How do I get into IT with my administrative background?

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My background has been primarily administrative. I have obtained my Associates in Fashion Design/Manufacturing in Los Angeles. However, I would like to redirect my career towards the IT field. I have done some research on a few certifications and I seem to be drawn to the MSCA. Can you advise with my background in administration (Ex. Asst, Development Asst and coordinator) which direction and/or certification would best fit with my skills and experience? I would also like to know the starting salaries for these positions. I currently resides in the MD/DC/VA area. How is the job market for IT in this area?

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Unfortunately your degree won’t be of much help to you, other than to be able to say that you have on.

The best way to know what the job market in your area is would be to checkout monster.com or dice.com. They are the leading job boards on the internet.

You gave a decent summary of your overall experience, but you didn’t tell us anything about your computer experience.

Assuming that you don’t have any professional IT experience getting a system admin job with just a certification (it’s MCSA not MSCA) is not all that likely. It takes IT experience to get an IT job, but you can’t get an IT job without experience. Nice catch-22 hugh? All is not lost however. You’ll want to look to start in a help desk or tech support position. This will get you into a company, and after some time at the company you could then move into a junior sysadmin position.

This won’t be a fast transition, at the best you are probably looking at a year or two, probably longer. It can easily take 6-10 years to get into a senior level position which is probably your end goal.

I would recommend that you start with the MCDST or an MCTS in Windows Vista (there are a couple to select from) as these are the more entry level certifications from Microsoft. After you have been with a company for a while you can usually get them to paid for training and tests to get you to the next level.

As for your question on salary ranges, again look towards monster.com and dice.com. You can also look at salary.com as they do an annual salary survey which can provide you with salary info for your area.

Generally tech support and help desk positions will start in the $10-12 / hour range. Junior sysadmin positions will start anywhere from $30k-50k depending on experience, company size, and environment.

I’m sure that this wasn’t exactly the answer that you were looking for, but I prefer to give people a realistic expectation of what they are in for instead of the load of BS that training centers will tell them.

If you would like to provide more information about your computer and IT experience feel free to and I (or another) can revise the answer to provide you with more specific information.

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  • Jerry Lees
    Yes, much of what David has said here is unfortunately true. However, rememer salaries vary by region some areas make more than others but in general salaries are based one experience, region, and in some cases industry of your employer. Before getting started you're going to need a resume. The good news is for the jobs David's mentioned no one's wanting a 2-5 page resume! Try to highlight your background at first, any degrees you have could go on there but consider highlighting any experience that is relevant for the bulk of the start of the resume. If you have a computer at home and you LOVE it you will likely have SOME experience. If you don't have a computer at home you're going to need at least one maybe more. If you don't LOVE it-- well... maybe IT isn't right for you. LOVING computers is what gets you through the LONG hours fixing something broken when everyone else is away, especially for Senior level positions. Most "upgrades" don't happen instantly and didn't happen from 8am to 5pm? ;-) Not everyone realizes this fact when they get into IT. Think of it like a Doctor... they put in long hours in residency and when they are working, in fact you hear about doctors working 24 hour shifts in residency. Well IT is very similar we put in long hours too, I think my personal best is about 27 hours straight working. Here's the difference though when a surgeon is up 18 hours in an operation and the patient dies on the table they get to go home--- a network admin has to bring the system back to life. Obviously that is an extreme over generalization but hopefully you get the idea. The trick is to get that first break with out any experience! Here are a few places to start: First, Networking-- no not wires and packets but the old fashioned kind. Get to know people in the indusrty so they can let you know about you and that you are looking for a job. Keep in mind this one is a slow process, so try not to pester people who you barely know in IT which will likely make then LESS likely to help you if they don't know you well. Imagine if I were to start a job where you worked and come to you about wanting to be a dress designer...sorry for the generalization. At first you'd be flattered and want to help, but if I bugged you about it every day eventually you would get tired of it and dread our conversations. After all, it takes more than desire to design dresses right? Basically, for this one stick with who you already know and try to meet new people but not start off bugging them with constant job search queries. A second possibility is recruiting companies or temporary agencies-- which is one you will want to periodically have conversations with so they know you are still looking. These folks can do some of the networking for you and if you hit it off with one they might offer you suggestions on your resume just remember everyone has an opinion and they aren't all nessisarily right. One think I do when I encounter this is to make a copy for that particular recruiter that has what they want and keep my original copy to myself. The otehr bonus here is this is a GREAT way to get experience and bolster your resume. Just remember if the position is less than 3-6 months be sure and put right at the fromt of the description it was a CONTRACT position... so managers down the road don't wonder if you can hold down a job. A third thing is to take an internship or offer to do anything technical at work you can---especially when it's a small company with minimal or no IT staff! Remember, never lie on your resume about your experience, but if you're doing anything technical in your current position put it on the resume because it counts as experience! Try to work yourself into being the department goto person if nothing else--- just try not to step on the IT guy's toes in the process ;-) remember you want them to LIKE you and teach you stuff... not to mention help you find a job. The last thing is to not give up! That first job will take a while to get and you might even have to take a job outside of 8 to 5 Monday through Friday to get it. (sorry) But every position takes you closer to your next one and prepares you for more. Learn everything you can and read every thing you can about stuff. Now, for certifications. Again, David has given some great examples of ones to take. The MCSE and MCSA are likely a bit high to aim (just yet) but the others he mentions are great places to start. Another great place to start is the Comptia A+ certification. It's just a couple exams and really is what the entry level positions seem to be looking for in my experience-- heck even I still have recruiters asking me if I have it after 15 years of IT experience. Don't give up... and good luck!
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  • Buddyfarr
    Mrdenny and Jlees hit the nail on the head and I can't agree more with it. The #1 question you have to answer honestly to yourself is why do you want to get into IT? Is it because you love computers or is it because of the money? If it is the latter than you will not survive. Sorry to be honest but being in it for the money will burn you out after a few years of really long hours on the job. I have done the 27 hour shift several times and it really sucks but I do it because I love it, not for the money. There is no "I give up" in this industry unless you quit. Companies rely on their systems and they have to have them back up and running and they will hover over your shoulder like a vulture until it is back up and running. I live in the midwest so the pay is not as wonderful as all the ads say it is. I could easily move to either coast and make double or triple what I make now but my family and the area keeps me here. I wouldn't move for any amount. I have been working on computers since my early teens and can't see myself in any other field. That is the dedication you must have to be in any career. Unless you want every day to feel like monday.
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  • NetworkingATE
    [...] How do I get into IT with my administrative background? [...]
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  • Ed Tittel
    As a paid IT career and Cert guy for TechTarget, I've been asked to weigh in on this discussion. First and foremost, I have to agree with and endorse what the other posters have already submitted for your consideration--particularly the ideas that (a) this is gonna take a while and (b) in the meantime, you shouldn't give up or get out prematurely. I also endorse the notion of an entry level Windows cert (MCDST and MCTS are fine places to start, but you should also consider tackling the unholy trio of basic Comptia Certs first: A+, Network+, and Security+. This will help get you ready for other, more demanding technical certs, and will also help you decide if Microsoft is your preferred direction, or perhaps Cisco (another big name, very popular program), or if you might not prefer to follow the Linux track instead. The important thing is to figure out what you like to do, and what kinds of platforms and applications you like to work with, and then to follow those interests into things that can help to make you more employable. HTH, --Ed-- [check me out at www.edtittel.com]
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  • MUKUNDSAWANT
    one right thing is that degree of unversities never helps u. u must have interest in IT field, but it is one of the vastest field so you should aim to particular field of IT. and go for coaching to institution of computers ,,
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  • Shilpa Venkateshwaran
    very informative thread.....thanks everyone for sharing this info
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