IT Career JumpStart

Nov 16 2011   3:12PM GMT

“Big Bucks” in Consulting or Security? Maybe…

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Here’s an email that showed up in my inbox last Friday:

Mr Tittel… your books helped me land my first self study MCP test completion, and your blogs have begun steering me in the right direction.  Cheers sir.  I come to you a stranger searching for advice…
I have am 29 and need a serious career.  I sell cable door to door for a living, doing so largely because my company is going to pay for my masters degree.  I have an unrelated BA in Communications (Telecom specifically) and have a great deal of help desk work experience.  I want to make the big bucks in consulting or security.  Can you recommend a path to obtain a relevant masters degree while simultaneously getting Cisco/ms certified?  I know you have answered this broadly in the past, but are there any schools specifically?  The ACE school list is like picking a number out of a hat…

Many thanks for your time and assistance sir.
GS, north-central Kentucky [name and phone number withheld for privacy]

And here’s what I sent back by way of reply:

Dear GS:

Thanks for your email, and your kind words about my blogs and books. It’s letters like yours that help me to believe my work has at least some merit, and provides a bit of assistance to those seeking to better themselves.

It’s terrific that your company is willing to help pay for your graduate studies. Judging from your area code, you must live in north central Kentucky. Given that your employer is paying for your training, I’m guessing you probably aren’t interesting in moving from your current location (but if I’m wrong, please let me know). My advice would be to pursue a master’s in one of the following areas: MBA (with an emphasis on MIS, or management information systems) or computer science.

If you’re in Lexington, that puts you near the home campus of the University of Kentucky, in fact, which offers a variety of excellent degree programs. I wouldn’t let the presence or absence of Cisco and/or MS certification in a degree program affect my choice of graduate institution, if I were you. You can always pick this stuff up at a local community college, for much less cost than at a 4-year or graduate institution anyway (credit hours usually cost no more than 50% of what you’d pay at a school where you’d pursue a Master’s, and sometimes significantly less).

Please help me zero in on your mobility, and your current location. These will help us define a list of possible graduate and other schools for you to consider in your pursuit of a Master’s, plus Cisco and/or MS certifications.

Best wishes,

Sure, there are some colleges and universities that offer degree-plus-certification plans around. But most of these offer either Cisco (CCNA and CCNP, typically) or Microsoft (one or more of each MCTS and MCITP, or MCTS and MCPD) credentials in tandem with undergraduate degrees rather than graduate ones. I am aware of some master’s programs that offer a CISSP track along with a business or computing science degree at that level, but the CISSP also requires 5 or more years of directly security-related on the job experience, for which both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree shave at most 2 years off that requirement. So there’s still an experience hurdle to deal with in moving up from “Associate of CISSP” to full-blown CISSP.

This certainly is an interesting situation, and one that I suspect many aspiring IT professionals in their late 20s or early 30s may be pondering (like GS, my correspondent in this case). More education remains a great investment in one’s own future, and that goes double when you have an employer who’s enlightened enough to help fund such activity. My advice to anyone who works for an organization that offers full or partial continuing education support is to use such support to the maximum amount for which you are eligible. It may keep you a little too busy in the short run, but in the long run it can only help advance your professional standing and earnings potential.

[Update via Linked-In 11/16/2011 9:30 AM]

From Warren Wyrostek, long-time IT certification instructor and current doctoral student


“Ed, this is an interesting exchange of which I have written a good bit about also. From the design of the Master of Integrated Networking Credential that was being considered as a Capstone Master’s Level Course at FSU to my current role as Doctoral Student after many many certifications. For this reader, I would add to what you shared by saying to look at Eastern Kentucky University where there are many many offerings in the Vo-Tech arena and also offer more than 30 master’s degree programs from five academic colleges, two specialist degrees, and their newest offering, the Doctorate in Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. EKU is just south of Lexington in Richmond, KY.”

All I can add to this comment is “Thanks, Warren: great and valuable information!”

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