly shown initiative in pursuing a education in CS, is there any chance you could get transfered to a position involving computers? If you spend a few years in the service, even in a relatively inconsequential position, you set yourself for a lucrative career involving defense contractors and clearance-required positions. When I was in Albuquerque, somebody was telling me about security-cleared low-level helpdesk/support positions making 50k-ish at one of the DOE labs - it's not exactly glamorous, challenging or particularly rewarding work but it pays decently.

The best thing to do would be to see about getting transfered to some computer-related field before you're discharged. Another option, depending on your field, might be to find a way to apply your knowledge of computers to that field - domain-specific knowledge (not to mention that employers love ex-military on a resume) can go a long way toward making up for gaps in your computing knowledge & experience.

A lot of people aren't a big fan of certifications - I think that's mostly based on the number of certified idiots they've met. There's a world of difference between learning something for the sake of learning it & getting a cert and learning something for the sake of getting the cert.
Having a military background will help you out with many of the defense contractors. Especially if you already have a current security clearance as the number of cleared personnel in the civilian sector is a lower than the number of expected job openings.

My advice would be to look at the current job openings for some of the defense contractors and get an idea of the jobs you could be interested in and the requirements needed for them. Then try to beef up your skills in those areas.
Don't let the "I don't work a computer job in the Army" deter you.

I also was in the Army. 8 years to be exact. I got out back in 2002. Last job in the Army was a Telecommunications tech, working with C and Ku band satellite communications equipment.

Only computer experience I had was as a hobby and the Solaris portion of my previous AIT training. Started out as a help desk guy, only making $35k.
Got my A+ and Network+.... A year or so later, I took another position on a totally different contract as a system operator.. this bumped me up to $60k
18 months later, I got bumped up to a system administrator level 2..

Been at this location for almost 4 years now and am making pretty decent $$, for someone without a degree. I'm just now getting close to finishing my 2nd semester of college; i'm enrolled in a 2 yr program for web development..

Be proactive; broaden your skillset and don't rely on one set thing. You'll get stuck in a rut and will end up not being very marketable.

Show initiative and show that you kick ass just like you have to do in the Army.

(oh.. once you get out.. lose the military lingo.. its annoying :) )
I appreciate the responses, I'm especially going to take maw's advice in the matter. I am sort of a "guy who knows all about computers". I'm not likely to be able to transfer to a job working tech, the Army paid me a pretty big bonus to do what I do now. I guess I do have somewhat of a leg up with the security clearance. I didn't think that would be something to market.

the Army paid me a pretty big bonus to do what I do now

Being a little more specific about this point might help with some recommendations. Some things lend themselves to working with civilian IT a lot more easily than others. A communications tech will have an easier time getting involved in civilian tech than somebody involved with bomb disposal or a sniper.
The technical title of my current job is "Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, and Nuclear Operations Sergeant." Which means I work in operations. My section does all of the operational planning for the unit. Not very glamorous work. I have a lot of experience and schooling on topics for which I don't necessarily want to make a career of, like Air Movement Operations and Hazardous Material Handling. I have been wondering what kind of IT jobs there are in the Hazardous Material world.