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If job market forecasts, salary surveys and corporate spending trends are to be believed, then information technology is a lucrative career path for professionals — young and old, male and female, etc. For those who want to break into the industry or one of its various sectors, online resources are a great place to get advice, guidance and warnings about how to proceed.

A couple of Virtual Villagers recently sought advice on the forums about how to get their foot in the door of IT or just change niches.

First, we had new member xolibanz who asked, “I’m currently a science teacher with a bachelor of science degree in biology and thinking of making a career change to IT. My main interest is MCSE (certification). Will I be able to get a job after completion of this certification without prior computer qualification?”

We’ll leave the detailed explanations to forum contributors, but suffice it to say, one’s job prospects are best with a combination of experience and certification rather than just one or the other.

In another thread, member mjawadsiddiqui said, “I have been working (in) a desktop support/systems administrator role for the last five years in a Microsoft environment, (and) I have got MCSE NT 4.0, CCNA and CWNA certifications. I also have a BS in electrical engineering. Now I would like to do more certifications like MCSA 2003, CCIE R&S, as well as some Cisco Firewall/VPN and Wireless courses and certifications. If I just start wireless, Firewall/VPN courses and certification and then CCIE, would this be the right track, or should I just start MCSA 2003 and then MCSE 2003?”

Longtime member and frequent forum contributor Wagnerk responded, “It really depends on where you see yourself going/heading. In my opinion, based on the info you’ve given, I would recommend going for your MCSA and CCNP. In my opinion, the MCSE/MCA and the CCIE are for engineers/system designers/implementers — wait until you actually start moving in that direction before you attempt to do those certs, as they are some of the hardest certs you’ll come across (if you do them properly and not use ‘brain dumps,’ which are not legal and may be wrong anyway). The Specialist Certifications from Cisco look like single subjects, so they will be useful to you. Me personally, I would get the ‘big’ certs out of the way first before I do these courses, as the MCSA/CCNP weighs more.”

We’ll share one more, which is from new member syedaijaz143: “Can anyone guide me (as to) how a fresh IT graduate can make an entry into information security and the ethical hacking industry? What are the entry-level certifications required to enter the market, and what are the certifications we can go for after getting experience?” Anyone with advice for syedaijaz143 can go to to offer their thoughts on how to get into the popular field of IT security.

Salary Survey
As we at Certification Magazine get ready to bring readers the results of our annual salary survey, some are trying to assess their earning power on our forums. Member chambersjoshuab posted, “I have been classified as a ‘Telephone Tech (cable jockey),’ ‘Mobile Data Systems Tech’ and presently as a ‘Junior Support Tech.’ I have found that money doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness (some will undoubtedly argue this point), and I left my ‘Mobile Data Systems Tech’ to take the ‘Junior Support Tech’ job at an $8,000 (roughly) loss annually. I am presently employed, making approximately $33,000 annually. Anyhow, take it easy on me as this is my first post ever, but please comment.”

Anyone who has a comment on chambersjoshuab’s circumstances can sound off at

Career Development
On the Career Development discussion boards, we have a couple of interesting conversations going. One involves the changes to CompTIA’s A+ certification. Member Dmytro said, “For the last several months, I’ve been preparing for CompTIA A+ exam (Core Hardware Technician and Core OS technologies). However, just couple of weeks ago, CompTIA announced new, revised versions of exams. Because I am almost ready now to pass the old version of A+, as I am done with the 1,500 page book and now only need to do several practice tests, I am not sure whether I should take the old (2003) version of exam or study more and take new, 2006 version of exam. Would it be more useful and valuable for the employer that I have newer version of certification vs. an old one? Will it bring more benefits for me?”

A couple of points to make here: CompTIA won’t retire the old exams until the end of 2006. Also, CompTIA certifications are valid for life, meaning once you’re in, you’re in for good. Thus, Dmytro and anyone else who’s prepared for the previous version should go ahead and take the exams before they’re withdrawn at year’s end.

In another thread, Wagnerk has some advice for misterblitter, an A+ certified, New Orleans-based consultant on Vic-20’s and Multi-Vaxen systems who’s run into career difficulties as a result of Hurricane Katrina: “I do understand about having your own business. Unfortunately, that is going to be a personal choice. For me, after weighing up the pros and cons, I decided to be employed instead of self-employed. The extra work was too much, and the money wasn’t that regular.

“You’ve got the A+, which is a bonus. Next thing to look at is the Network+ then maybe the MCDST/MCSA, (but) don’t worry about the MCSE for the moment — get the experience of Level 1 and 2 first before you start to worry about Levels 3 and 4. Studying/exams don’t have to be that expensive (but there will be a cost). Use your local library, eBay, Amazon for cheap/secondhand books and equipment. To tell the truth, and I guess I’m going to be a bit blunt so forgive me … It’s time to really upgrade you skills or upgrade your selling point. If the Vics and Vaxens are what I’m thinking about, then that technology is about 15-20 years old. Start looking at Windows 2k/XP and Windows server 2k/2k3 (on the MS side ) and maybe Linux (SUSE seems to a popular version). Get yourself Virtual PC or VM ware and have a play with the different OS’s in the current market.”

Anyone who wants to offer additional advice can do so at

Help Desk and Support
Whenever new systems and technologies are rolled out in organizations, it’s crucial to have accessible and knowledgeable support staff to guide workers on the tasks, features and glitches they’ll face when using them. The help desk and support feature this month will examine what the in-house help desk will need to succeed in making sure end users can survive and thrive in their IT environment. For more information, check out

The public sector is a rewarding area in which independent contractors and consultants can do business. But how do you find these opportunities? The November Independents feature will explore the methods self-employed IT pros can locate lucrative government contracts at the state and local levels. Have a look at

The frequency and magnitude of virtual threats have risen tremendously in the past few years, prompting the need for more and better IT security professionals. But are these Infosec experts drumming up their own business, that is, are they behind any of the attacks that ensure they’ll be needed in enterprises? The November Security community feature will take a look at the possible roles IT security professionals have played in cyber threats. Find out more at www.certmag.c

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