Going to college in a couple of years, need some help from you guys.

jtvd78

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I'm a sophomore in high school (15) , and I'm getting a head start on looking at colleges/careers. At this point, I have no idea what's "out there". I am mainly interested in the whole networking thing. And servers, datacenters, storage, maybe even HPC clusters, or network administration. It looks like you guys have a lot of experience in the field, and it would be great if you could answer some of my questions.

IMO, I have some pretty good understanding on computers, at least for my age. I've built about 5 computers. One being my main computer, another being my server. It runs ESXi 5. I have a File server running, a seedbox, a minecraft server, and a webserver. Im trying to find out what else to run. In addition, I built a small atom gateway running pfsense. It does firewall, NAT, routing, VPN, DHCP, QoS, and whatever else it does. I have a general understanding of all these networking terms, but It's all self-taught. I have no formal technical education. I am pretty skilled in Java (IMO). I enjoy programming small 2D games, and simple applications. But mostly just for fun.

So, here goes the questions:
What is your job, and what do you do? What did you major in? What college did you go to? What are some careers in the 'Networking' field? What else is out there regarding 'computers', and not just networking? What about working for a big company or small company?

I'm just really looking for general information. I just need to know whats out there so I can do some further research. It would be great if you could help me out.

Thanks
 

dave99

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Whatever CS degree path you look at (programming, networking/system administration, info-security), I'd recommend having at least a strong minor or double major in business admin or similar. In smaller firms it might not matter, but in large corporations, it will help your career path to have an understanding of the rest of the business. IT spends a lot of money at times, it will be helpful if you understand the ROI of projects, when it makes sense to shift from CAPEX to OPEX, depreciation etc. Personally I don't like dealing with any of that, so I work with just small businesses, but that does limit my career choices.
 

Sp33dFr33k

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One of the best ways to know what is out there is to look at the job openings using a site like Monster or Career Builder. There are many paths you could take depending on where your passion is. Often times in IT you'll be starting at the bottom so you really need to like it or else you'll get burned out before you have a chance to advance.

Also, take a look at the degree programs offered by colleges you would be interested to see what the have available and then look for jobs where those degrees are mentioned as a requirement.

If you like programming, software development can be a very good field. If you want to stay with Networking or System Administration you can find plenty of jobs for that as well. Security is another very good field to get into if you're really passionate about it and have a good understanding of the field.

I never attended college. I don't regret it but I can make it more difficult to get past the resume phase of a job search. Never had an issue getting a job so far in the past 20 years.
 

Shadowspawn

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At least for networking, college means less than certifications and experience, at least to get your foot in the door.
 

Haven

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A college degree becomes important when you get old and want to advance from just a technician to someone who leads an organization's IT infrastructure team. A CIO/IT Director, etc. It can also help you edge out those that just have certifications when it comes to applying for jobs. Though smaller businesses tend to not look at that college degree as much in my experience.

Just my opinion.
 

robvas

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I would not get a 'degree' in networking, Often those are from schools like Devry or ITT, and aren't as good as a 'real' degree.

Go for Management of Information Systems or get some certifications. I'd suggest getting a degree either way, even if it's just in business management. A lot of places will filter your resume based on that.
 

jtvd78

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Thanks for all the responses. I never knew that degrees werent even that important. Though, I'm still going to get one. Is computer science pretty much the encompassing degree? Or should I go for one more specialized on my interests?
 

dave99

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Like I and other have mentioned, it might be counter-productive to get a very specialized degree, unless you are going to aim for a very specialized IT field. Most employers looking for programmers don't really care if you have a programming degree versus more generic information systems management or similar. They just care that you have A degree and can program. An MIS degree though can help with other opportunities later in a career though.
 

gangolfus

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Computer Science (CS) is really the specialized degree for programming. Computer Information Systems (CIS) is more like CS-light being more generalized. Management Information Systems (MIS) is business computing. Which one you want will depend on your longterm goals. I would only go CS if you want to program. I would go CIS if you are interested in working in hardware, networking, or DBA. MIS would be better if you are looking to go into management one day or eventually get an MBA. These three would be the 'real' degrees that robvas was mentioning.

Note: this is the perspective of a Software Engineer with a CS degree.
 

Tee

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Though I have no degree and I do great but I have a large amount of people who support me and give me referrals because they know what I am able to do, simply because I work hard and listen.

I think you just need to be driven. All of us process things differently and none of us tend to do things the same, especially in IT where we all think are e-penis is bigger than the next guys, or maybe e-boobs but I do not have boobs! :D

I am finishing a four year not because I want to and not because my job requires it but because I started it and I might as well finish. Would I waste my time and money on it... Nope! But I did because I thought it was the right thing and most people will say, get a degree!!! if you want a corporate job get a 4year. Will you get the job you want.. Well, probably not so much. Get a masters?? I wouldn't waste my money unless you want a desk job :eek:

I am sure a lot of people will say I am negative and they disagree with what I have to say but I probably have a better paying job and I am probably better off then most. It makes no difference at the end of the day, do what makes you happy. If you think you can push yourself forward by getting a degree and certifications do that. My way is foolish and stubborn but it works for me. Do not go to ITT though, you will ask for your money back.

My best advice if any comes out of my rambling is do not go to a private college like ITT or Rasmussen. They are overpriced for the same education, if you are going to pay those fees go to Berkley or MIT and at least say you graduated from some upper echelon school.

If you want to take my route start networking and shadowing people, its a lot of work. That's all I have to say but I think its more realistic to learn from those who have success than those who do not. We all think of success differently though ;)

I live by one statement: Anyone can make money.

Finding a job doing what you love and being satisfied with it at the end of the day, that's the hard part.
 
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robvas

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Here's the point of view from someone who thought going to college was a mistake:

http://stevecorona.com/college-was-my-biggest-mistake/

I'd say build websites and try to program apps, and setup all the networks you can, and try to get into any networking/computer classes your high school offers, and try to get into college classes if only in the summer. Do everything you can and see where you are at when you graduate.
 

jimh425

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Having a CS degree won't hurt you. You should try to intern and interview as many different places as you can. Plan on a Masters if you want to run the place in the future. Note: that's not for everyone, and there is a big difference in coding and coding at the top level.

An analogy, a lot of people play football, but not that many play college or pros. It's possible to play pro football without playing high school, or college, but easier if you work your way up.
 

Mackintire

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If you really want to go into networking get your degree and a CCNA certificate.

If you find that you really like networking and can pull it off get a CCNP. A good work ethic+ CCNP + degree + some reasonable level of experience will get you into a good career within 2-3 years.

Here in Pittsburgh PA Network Engineering with a CCNP avg $62K to start.
 

renixinq

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I have a BS in CIS from a 4-year university and currently work as a DBA/Sys Admin/Storage Admin/BI Developer/Programmer/Other Duties as Assigned for a good sized school district. From my experience my degree has certainly helped me with understanding the importance of not just being technically focused but being process and business oriented as well. Having a basic understanding of business processes definitely helps you relate to others. That's why I'm glad I went with the CIS major instead of the CS major. CIS is a business degree and I had more management courses than programming courses, which I hated in school but definitely have seen some benefit while in the field. All the CS majors I knew had issues relating to others and it made it difficult for them to be taken seriously outside of technical circles.

If I had to do it over? I'm on the fence. I like the being well rounded/jack of all trades kind of person and not a master of a single field (see my job description above). It certainly limits my career paths though. If I would have skipped college and went straight for networking certs I would have a CCNP and probably be working towards a CCIE and my career would be much different. If you are really interested in networking go ahead and start in on the CCNA/CCENT and see if you can get a grant to take the actual exam through your school. Talk with your counselor about job shadowing if see if they can do some research or contact some companies for you. The last thing I would suggest is to learn about all the verticals in the IT field and how they all are related. Networking is one specific field but some others are security, data center operations/virtualization, storage administration, system administration, programming, DBA, etc. Get a feel for what the IT industry has available and that should give you a better idea of how to approach your career.
 

gangolfus

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There is one crucial reason to go to college that no one has mentioned: only 10% of what I learned in college was a result of classes.

Go away to a 4 year school, live on campus. Study hard during the week; get blackout drunk on the weekends. Bang random chicks/dudes. Break a heart. Get your heart broken. Do a walk of shame. Make bad decisions while the consequences are minimal. Make lifelong friends you wouldn't trade for the world.

Am I "behind" in my career because I went to school? Eh? maybe. Would I trade my college experience to be one title/paygrade higher? No. Fucking. Chance.
 

Globox

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start building experience and getting messy with programming, the more experience you have the better
 

TeeJayHoward

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What is your job, and what do you do?
Systems Administrator for the county of El Paso, Colorado

What did you major in?
Bachelor's in Computer Information Systems, Associates in Computer Network Technology

What college did you go to?
Went from a cheap community college (Trinidad State Junior College) to a cheap state school (Colorado State University - Pueblo)

What are some careers in the 'Networking' field?
Network Engineer, Network Administrator, Network Security Engineer, Network Design Engineer

What else is out there regarding 'computers', and not just networking?
Systems Administrator, Database Administrator, SAN Engineer, Consultant, Support Specialist, Exchange Administrator, Software Analyst, Programmer, and all of those jobs associated with the creation of hardware. Oh, and manager. There's always a manager.

What about working for a big company or small company?
Disclaimer: I've worked for 3 big companies and one small one. The following is my experience, but may not be indicative of the world as a whole. At a big company, you'll do one thing very well. You may do a little bit of everything, but you'll be expected to have your niche. At a small company, you'll be responsible for everything. Do you want to be a subject matter expert who's worth little outside your field, or do you want a broad but shallow understanding of things? Do you want the pressure of people relying on you to be able to figure out that issue at 3AM, or are you okay with a boss who doesn't care if the server goes down overnight as long as it's up when he gets in at 8? Money's better at a big company. You'll learn more, quicker, at a big company. You'll also work harder at a big company.
 

Red Squirrel

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Also look at job openings from the point of view of the company when it comes to a higher end job like system admin or management. As a company, do you pick the guy fresh out of college, or the internal guy that's been working help desk for 1-5 years who has better experience at that particular company?

While it's good to look at the higher end stuff and get education in it, don't forget the lower end stuff like customer support, fixing PCs etc, and when it does come time to job search, don't put off entry level positions like help desk, as that will get your foot in the door. Keep sharp on the higher end stuff like networking and servers so when an internal position opens then you have a better chance.

It's good to be in high school and be thinking about this stuff too. So many people go to college not even knowing what they want to do. To get a good feel for higher end positions, see if there is actually a summer student opening for jobs like sysadmin, etc. While they are less likely to hire off the street for these jobs, when it's temp, college students are encouraged, as it gives them experience. You will most likely work with a senior tech and learn a lot at the job.
 

Soldier101

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I saw a statistic that was a part of a presentation that was given to me while receiving my BS in Management Information Systems.

I can't remember it verbatim but it was along the lines of, "Majority of the jobs that exist in the "IT" market today didn't exist 4 years ago.

My recommendation based on my experience is to get your degree in the IT related section you like and enjoy, but kept a large breath of knowledge on various things. This way, when you get to where you are shooting for now, if you don't like it, you can sidestep within the career field.

(I had a lot of database classes and programming, ended up not liking either and migrating over to networking/SAN's)

What is your job, and what do you do?
Boundary Protection & DNS For The Department of Defense

What did you major in?
Management Information Systems: Data Communications

What college did you go to?
Auburn University Montgomery (Montgomery branch of Auburn University)

What are some careers in the 'Networking' field?
Network security, network engineer, network admin, network design and implementation

What else is out there regarding 'computers', and not just networking?
SAN's, Information Assurance, Database administration (oracle, mysql etc), OS specific (redhat etc Unix/Linux admins), Exchange etc

What about working for a big company or small company?
I REALLY enjoyed working for smaller companies where I got to do everything. This enabled me to find what I truly enjoyed. I now work for a large contractor doing IT work for the DOD and I love it.
 
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saranya

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You don't want to end up being just a "network" admin as the field is so broad. I'd put it in terms as the difference between somebody who might just monitor traffic lights around a city to minimize traffic jams to the civil engineer who actually has to solve how to move things around a city. no offense to anybody here.

to broaden your horizons.

take a read here: http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/02/facebook-data-team/

I'd also recommend, https://www.facebook.com/Engineering

also, if you can afford it. PLEASE go get a 4 year degree. Long term it'll pay off and open more doors than just some "certificate". People say you don't need it but often its the exception not the norm when they succeed. Unless you're the next Bill Gates, Mark Z. then sure.
 

Cheetoz

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IT? Networking? Lol, those fields don't need degrees. You can learn it all on your own over a summer.
 

Red Squirrel

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IT? Networking? Lol, those fields don't need degrees. You can learn it all on your own over a summer.

The actual positions usually do though. Computer science diploma at least.

School is nothing but to get your paper so you can get a job. The real learning happens on your own and on the job.
 

robvas

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The actual positions usually do though. Computer science diploma at least.

School is nothing but to get your paper so you can get a job. The real learning happens on your own and on the job.

I get a kick out of the helpdesk and network admin jobs that require a Computer Science degree. You might as well have an art degree.
 

Mackintire

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IT? Networking? Lol, those fields don't need degrees. You can learn it all on your own over a summer.

Hmm... I disagree you can learn it all over a summer. More likely you may have a clue what you are doing by the end of a summer.
 

jimh425

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You might be able to learn enough to get by in a Summer as long as you don't want to follow any industry standards and have a very basic network. Otherwise, it's probably going to take longer.

In any case, something that seems to be left out is whether or not you are interested in creating network hardware/software. If you are, you are back to Computer Science or Computer Engineering.
 

jws86

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So not to thread jack, but this may help the OP anyway. I am in college now pursuing an associates in IT - Computer Systems and Engineering. I have the ability to take an obtain a bunch of certs through this college as well. They prep and train you and you can test for things like CompTIA and Microsoft including MCSE, MCSA, MCP, MOS, IC3, A+ and Network +.
My idea was to finish this degree and obtain the most important certs (still don't really know what those are yet), and then move onto a 4 year and get my bachelors in MIS. Now from what I have been reading in this thread, the associates, certs and work experience would be enough? Should I waste all the time and money on the extra 2 years for the MIS?
 

stunning

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I get a kick out of the helpdesk and network admin jobs that require a Computer Science degree. You might as well have an art degree.


....I have a degree in communications...and I am a network engineer working on switches, routers, and firewalls..


My advice is to get your CS degree and while going to school get a job in the tech field and pursue your certifications while on the job.
 

TeeJayHoward

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So not to thread jack, but this may help the OP anyway. I am in college now pursuing an associates in IT - Computer Systems and Engineering. I have the ability to take an obtain a bunch of certs through this college as well. They prep and train you and you can test for things like CompTIA and Microsoft including MCSE, MCSA, MCP, MOS, IC3, A+ and Network +.
My idea was to finish this degree and obtain the most important certs (still don't really know what those are yet), and then move onto a 4 year and get my bachelors in MIS. Now from what I have been reading in this thread, the associates, certs and work experience would be enough? Should I waste all the time and money on the extra 2 years for the MIS?

MIS is useful if you're chasing a manager's job, or if you want entry-level work in some of the more difficult-to-enter fields. Raytheon, for example, required a Masters degree and 2 years experience or a Ph.D for a Jr. Network Admin position I was looking at. Personally, I would get the 4 year degree and the certifications (A+, Security+, MCSE) and have work pay for your Masters.
 

jws86

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MIS is useful if you're chasing a manager's job, or if you want entry-level work in some of the more difficult-to-enter fields. Raytheon, for example, required a Masters degree and 2 years experience or a Ph.D for a Jr. Network Admin position I was looking at. Personally, I would get the 4 year degree and the certifications (A+, Security+, MCSE) and have work pay for your Masters.

It would be a good idea to get into some type of IT job whilst in school as well for the experience correct? Anything I can basically get into for the experience to put on a resume?
 

TeeJayHoward

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It would be a good idea to get into some type of IT job whilst in school as well for the experience correct? Anything I can basically get into for the experience to put on a resume?
Definitely. Not just for the resume, but for the experience. About 10% of your college classes will help you perform your job. And that's if you're lucky and got into a good school. You're going to have to pick up the experience and knowledge somewhere else along the way, and that's where internships, workstudy, and personal projects come into play.

It'll also help with other life lessons, such as "Do I enjoy doing this as a hobby, or can I genuinely chase this as a career?", "What the hell is money management?", and my personal favorite, "What happened to all the hours in the day?"
 

Mackintire

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If you want to know what are two certs that will help you build a jack of two trades and are not worthless I would concentrate on these two:
MCSE and CCNA

  • A+ certificate You better know... if you don't you do not belong in IT.
  • N+ is like 40% of a CCNA....the easy 40%. Worth it if you get someone else to pay for it, or you want to take your time. Don't depend on a N+ certificate getting you a decent networking job.
  • MCP is like passing grade school...take almost any desktop microsoft cert to get it.
  • MCSA is effectively 2 of the 6 certs that make up MSCE
  • MOS? I have never heard of anyone asking for this.
  • IC3? I had to look this up. Again if you don't know these things you don't belong in IT
  • Security+ is worth getting just to know a little more about security. It is also an eyecatcher for HR. IMO it is worthy if only for showing on your resume.

If you had MCSE and CCNA you might as well grab a desktop or server MCITP as it's only one more cert away.

Certificates in JNCIA, VMware, and MCITP Virtualization Administration are also worthy of consideration and may make you more marketable depending on where you are trying to get hired.
 

stunning

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If you want to know what are two certs that will help you build a jack of two trades and are not worthless I would concentrate on these two:
MCSE and CCNA

  • A+ certificate You better know... if you don't you do not belong in IT.
  • N+ is like 40% of a CCNA....the easy 40%. Worth it if you get someone else to pay for it, or you want to take your time. Don't depend on a N+ certificate getting you a decent networking job.
  • MCP is like passing grade school...take almost any desktop microsoft cert to get it.
  • MCSA is effectively 2 of the 6 certs that make up MSCE
  • MOS? I have never heard of anyone asking for this.
  • IC3? I had to look this up. Again if you don't know these things you don't belong in IT
  • Security+ is worth getting just to know a little more about security. It is also an eyecatcher for HR. IMO it is worthy if only for showing on your resume.

If you had MCSE and CCNA you might as well grab a desktop or server MCITP as it's only one more cert away.

Certificates in JNCIA, VMware, and MCITP Virtualization Administration are also worthy of consideration and may make you more marketable depending on where you are trying to get hired.

heh, Im one test away from my MCITP EA, SA....just real real real lazy to study for it. Instead of taking the upgrade test MCSE to MCITP route I wanted to take each test individually and boy did that killed me for months
 

Mackintire

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heh, Im one test away from my MCITP EA, SA....just real real real lazy to study for it. Instead of taking the upgrade test MCSE to MCITP route I wanted to take each test individually and boy did that killed me for months

FYI....Microsoft reversed their course. MCSE is back for server 2012.
 

zero1945

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Graduating with a college degree is no longer a guarantee of success. Those days are over permanently. Too many people are graduating college with no marketable skills and will suffer the rest of their lives for it now.

Acquire marketable skills and experience. You need something to talk about in interviews.

College teaches you nothing of valuable in the real world. I have an electrical engineering degree from an Ivy League school. Total waste of time and money.
 

Cheetoz

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College teaches you nothing of valuable in the real world. I have an electrical engineering degree from an Ivy League school. Total waste of time and money.

Electrical engineers without a degree are sooo few and far in between. You could of gotten your current electrical engineering position without a degree?

Heck, most of the jobs I want require MS for design and such, or a PhD to be part of the technical staff. I assume its the same for other careers. Would probably be really hard to land a job doing cryptography for RSA without a degree.
 

zero1945

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Electrical engineers without a degree are sooo few and far in between. You could of gotten your current electrical engineering position without a degree?

Heck, most of the jobs I want require MS for design and such, or a PhD to be part of the technical staff.

I should have clarified: I have a degree in EE but I don't do it for a living.

I work in IT and probably make more than if were an electrical engineer somewhere. If you get your certifications and get on some nice projects, you will do really well for yourself in IT.

My advice: Go to a cheap school, get that piece of paper so you can say you have it, but focus on real world skills if you can in school. Avoid college debt like the plague.
 

zero1945

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Now I'm ranting a bit but I'll say one more thing.

The entire education complex in the United States is run by people who have precisely zero real world experience. I've seen it in my education (although engineering professors are much better in that regard).

Most professors are people who have never actually done anything except read about doing stuff in a book. Think about it for a second. If your economics or business professor knows so much, why are they not super wealthy people? After all, their ideas should lead them to a path to wealth. If not, maybe their ideas don't have much value?

Don't get a worthless liberal arts degree. I would toss those straight in the garbage if I were hiring people.
 

jws86

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This is all excellent information for a current college student like myself. Makes me feel less scared about what path to take. Even though I would like to get into systems administration or networking do you think a good way to gain some experience would be to start fixing computers out of my home. A small business, for a cheap flat rate until I can find my way into the industry while I'm in school. Has anyone done anything like this?
What type of jobs could I apply for without any certs and whilst being in college still? I'm not really sure what to look for.
 

zero1945

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You don't have to get complicated with it. In the IT field, it's somewhat easy to get a summer job or an internship where you get at least some practical experience. Go for something like that.

Too many kids who get an "education" that just gives them a piece of paper come out an expect meaningful employment. Those days are gone forever. Companies are also reluctant
 

saranya

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This is all excellent information for a current college student like myself. Makes me feel less scared about what path to take. Even though I would like to get into systems administration or networking do you think a good way to gain some experience would be to start fixing computers out of my home. A small business, for a cheap flat rate until I can find my way into the industry while I'm in school. Has anyone done anything like this?

that's what Michael Dell did...though he was more about putting them together. Anyways, yes. not a bad way to start and will teach you more about how to run a business.

An internship is also not a bad way to approach it. Just be upfront about your goals to wherever you're trying to get a "learning" internship. Don't be stuck delivering mail, so to speak
 
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