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System Administrators - College or Career? 1092

Posted by Cliff
from the where-to-go-after-you-get-that-diploma dept.
Chicks_Hate_Me asks: "I'm a Senior in High School right now and I'm graduating soon (hopefully!) and I was wondering what the hell I should do? My teachers are all telling me I should go to college, but they don't know much about computers so they automatically assume that I wan't to be a programmer or an engineer. I want to be neither, in fact, I want to become a System Administrator. Is college really the best option? Or should I concentrate on getting certification, experience, and taking a few junior college classes on the side? I've already gotten a few job consultancy offers in the area. What has the experience been for any of you out in the tech industry? For you that went to college, did it truly help? And for you that didn't go to college, has it been harder for you to find a job? Also, if you believe that I should go to college, what should I major in? But if you think I shouldn't, what certifications would hold valuable in the future, and what kind of job positions should I take now?" The never ending question. College is a valuable experience for most, but it's also expensive and time consuming. Might that time be better spent in the job market now rather than later (current conditions notwithstanding)?
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System Administrators - College or Career?

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  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:15PM (#3530822) Homepage Journal
    Step 1. Travel. Go to europe (or the US, depending on where you're not). See what life in the rest of the world is like. You can actually travel for pretty cheap, and when I was last on the road ('95), it was pretty easy to work under the table in much of europe. It won't be the high-life, but it's worth getting out there.

    Step 2. Go to college. College is about learning what you don't know you don't know. Not about learning what you know you don't know.

    I recommend working after the first year or 2 in college - even if you[r parents] can afford not to.

    Step 3. Get a job - a real job. Not the one you worked in college. Even if that was a real job. Get away and get more experience elsewhere.

    The important thing is to see a lot of different stuff.

    IMHO...
  • by spring (116537) <eric@bitpuNETBSDddle.com minus bsd> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:17PM (#3530851) Homepage
    Decide early if you want a trade, or a career in the tech industry.

    College will give you an opportunity to think, learn, and develop research skills. Certification won't teach you anything.

    I don't want anyone working for me who just knows how to be a sys admin. I want thinkers, people who understand that systems exist to benefit the business. Just about anyone can learn what it takes to be a good admin; not everyone can learn to think.

    Technology is not the end; certifications and trade school won't teach you that.
  • by happynut (123278) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:17PM (#3530858)
    I guess it matters what sort of system administratory you want to be. If you want to change tapes then you don't need much additional training.

    But there is much more to sysadmin than that. The best sysadmins need just as much technical background as "programmers" -- they need to understand their system end-to-end, and know how to tune it, change it, and deploy it.

    I know many programmers look down on sysadmins. But IMHO administration can be just as much a technical track as programming, and can benefit from as much background as you can get.

    In addition, when I'm hiring sysadmins, what separates "junior" from "senior" folks is their ability to program. It might be in perl instead of java/c++/whatever, but I want admins to be able to automate their day-to-day tasks so they don't have to do things by hand all the time.

  • My experience.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sc00ter (99550) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:18PM (#3530863) Homepage
    I got the same crap from school.. Go to collage. I ended up going to a two year technical collage because I figured it would be more hands on and it would get me out of the door faster. Only after I started did I realize that this isn't what I wanted to do, they were teaching stuff that I didn't care about, and a degree from them, if anybody knew what they really taught, would be crap.

    I dropped out after a year and started doing tech support at a local ISP making shit, had a friend that helped me get a foot in the door doing NOC work at MediaOne, did really good, they sent me to some solaris training, and I ended up getting a admin job at a little start up. So basically in the time that collage would have taken (4 years) I managed to be making 60k/year doing what I wanted.

    Of course, I ended up getting laid off. So I guess the best advice would be if you stay with a nice big company (like a cable company). STAY! They had better benifits (might not seem like a big deal now, but they will), better 401k matching, WAY more stability, and they actually sent me to real training classes where I could get real certs. And don't listen to start ups, they say what they want to get you in the door, then they screw you out of what they said.. This hasn't just happened to me, I'm sure there is plenty of examples.

  • go for the degree (Score:3, Informative)

    by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:21PM (#3530912)
    If for only one reason - it opens doors.

    Potential employers will give you more serious consideration if you have a degree. It doesn't really make a difference what you want to do, a degree in anything is better than no degree at all.
    Also, keep in mind that you might go sour on being a Sys Admin and then all your certifications are worthless. A degree will not be.

    If you want more reasons:
    - your salary will be automagically higher with a degree.
    - a good college will give you a well rounded background in the field you study. This will allow you to acquire new skills easily in that field. Most people fail to understand this point and don't understand why they are learning calculus or discrete math when all they want to do is program.

    Go to college, study something that interests you and then go be a Sys Admin.
  • by nedron (5294) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:21PM (#3530914) Homepage
    I work for a large, multinational telecommunications company. The amount of money and the position you can ultimately achieve within many companies is limited by your educational background, while getting a good job to start with is generally more dependant on your work history. Here are my suggestions:
    • Go to school and don't sweat the grades (so long as you at least come out of it wth a C). The important part is the piece of paper that said you stuck with something for four years.
    • Work fulltime or parttime, ideally in the field you're targetting. If that's not possible, take almost any job and hold on to it. Nothing looks worse on a resume than someone who shops around. Holding even the worst of jobs for a long period of time shows that you are more interested in actually working than finding the next bigger/better paycheck.

      Almost as bad as not going to school is not working while you're going to school. Holding a job and getting a degree at the same time shows that you can manage your time and handle pressure.

    • Don't depend on certifications to get a job. Except for the meanest of positions (eg. Microsoft Exchange admins), a plethora of certifications on a resume is an automatic bit-bucket sentence at many companies, including ours. It usually indicates that you have little practical experience with a product and are basically milking the companies you've already worked for out of free training. Certs are good for getting entry level jobs in some type of customer service. Only consider them as a last resort. A degree looks better as it shows that you had the fortitude to stick with something for four years.
  • Go to school (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mannerism (188292) <keith-slashdot AT spotsoftware DOT com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:21PM (#3530918)
    At the time that I graduated from high school, I was planning on a career in medicine or medical research. It made perfect sense because I loved science in general and biology in particular, and I was pretty good at it. So, I spent the next several years getting an honours B.Sc. in molecular biology. In my third year, I started my own software company to help with school expenses. By the time I graduated, I'd decided that, fascinating as it was, biology just wasn't a career thing for me, and I've been in IT ever since.

    From that story, you might conclude that the time and money I spent in school was a waste, but that's far from the truth. First, I picked up plenty of soft skills, like research and writing, that I use every day. Second, and more importantly, I discovered what I really wanted to do. And of course, the whole university experience is not something to miss.

    So, my suggestion would be to go to school. Don't tie yourself to a career path at the age of 17 or 18. Get exposed to a few different things, have some fun, and give yourself some time to decide.
  • Definately College (Score:3, Informative)

    by ruebarb (114845) <[colorache] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:22PM (#3530925)
    For starters, it's a ton of fun, period. If I could redo my tech career and have a Computer degree (I had a broadcasting degree instead) - I'd have loved it.

    Second, a Degree stays, certs have to be renewed

    Third, Many HR depts. still are hung up on the whole "4 year degree" thing - not all, and it's not as important as work experience, but I've missed a couple opportunities because of no 4 year degree in the tech field.

    Fourth, Completing college shows employers that you have stick to it principles and can focus on long term goals. I know I've gotten some jobs as a college graduate even though I wasn't in the field.

    Go - all joking about the ultimate party and co-ed showers aside, it'll be good for your career. You can always do certs in college too if you feel so inclined.
  • by commonchaos (309500) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:39PM (#3531164) Homepage Journal
    I'm only a year older than "Chicks_Hate_Me", my problem was that I wasn't really ready for college, I was lucky enough to get a job at a really awesome company, getting a job first really helped me to decide what exact area in the computer field I want to persue. I really want to go to college now, because I have a reason. The other benifit is I'll have quite a bit saved up for when I start college.

    Summary:
    College for sure, but working first will help give you a reason for college and some money.
  • by nrmrvrk (89299) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:44PM (#3531226)
    Get the career while you're going to college. I was lucky and got some really good training in the military on Unix systems. Then while I was still in the military got a job at a NASA site as a Jr. Sysadmin. I took quite a few college classes while I was in the military but never came close to a degree. I mainly took technical classes, programming and networking mostly. I think that having a degree will help you get interviews, but as far as what you're learning in college, you're lucky if it really helps much toward practical SysAdmin skills. I haven't seen many Sysadmin classes that were worth a damn at college. They're really junior for the most part. Vendor training is closer to the mark, but always very specific to their product. Where else are you going to learn about volume management and setting up a backup server though?
    One good avenue is to go to college and then get a paid internship at a company or your local NASA research center (if you have one) and learn the real skills at the internship while you're learning the theoretical stuff at college. Even if you don't get a degree, it's always helpful to take at least the minimum college computer classes: (Assuming Unix SysAdmin)

    TCP/IP
    Bourne Shell programming
    Perl (lots of Perl if you can find it)
    Basic Networking
    Unix

    Taking a few classes in a programming language would probably help, and make you more versatile to an employer. Mostly I just took programming classes for fun. Compiler and Internals classes probably won't be as useful as they seem on paper.

    Certifications are great resume fodder, but that's about it. Get the CCNA, and a Solaris or Linux cert if you want to pad your resume. Also join USENIX/SAGE for resume buzzwords if nothing else.

    In the end, the one thing that helped me most was working with a really good senior Sysadmin when I was a junior. He'd teach me anything I wanted to know and was really patient with me. I learned more in a month working with him than in any class I ever attended in college.

    Best of luck breaking into the field.
  • by h2oliu (38090) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:44PM (#3531230)
    My history:

    BA Chemistry.
    MS Chemistry.

    Currently I am an IS Manager. Though college classes didn't directly teach me my trade, they did teach me much else (organization, project planning, etc.), and while there I worked part time as at the helpdesk. That experience was great.

    Some people will say college is worthless, but it really depends on where you go. College is probably the best example of getting out what you put in.

    Long term not having a degree can hurt your ability to advance in system administration, it will be harder to get into managerial positions.

    That said, I have also made 2 job offers to people without degrees, one of whom I offered a salary high than mine, he was that good.

    Hope this helps.
  • by duffbeer703 (177751) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:50PM (#3531296)
    I am an IT Manager for a pretty sizable organization. We probaly hire about 6 junior level tech people a year, most of which I get to meet during the interview phase.

    We do not have a need for nerds or people who are completely self-taught with no education beyond high-school or some certification camp. I have hired several people like this, and none of them worked out.

    - College is an environment when you deal with other adults with less control placed over you than a high school environment. Those interpersonal skills are key.

    - Self-taught people (especially those who learned alone, without a mentoring environment like school) tend to be very arrogant and difficult to work with. One brilliant person can ruin a whole organization if they have a bad attitude.

    Technical skills are valuable, but they are easy to teach and learn. People skills and things like charisma and the ability to work in a team are far more rare and more valuable.
  • by emil (695) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:55PM (#3531370) Homepage

    I'm going to talk about DB certifications, because that interests me the most.

    Right now, basic IBM DB2 certification is free of charge. The program isn't very well-organized (compared to Oracle OCP), but you can't argue with the cost. It will also get you some basic SQL skills.

    The free qualifier is only available in June, August, October, and November of this year. Information on it is available at http://certify.torolab.ibm.com.

    Perhaps more important than this, however, is that both IBM and Oracle have programs for integrating their certs into college courses (Oracle exams are even half-price for students, IIR). The URLs for their academic sites are:

    http://oai.oracle.com/
    http:///www-3.ibm.com/software/data/highered/

    Other good certification websites:

    http://suned.sun.com
    http://www.jcert.org
    http://www.cisco.com

    What I recommend to you is that you demand that your institution of higher learning participate in vendor partnership programs such as these. Such partnerships a)indicate that the institution is interested in imparting practical and industry-relevant experience to you, and b)ensure you of a higher starting salary than those unfortunate individuals attending more institutions with less focus on your needs (and more on the ease of their tenured professors).

    I might especially recommend JCert. If your college teaches Java, they ought not to be afraid to have graduates from their programs independently certified. Any hesitation on this point belies a lack of faith in the quality of their own instruction.

    This sort of thing is new ground for most schools, and I think if your school is willing to at least let you work these certs as independent study, then they should still be considered. However, I've seen a few cases now where administration stonewalls (University of Iowa), even though they are a member of the program. You might think about making your entire tech-elective track nothing but certs.

    So go for the campus tour, nod and smile at their spiel, then negotiate hard and in writing that these certs will be accepted as tech electives.

    And don't be afraid to remind them that the ROI for certs is far greater than for college tuition in the short and even medium term.

  • by Interrobang (245315) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:02PM (#3531445) Journal
    Go do your post-secondary education.

    First reason: There will never be a better time for it, and going back to school usually only gets harder as you get older.

    Second reason: Post-secondary education will also give you the theoretical grounding behind your chosen field(s) of endeavour, which you will find extremely useful once you get out into the Real World[TM] and start doing work. After all, if you know your stuff, picking up tool skills is trivial. Case in point: I am a technical writer. Since I started working, I've used all that abstract stuff I learned in university in practical ways, like through using software I learned on the job.

    Third reason: When most employers (mine included) want a minimum of a 3 year degree for data entry jobs (that is to say, scutwork), suddenly that piece of paper can be your best friend.

    Fourth reason: Universities and colleges provide excellent opportunities to not only socialize, but to network, pick people's brains, and get into mentoring relationships, co-op programmes, and other helpful Good Things[TM]. Post-secondary education provides a rare combination of opportunities to advance yourself that you just can't get in the workplace, but you have to be smart enough to know where to look and what to do when you find them.

    Fifth reason: Work experience! I got a whole year's worth of work experience while doing my one year Master's degree, and my school [uwaterloo.ca] has co-op programmes in practically everything. There are also a lot of student-oriented part-time jobs around, as well as work-study programmes and the like.

    (Shameless plug: Incidentally, if you're concerned about finances, and who isn't, you may want to consider UWaterloo, if you don't mind moving away for awhile. Their CS programme is very good, the tuition is cheap -- especially if you're paying in US$ -- and they offer lots of co-op, bursaries, and other student financial support, as well as a great learning environment.)

    Interrobang, BA, MA, future PhD
  • Do both! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <.vincent.jan.goh. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:14PM (#3531561) Homepage
    While in University, training to be a Computing Scientist, I took a job with my department as a junior sysadmin. That way, you get experience, you get an education, and you don't have to travel very far to get to work. The added benefit was that I always had a machine to do my work on, even when the labs in the building were full.
  • by Red Weasel (166333) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:26PM (#3531683) Homepage
    This is what worked for me and I'm sure you'll hate the Idea but...

    Join the Air Force.

    Now don't flame just hear me out.

    If you are getting out of high school and are a computer geek but without the wherewithal or grades to go to a good college then the military will basically be your savior.

    Even if you only go the 4 year route like I did you will get from the military four years of tech experience, training in the computer field (networking, admin, programming, etc) that you CHOSE AT THE RECRUITERS (that's very important), the GI bill for college, and a killer resume.

    All you really have to content with is 4 years of short haircuts, no drugs, and if you are gay no sex. Of course if you are a geek then 4 more years without sex wont be anything new to you anyway.

    This is geared to a Programmer but just change program to Maintain or Operate and there you go.

    Granted basic training is a drag but you get 3 college PE credits for it. Then it's on to Tech school where (if your are a programmer) you get another 19 credit hrs and training in various programming languages. Then it's off to your first assignment. Probably some shithole is Texas but you could end up somewhere very nice. PROGRAMMERS DON'T GO TO WAR so you get to stay home. Next you learn whatever it is that they are programming in at your new Base. Everyone says "ADA" but I only saw that at tech school. Everyone else uses what is appropriate to the job. Mostly C or Java for the UNIX side and some kind of Visual crap for MS.

    Other than from 7:30 to 4:30 your time is your own with weekends off. There are tons of stuff to do on most Bases but the most important is FREE CLEP/DANTE tests from the Base education office. Take as many as you would like. If you don't pass one on your first try just check out the study material from the Base library and try again in a 6 months.

    After the first year you will take your 5 level tests (just a bunch of questions about your career field, You have all the study material issued to you). After that you can start going to the real college off Base if you'd like. Many Bases allow 3 hrs of "Personal Growth Time" for you to take courses during work hours (if your job permits it) or you can go at night. You could also wait for the teachers to come to Base. Most Bases offer night classes as well.

    Did I mention the GI Bill yet? Well it makes college WAY cheaper and some Commands will reimburse you for classes that pertain to your career field. Add to that when you do decide to leave the military the GI bill adds to any other benefit you may receive from your employer. Right now I make about 200 a month more just for going to college. Twice a week. At night.

    Did I also mention the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF)? Damn near every course that the Air Force sends you to (and they will) are worth college credits. The CCAF is accredited and an associates degree is and an associates degree. It's even better when it's free.

    So after four years of work you will have an associates degree (close to a bachelor's). 4 years experience, possibly a security clearance, medals if you do really well, the GI bill and the only 21 -22 year old that you know who can say "yes I was the lead programmer for 2 products" and "why yes I was in charge of the UNIX development lab". Add to all this the ability to bitch to people in bars about how "this damn military is going to crap, back in my day..."

    So if your just out of high school and have nothing pending. Go into an Air Force recruiters' office and Say that I want to work on computers. Don't let then sign you up for Security Forces or some Guaranteed General slot that they have open. Just stick to your guns, take the tests they tell you to take and sign the form that says:

    Reserved Position of
    COMPUTER PROGRAMMER (or OPPERATOR or MAINTANENCE or COM or anything that is followed by 3C***)

    Then welcome to crappy basic and to a rather beneficial 4 years. And who knows you might enjoy it.

  • by wren (5935) <wren@@@pobox...com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:49PM (#3531880) Journal

    I too dropped out of college...but I wasn't studing computer science or engineering of any sort -- I studied anthropology for three years before deciding that Professional/Professorial Academia (my goal) wasn't all it's cracked up to be. Fortunately, while attending this particularly engineering/sciences/technology-oriented university, I learned a great many things about computers from my engineering geek friends. I left college for a $7/hr tech support position at a small ISP.

    Timing, as they say, is everything. I was fortunate enough to jump into this field before, but not long before the Internet Boom. As my skills and experience expanded, so did the spread of the Net. I was especially fortunate to move from the private sector into university infotech, where I climbed my way up the ladder. Within three years there, I was a senior sysadmin, playing with supercomputers.

    Now, three more years, two additional universities and a startup later, I'm still a sysadmin, and I've hit the limit of what I can teach myself in a reasonable amount of time, and I've found many of the gaps in my learning. I'm still working at a university, so I do have the opportunity to take classes (like next fall), but I find myself thinking, again and again, if I had it to do over back when I was fresh out of high school, I would have gone into computer science, and gotten the degree.

    Fortunately, I was able to share these notions with my younger brother when he was starting college. He went into compsci, got his degree, and worked at the same university's infotech department while doing so. With degree and experience in hand, he's utterly employable.

    All large universities have some sort of infotech department -- a very very very good place to work part time while working on your degree. Job experience and a degree. IMHO, it's the best route to go. It may take longer (take fewer credit hours per semester/quarter to accomodate part time work), but it's worth it.

  • by catfood (40112) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @03:07PM (#3532035) Homepage
    Very few things in computer science have changed in the last couple of decades.

    Preach it!

    Object-oriented programming was invented in what, the 1980s? And TCP/IP came about in the late 1970s, didn't it?

    The Book of Ecclesiastes should be required reading for CompSci courses. ("There is nothing new under the sun.")

    So many modern computer geeks and wannabe-geeks are so used to the new! wow! gee-whiz! hype-driven industry that they don't recognize the repackaging that passes for "new technology." COM is more or less warmed-over CORBA. The common language runtime of dot-Net is the same idea as Java's sandbox, which in turn is the same idea as the universal runtime of UCSD Pascal, which I played with in 1985. Linux is just a different implementation of POSIX mashed with the old BSD and SysV standards. And so on.

    Computer science concepts that you use every day--recursion, algorithm order analysis for memory size and execution time, search/sort algorithms, pointers, the list goes on--those ideas have hardly changed in at least the last twenty years or so. When you're learning yet another shell or programming language, you're likely to say "Oh, this is just like {Lisp|DECNET|Perl|VMS|MIX} except for <x>" if you paid attention in school.

    The rate of fundamental change in computing is incredibly exaggerated in popular perception. You're still copying bits around on a stack, chunking around an instruction pointer, hitting device drivers to talk to hardware, and dressing it up with admin tools or programming languages to abstract away some of the complexity. The basic knowledge stands for decades.

  • by MO! (13886) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @05:19PM (#3532783) Homepage
    Go to college and get a BA with computer-related minor, try to get an internship/part-time work as a Jr. Admin. This will give you work experience while getting your degree. The problem with the quick route is it's a shorter road.


    I've dropped out of college to jump into the emerging PC networking industry in the mid/late 80's. I'm now in my mid-30's and without a degree or extensive experience managing people, I'm in a precarious position. I can't get into the management side of things without the degree, and tend to be undercut by young one's like yourself. Why pay me $60-80K when you'll work for $30-40K - and be more willing to work extensive overtime (without pay!) since you don't have a family yet.


    Sure, you can take the short cut now, but significantly stunt your path - or invest the time and effort in a wider career potential now while you're better able to put in the time needed.


    Some will say my advice is nonsense, that you can either work your way into management - or that management sucks and if you don't have interest in it then don't bother. I'd still say that you'd be limiting your options - whether you want to work your way up that far right now isn't important. When you get 15 years into your career and begin tiring of (1) the pager going off all hours of the day, (2) taking orders from ignorant managers that don't understand the tech as well as you, and/or (3) just want a change, that's when that decision matters.


    Up until a few years ago, I was quite please and proud of my accomplishments career-wise. Now, I'm beginning to regret only having an AS and no long term management opportunities. I've reached a level where my salary requirements and age are significant factors alongside the experience on my resume. I can only assume this will continue as I head into my 40's. I'm now struggling with how to finish up that degree I abandoned so long ago.


    Once more, sometimes shortcuts are only benificial for the short-term. It's the long-term planning that's most important - unless you like slaving away chained to a pager/laptop while your friends are dating, marrying, parenting, etc.

  • Go to college! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Linux_ho (205887) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @05:25PM (#3532836) Homepage
    From a system administrator without a degree (me):

    Reasons you should go to college:

    1) Getting good at programming will make you a better administrator.

    2) The job market isn't great now. You're better off spending your time expanding your skills.

    3) Right now, your dream is to be a system administrator. Once you have been a system administrator for a few years, you may find that some other career area looks more interesting. If all you have is your experience, you're stuck. If you have a degree, you can switch around much more easily.

    4) Even strictly within the administration field, lots of places require a BS degree just for system administration. Even if you have all the experience, wouldn't it suck to have your resume trashed by some ignorant HR flunky because your resume didn't match everything on their checklist?

    5) In hard economic times, if you find yourself looking for a job, people with a degree will be chosen over people without a degree if both are experienced and otherwise qualified.

    6) College is fun! Night school is fun, too but not nearly as much fun as it would be if I didn't have to hold down a full-time job at the same time. Whoops, we were talking about you. Oh well, take it from a guy who is five years down the "road less travelled". At this particular fork, you want to take the road more travelled.
  • by fortiter1 (546980) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @05:52PM (#3532995)
    I've been trying to get my foot in the sysadmin door since 95. 20 years of computer maintenance experience in the Air Force didn't mean squat, my BS in MIS didn't mean jack, and my MCSE and A+ certs weren't worth anything to companies. Why did my employer hire me, someone with no unix experience,to administer their Unix servers? Because I had the degree and my record showed persistence. I think the biggest reason was I had a track record of getting results where my predecessor failed. Get that degree, get experience while going to school, and be sure to document your successes WITH statics in your resume. Don't overlook volunteering your time with network shops. Yes, work for no wage at all. Money isn't everything, but experience is when it comes to getting hired.
  • by Caraig (186934) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @06:32PM (#3533208)
    This is generally good advice, and I would normally not advise anyone against spending time in the military. It really does build character and expose you to a variety of situations and people.

    There is, however, one thing to make note of and this can be a hell of a hammer to be hit with:

    You belong to the military when you join. Your body and mind, at least, and that part of your mind that stores vocational skills. There's a little catch called "Needs of the service" which means the military -- any service, any branch -- can and WILL put you where THEY need you the most. You have some say in the matter, but when you get right down to it, the military can shove you into Administrative Clerk or Photographer's Mate or PBI (Poor Bluidy Infantry) if they need you somewhere.

    There is also something else to be concerned about, though in four years it's debatable if it'll be a problem or not. That concern is "Stop-loss" orders. If the military needs you and 1,000 of your bestest buddies to stay in the service for whatever reason, it can issue a 'Stop-loss order.' You canot get out, you canot retire, you cannot escape. You remain in the service for as long as they need you. The Army and Air Force are doing this now.

    So, be careful, and be aware for the costs and benefits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 16, 2002 @09:00PM (#3533845)
    I have to agree that the military is a good option if you are uncertain about your future plans. I am in the Air Force, and I work on B-52's, but I also attend school off base working on my CS degree. I know first hand what "Stop Loss" is. My date of separation is 20 May, but here it is the 16th of May and I am home (Cupertino CA) on vacation, not getting out. I have NO idea when I can get out, and it has really changed my plans for the future. I am stationed at Barksdale AFB, in Shreveport Louisiana. I am from Silicon Valley, where the techies, free thinkers, and BMW's and MB roam the streets. Now I live in our countries arm pit. Louisiana sucks, and there are other places you may be stationed that are even worse. Hardly anyone understands why I use a Mac (PowerBook) or why Unix is so great. On my base the only think most airman use a computer for is to play flight sims and pretend they are chuck yeager, or get on AOL and look for teens in the local area. The only people in the Air Force are usually 1)wanted to serve (Me) or 2) had nothing better to do, and usually were from a small town in east Nabraska, with no culture and very narrowminded. Lastly, if you choose the AF route make sure you take advantage of your time. I am the only one I know that is in college, and I have been for the last 2.5 years. Dont get caught up and say well I have 4 years, so I will wait a year before I start school. Start ASAP, and work hard at whatever you decide.

Brain fried -- Core dumped

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