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System Administrators - College or Career? 1092

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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  • Learn your trade (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geekboy(Wizard) ( 87906 ) <spambox@thea[ ]org ['pt.' in gap]> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:12PM (#3530790) Homepage Journal
    College, and certs will get you in the door. So will a resume. Learn your skills. Since you are so young, you could probably undercut those who are more qualified. Know your stuff, and try for Junior-admin positions. Get a cert or two, so they will actually call you back, but concentrate on knowing your craft. If you are willing to move, do nation-wide searches for a job. Some areas have too many techs, but other areas are starving for them.
    • Undercutting is a bad idea. Not only will it bring down the general worth of the job, but it will also decrease your percieved value in your employer's eyes and make it harder down the road to negotiate a raise.

      If you're concerned about "getting your foot in the door" more than you are about pay, and if your expertise is limited, try an internship. This will get you in the door and you'll be in a position to push for a full-time position without having demeaned yourself in the process. Undercutters are viewed as sharks in any industry, and are generally treated as such. Interns who later become employees are generally remembered for having learned fast, become an expert, and pursued a position with passion. Internships are also a great form of "free learning".

    • by jvbunte ( 177128 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:25PM (#3530971) Journal
      A college degree (no matter in what area) is almost a pre-requisite for the 'good' jobs. Think of it this way, if you are an Employer, and you are hiring for a Systems Admin Position, you have 2 candidates who you need to pick from with equal on the job experience, would you take someone with a college degree over someone without one? Don't get shut out of a possible job just because you don't have a degree.

      College also has several other added benefits over typical 'job experience'. College not only teaches you job skills, it teaches you to be resourceful in finding answers you don't automatically know. Programming courses in college have proven invaluable to me as a system admin even though I don't do much programming. Understanding how programming languages work and the data structures involved are not a typical job requirement but end up helping you alot in the long run. One of the best classes I ever took was "Basic Compiler Design" which has absolutely no relevance to any job I ever held, however, it did teach me a commanding knowledge of C++ and advanced data structures. If anything, college teaches you how to research problems and solve them. The college I went to make a specific point in the compsci department of not teaching specific software packages/solutions. Their goal was to teach the student how to learn those specific skills on their own when needed. In hindsight I must say that at the time it made little sense, but now I realize it makes all the sense in the world as those skills come into play almost daily.

      And unless you are already married or an introverted supernerd, why in hell would you pass up FOUR YEARS of endless dating/mating possibilities? GO TO COLLEGE JUST FOR THE GIRLS, YOU WILL NEVER HAVE A MORE VARIED POTENTIAL DATING POOL IN YOUR LIFE (unless yer Hugh Hefner).

      • It depends on a number of factors. Have the two potential employees both been interviewed? If they have, then it's all up in the air. College won't make or break the deal, no matter what the job description says. An enthusiastic go-getter who's on the edge of technology and shows concern about hot-button issues such as security and uptime is more likely to get the job than is a less enthusiastic person, no matter how many years either one has spent in a structured educational environment.

        Furthermore, depending on the college it can actually hurt your chances. Certain schools (I'm not going to name names) have a reputation of shuffling people out half-educated.

        College is not a guarantee of anything. Experience and expertise is.

        • 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.
          • Yes, some self-taught geeks are arrogant, this should come across immediately in an interview. Others are unstructured free-thinkers who will bog you down with sporadic "This technology is cool, we should upgrade" paths. Both should be avoided. Then are the pragmatic down-to-earth geeks who realize that sometimes spending four years in school learning an industry that changes on the hour is not necessarily the best thing to do.

            On the flip side you've also got the geeks from Harvard or MIT who think that the world should bow to them because of their degree.

            Arrogance is on both sides, not just the side of the self-taught. Skills are on both sides, not just on the side of the college educated.

            • Very few things in computer science have changed in the last couple of decades.

              I can talk to candidates about their Discrete Structures or Systems Programming classes and relate pretty well.

              System Admin != Computer Science or EE
              • 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.

            • Answer:The Geeks from MIT with their degrees.

              Why? Because these geeks will eventually have the experience, the degree, and the status.

              IF you dont have a degree, Have fun competiting with the third world programmers and technicians in China, India, Pakistan, etc.

              IF you didnt read the last slashdot article, Americans are being fired so these cheaper equally qualified workers from outside the country can take their job.

              I recieved posts from people who said "Well to compete you have to provide better value"

              The only way to provide better value is to have a better education. People in Pakistan may have more experience, more talent, and more skill but you still have to survive! You wont always be the smartest and best, you have to survive anyway, and when you compete with people who may be BETTER than you, you have to work HARDER than them to win, meaning getting your degree.

              Lets see what slashdot thinks.

              Quote from rmjiv rmjiv's profile [slashdot.org]

              How about providing a better value? There will always be costs associated with manufacturing products at distance from use. This is as true of software as it is of cars. For cars, the extra costs is in the delivery. For software, it's in the communication of requirements (and the changing of requirements, etc.). If value = (quality / cost) then you don't necessarily need a lower cost to provide equal or greater value. I suggest reading Yourden's Rise and Resurrection of the American Programmer. It's an interesting read, and might even cheer you up.

              BTW, if you can't provide a better value, why do you believe you deserve a job as a programmer?
              She came sliding down the alleyway like butter dripping off of a hot biscuit."

              Quote from Whitehawke WhiteHawke's Profile [slashdot.org]

              Actually, I'm not worried about this for a lot of reasons:

              1) As a skilled and reasonably experienced (7 years) developer, I'm better than most (though certainly not all) of the developers from the Third World.

              2) I can actually interview on-site. Making a face-to-face impression is a HUGE advantage.

              3) Companies don't even like to let people telecommute if they have a choice; they like to have people in-house, under their eye.

              --Dave Storrs

              These are some of the opinions of people at Slashdot, it seems they all see my point. Get a degree, or be replaced by Muhammed from Pakistan, or Wong Fei Lee from China.

              You dont have a choice. Its survival of the most educated not the most talented.
          • Wow. At least you've said what I've always suspected. There is a very important lesson here for everyone.

            #1 Skills aren't important, and never were. Especially skills beyond "minimally competent".

            #2 Managers don't like people that like to learn, they like people with ambition. Ambition (in the form of education) is somehow more worthwhile than knowing your stuff, and corporate america will always strive to foster ambition.

            #3 Interpersonal skills is management jargon for "I'll do you a favor now, in the hopes that you'll be able to perform one for me later". People who like to learn, or do exceptional work never seem to find time for this.

            #4 The worst of all bad attitudes is thinking that skill or talent are worth anything to those that will hire you. The only thing you can expect from those with this attitude, is that they'll show you up, or expose you for the talentless ladder-climber that you are.

            #5 Technical skills are easy to fake with committees and poorly written technical procedure manuals. Sure, this only gets you the bare minimum, but in a society that celebrates mediocrity, why buy more than you need?

            PS Please do not mod the parent as Troll, I actually believe he is honest.
            • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:32PM (#3531736)
              I'd like to comment on your reply point by point.

              #1 Technical skills, in the form of specific experience in a particular OS or certification are irrelevant. We have IT staff who were interns, clerks or in one case a driver who injured his leg. In most cases they became good mid-level Unix or NT admins in about 12-18 months. 5/6 of them are taking classes paid for by our organization.

              #2 I don't know about other people, but I like people who take their work & education seriously. Programmers who come from a CS or EE background are far better than those who missed out on formal education about 50-75% of the time. They tend to stick around longer too.

              #3 We work in teams here. If our best programmer was hit by a bus, we wouldn't lose too much as far as coding or system availability went. (It would be a terrible thing, of course)If some exceptional geek who won't talk to anyone leaves or suffers from some tragedy, there is a much bigger loss.

              #4 Skill and talent are important. Soft skills are important too.

              #5 Manuals are easy to fake. Success isn't.
      • by HanzoSan ( 251665 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:01PM (#3531425) Homepage Journal

        If he actually thinks hes going to make a career thats going to last more than 10 years as a system admin, hes going to be wrong, VERY wrong.

        Eventually servers will maintain themselves, lets not forget the system admin market is not in demand and hes not going to get paid a decent wage for much longer.

        What he should do is go to college, get a Good 4 year degree, maybe work as a system admin via intership, Then when he graduates from college he can continue on as a Sys Admin.

        He needs to get his degree so he can adapt to the times, when the time comes, Hes going to have to get a new job, wheres he going to go 11 years from now? or 20? Does he really want to go to college at age 30? By then he'll be far behind.

        Look, you have to build your nest egg as soon as possible, that is

        A. If you want to retire ever.

        B. If you want to have kids.

        C. If you want a house, car, or anything.

        He needs a degree to have a stable career, he can get a job with just a diploma, they'll hire him as a sys admin, it will be his job, but when they dont need him anymore, hes gone, jobless.
    • Expand your mind (Score:3, Insightful)

      by n9hmg ( 548792 )
      You should do some of both.
      I wasn't ready for college, and got sent full-boat. It took 7 semesters to finish flunking out, and after 3 years factory work, another year to get the credits and GPA to graduate. It wasn't until after I got married and joined my wife at her college (younger woman) that I decided I liked working with pooters (God bless Linux Torvalds). Dropped Education classes, picked up a couple programming classes, got a job as a programmer, parleyed that to sysadmin, and never looked back.
      You do need some programming to be a truly successful sysadmin, and a good liberal arts education opens lots of other approaches.
      The degree is pretty much required to move beyond a certain point, but it doesn't much matter what it's in.
    • by tdemark ( 512406 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:31PM (#3531063) Homepage
      You are basically asking should I go to college, or should I start working in the field?

      The short answer is do both.

      Go to a college/university that has a good computing infrastructure - lots of different departments with different needs, etc, etc.

      Earn a degree while working on the computing staff - and I don't mean be a baby sitter at the on-campus PC labs. Approach any of the sysadmin groups and offer your services as a Junior Admin.

      By the time you graduate, you will have several years of true experience and the piece of paper to get you in the door.

      Best of luck.
  • System Administrator (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CaffeineAddict2001 ( 518485 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:12PM (#3530798)
    What are you going to do when "System Administrator" is the title of a program rather than a job?
    • What are you going to do when "System Administrator" is the title of a program rather than a job?

      Install it, configure it, upgrade it, and fix the hardware that it runs on. Fool.
    • At that point.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cnelzie ( 451984 )
      Most of us will not be alive. At our current level of technology we are unable to create a truly "thinking" machine. Perhaps we will do so within our lifetime, but do you believe that this machine will have the ingenuity and imagination that a human mind will have?

      How many problems do you have that require little to no thought at all? How many problems have you run into that require no imagination to overcome?

      I would imagine very few.

      The day that we have a program called System Administrator, (That actually performs all of those tasks...) is the day that the human race will begin its true downfall. Until then we have our minds, imagination and ingenuity to accomplish anything we put ourselves to.

    • by digitalsushi ( 137809 ) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:41PM (#3531195) Journal
      I dont think that will happen for a long time. We're not saying "when machines can take care of themselves" cause we're not talking about machines. We're talking about systems. A sysadmin takes care of a system, often a new one that has bugs. 300 years from now when we're flying around in space, there will still be people in the same type of position that have elevated access to the systems of that time, so that regular users can't make the same dangerous decisions uniformed. If anyone wants to suggest that humans designing systems will ever be flawless, then you can win the argument. We may not always be called system administrators, but at least what we do will likely be needed for a very long time.
  • Go to college (Score:5, Insightful)

    by today ( 27810 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:13PM (#3530800) Homepage
    If you have the opportunity to go to college, take it. At this point in your life, you do not *really* know what you want to do. College will expose you to many possible careers. Not only that, but you might acquire additional skills that will provide you with a backup plan when you burn out on sysadmin'ing...
    • Yeah... you don't want to be a sysadmin, anyway, if you're well-adjusted and normal.

      If you're not, well, it's not something they can teach you in school, but you'll get a chance to read up on Machiavelli and other cool medieval sysadmins, so it's worth it for that if nothing else.
    • Re:Go to college (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 4444444 ( 444444 ) <4444444444444444 ... 444444@lenny.com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:22PM (#3530932) Homepage
      Thats exactly what I see as colleges biggest problem. To many people who don't have a clue whatthey want to do. So they spend 4 years screwing around and get a degree then they go lookin for a job. I think it's much better to go out in the real world for a few years find out what it's really like and adn see what jobs you really want then after you have some expeirence gotot college and focus on subjects related to the field you want to be in. You will end up with a better education because you know what you want.
    • Re:Go to college (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 56ker ( 566853 )
      I agree - especially with the current problem of lots of people going for the same tech jobs a degree is almost essential. That is unless you can use nepitism or some other underhand way to get a foothold in a company. As to tech support it's generally low-paid and only used as a springboard to better IT jobs. After a while you get tired of being asked by people to help change their passwords!
    • Re:Go to college (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrResistor ( 120588 )

      I thought I wanted to be an Electronic Engineer until I took some programming classes. Being introduced to *nix was the final nail in the coffin of that career track.

      Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy playing with hardware, but it just doesn't get me as excited as software does. I could definately see myself working with embedded systems, though...

    • Re:Go to college (Score:3, Insightful)

      by subgeek ( 263292 )
      i also agree.

      college will give you much more than job skills. it will teach you some about computers, but you'll also learn a lot about yourself. it is worth the price. five years out i'm still paying loans, but i am very glad to have had the experiences that came with those loans.
    • Even if you do you want to stay in system administration for the rest of your life, a college degree is important or required for advancing your position. They may not make you a supervisor or head of the computing center without a degree despite your qualifications. Every year going back gets harder.

      Having a college degree is important enough that even Steven Spielburg [bbc.co.uk] has put in nights and weekends just to complete his degree this spring, 33 years after dropping out.


    • 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:


      Other good certification websites:


      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 Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:34PM (#3531763)
        What I recommend to you is that you demand that your institution of higher learning participate in vendor partnership programs such as these.

        No computer lab worth its name would accede to such demands. In fact, such demands should convince them entirely that you're more interested in flashy-looking paperwork than actual learning, and hence are not a good candidate.

        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).

        Accepting often-meaningless industry certs does not demonstrate that a department is interested in real-world skills, it demonstrates that the department is desperate for cash and trying to gain corporate sponsorship. Real skills taught by real colleges last far longer than any industry cert. Do you really think a month of studying Swing or MFC is worth as much as a month learning what data structures are all about?

        That's why my degree will last for life, but the MCPs who took Visual C++ 6 several years ago are now "uncertified" again, in spite of the fact that the tool hasn't actually changed a bit since then and is still in mainstream use. The vast majority of industry certifications are money-spinning, code-monkey-developing cash cows, and nothing more. (Incidentally, having recently been in the job market myself, this seems to be how they are perceived by employers looking to fill good positions. Compare and contrast with proper degrees, please.)

        And speaking of starting salaries, if you think some pro cert is going to get you a higher salary than a degree at the start of your career, you're gravely mistaken. Many places will file you in the circular cabinet without a second thought if you aren't degree-qualified, however many TLAs, ETLAs and so on you write on your resume. I don't think it's going to be hard to beat a starting salary of $5/hour at McD's.

        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.

        For whom? Not any employers, programmers or sysadmins I know, at any level of experience, that's for sure.

    • 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 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.
  • A good plan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    * Move to a cheap college state like Arizona (in-state is $1000/semester, you can qualify for in-state tuition after living there a year)

    * Work and play for a year while you get instate.

    * Enjoy college. Those are good years and you'll work the rest of your natural born life (save the low-probability cash-out option; see "unemployed", "options", "mortgage")

    * College degrees are often important. Not always, and it doesn't always matter what they are. Sysadmining in college is a pretty good gig.
    • I'm a CS student at ASU. The higher-level courses are supposed to be good, but the required ones SUCK. Taught for the lowest common denominator.

      That said, ASU is a great school - I love it! I just wish that my life didn't hang on a little piece of paper that certifies I've wasted X amount of my life learning things I already knew.

      The degree is important, bubt it doesn't always matter what degree it is. My dad's successful in the tech field, and he has a music degree.

      No matter the route you choose, though, always keep learning new things related to your field. Learn sysadmining here, programming there, networking here, etc. The more skills you have, the more valuable and sought-after you'll be. Which is a Good Thing (TM) :)

  • by mpweasel ( 539631 ) <mprzyjazny&gmail,com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:13PM (#3530804) Homepage

    I suggest you start early by ripping the wings off flies while telling them, "sorry, new security policy"

    Martin, sys admin bastard
  • Theres no doubt that just having a four year degree on your resume increases your chances to get a good job. Experience will only get you so far in the job market. The Higher the salary range, the more and more they are going to expect a degree. Plus it Shows u have enuff dedication to get threw college to get one.
  • Do Both (Score:3, Insightful)

    by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskettNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:14PM (#3530812)
    You should do both, for example:

    Go to a State Unversity and get a job doing Sys-Admin work. Pay for school with the proceeds.

    Alternatively, if you go to a much more expensive university, for example a private school, take advantage of financial aid, loans, etc up and pay the rest off with proceeds from working Sys-Admin.

    There is no reason to not go to school full-time and work-full time. Unless you count sloth as one of them.
  • by essdodson ( 466448 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:14PM (#3530813) Homepage
    When things get tight like they are now its nearly impossible to find work without a degree. You may have skills but that doesn't mean a whole lot when the market is down. Everyone I know who didn't bother to go to college, has CCNA, RHCE, etc... is now scrounging around to find a decent job because their employer went out of business and noone is interested in them due to a lack of a degree.

    Its only four years, go ahead and get it. It will give you a foot in the door most anywhere. And while you're at college work for their IT Services, you'll come out with both a degree and 4 years of experience.

    • And if you go to college, you might actually be able to spell "definitely."


    • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:10PM (#3531519)
      I'd offer up some more advice - I almost dropped out of my degree to go work for a (now failed) startup company. That would have been one of the worst mistakes of my life. If you want to do computer work, here's the path I'd recommend to you:

      - Try electrical or computer engineering. If you can't handle the workload:

      - Try computer science or a softwarey-engineering style degree. If you can't handle the workload:

      - Consider a Math or Physics B.Sc. If you can't handle the math, the usual reason for #1 or #2 not working out, then:

      - Try a history degree, or anything besides a BA english. Music, maybe. It's fun, there's chicks, and you get a piece of paper. Rely on work experience (you will have loads of extra time in arts) to balance out the lack of direct experience. BUT - when you graduate, do a Masters degree in something artsy, bonus points for it being computer related. It'll give you a story to tell in interviews.

      - All the while, you should be running your own home network, comprised of as many different machines and obsolete networking equipment as possible. Take pictures with you to your interviews and talk about your experiences. That will garner you more points with me (combined with a degree, of course) than all the certs in the world.

      TRY college if you can at all swing it. You will be a different person in 10 years, trust me. You don't want to regret anything, and regretting going to college will make regretting not asking that hot redhead in your morning class will look like missing a morning latte'.
  • I dropped out of high school and i'm making $120K (in the overpriced SF bay area). During the interview they asked 1 question about education and spent 45 minutes asking me technical and personality questions.

    High tech companies, especially smaller ones, don't pay much attention to non-job-related stuff. If you can do the job and get along with people, you don't need a diploma or degree to prove it any more.

    On the other hand, if you were going into a more conservative field like finance or law, obviously you have to have school to get an interview anywhere. But when I was interviewing people for a system administrator job here, I asked (for example) how they would set up sendmail so it wouldn't relay messages, and questions like that.
  • I'm biased, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Boulder Geek ( 137307 ) <archer@goldenagewireless.net> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:14PM (#3530815)
    Most system administrators do not know enough to be truly useful. Not coincidentally, many have not had formal training in Computer "Science" or Engineering. Go to college. Learn about how things really work, not the regurgitated pablum that is spread by corporate sponsored certifications.

    Since it looks like you aren't planning on going to a university this fall, it wouldn't hurt to get a certification or two in the upcoming year. But definitely go to university. To go immediately into the work world out of high school seems like a complete waste of youth to me. There are many more entertaining ways to waste those precious years between 18 and 24 than slaving long hours as a sysadmin.
    • Whoa...

      If you're a sys-admin for your college, then yes, its worth it. But if your taking a CS degree, unless they are teaching you perl, sendmail/postfix, bind, apache/php etc, your going to have to learn these skills to acquire the job. If you are in college, Get an apprenticeship FAST.

      Colleges didn't offer the skill I needed when I first started an ISP, I had to build Unix boxes, mail servers, configure routers and learn how to do it myself. Reading books, living on Usenet, and drinking coffee till 5am to fix problems before customers got up in the morning.

      Lets not even talk about all the 3rd party hardware that you will have to learn, Cisco, Nortel, Eriksson, lucent, nokia, etc.. This stuff is upgraded so fast, features you learned on 2.0 will not exist in 3.0.

      Its hard to be a master of everything, knowledge about Unix and protocols will help learning any new software application. There are tech schools that will help with this, and might be a better bang for the buck than college. College was about relationships, a lifestyle, your father went to the same college, etc.. Today, Education is a commodity, your paying for your future, get your moneys worth. Treat your life like a business, and plan, and purchase correctly.

      BTW, most CEOs/CFOs/etc have Masters or Doctorates. There is part time college like Phoenix university that might help.

      I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. - G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

  • College level CS degrees are not a good investment if you have aptitude.

    I say take a more targeted approach for now and go to college when, and only when, you become bored, burnt out, disenchanted, frustrated and really sick and tired of all those god damned "college boys" who make more than you but REALLY just don't know DICK!

  • 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.

  • by dj28 ( 212815 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:15PM (#3530828)
    I'm in college now. You are confused a little as I was. In Computer Science (at most universities), you have what's called a 'Software track' or 'Systems track'. In the Software track, programming and software development is more emphasized. In the Systems track, system administration is more emphasized. You should definately go to college, becuase as a sysadmin you will have opportunities to advance. Without a college education, you won't have as good of a chance to advance. College will also develope you socially and in other subjects such as political science, etc. College in today's competitive society is a must, especially with foreign competition becoming more feirce.
  • ... Without a degree. Lots of times on interviews, people ask "Do you have a degree?" To some people it matters, to others it doesn't. Generally schools like to see that you have a degree, for various reasons. Once I asked "If I did, would it even make a difference?" The person who was interviewing me said 'Probably not'.

    My parents also always push to get a degree ... Sometimes i wonder if it would help, as right now I'm out of a job, and starting to get desperate .. ;). But I have one thing a person who spent 4 years in college won't have over me, and thats 5 years experience as a System Administrator. Who would you rather have in charge of your systems, someone who has been doing this for a while now, or someone who's only read about it?

    Anyway, congrats on wanting to be an SA, its a good career choice I think, as you get exposed to a lot, and it can lead to other things, programming, DBA, network guy etc etc ....

    Over all though, college looks like its a lot of fun, if a lot of work. If your parents will pay for it, I say go for it! Maybe you'll get to go to a few good parties ...

    Choose no life. Choose System Administration.
  • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:15PM (#3530832)
    I'd strongly suggest college, for two reasons.

    Firstly, whether it's fair or not, a lot of places simply won't look at your resume for any technical position unless you have a post-secondary degree of some kind. If you have many years of experience (3 minimum), you may be able to get by on past work alone, but even then you'll be less favoured for raises and promotions because of the impression that you're less "skilled".

    Secondly, going through the computer stream, the business stream, or both, in college, will give you extra perspective on where the demands of management and the coders are coming from, and how to balance their requests. You'll be able to do a better job (not all of the job is technical).

    Thirdly, it gives you flexibility and mobility in your job. You're qualified for being more than just a sysadmin, so you can take other positions if there are no sysadmin jobs available or if your interests change over time. Choice is usually a good idea.

    In summary, I think that college would be very valuable for you at your current career stage.
  • Try and see the big picture. How do you know you want to be a Systems Administrator? And will you want to be one in five years?

    Go and get your computer science degree. Plus you will never forget those four or five years. You'll make new friends.

    Finally, if you can prolong your arrival into the real world, by all means do it!
    • I don't think Computer Science is the path for someone looking to be a SysAdmin. Maybe more along the lines Computer Technology (Here at Purdue we have such a program, I'm sure there are similar things elsewhere.)

      Don't do CS unless you really like math =]
  • Degrees (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Caradoc ( 15903 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:16PM (#3530837) Homepage
    These days, I can pretty much guarantee you that a degree of any kind will get your resume looked at much faster than those without degrees listed.

    In the whole dot-bomb craze, a lot of people dropped out of high school and college, and went to work for obscene amounts of money. Now, many companies have realized that it take more than a working knowledge of whatever field is popular - it doesn't matter if you're the world's greatest genius in a particular field if you can't do the *other* parts of the job, like interacting with customers, making clear notes about what you've done for the runbook, and generally communicating with your co-workers.

    I got my degree on the ten-year plan. It's not in a computer-related field, but having it means that more doors are open to me.
  • Go to College (Score:2, Interesting)

    Even given the arguments against going to college, I would still go for the experience. I've seen countless folks who've not gone to college (that I now work with!) who are paid well, but do not possess the "got to get this working no matter what" attitude that one gets while attending a formal college. Those co-workers are the 9-5'ers who call it quits at 5pm no matter what. My other college-educated co-workers are:
    - more intelligent
    - more hard working
    - climbing the career ladder much faster

    Now's the opportunity - jump in and learn all you can while you still can.
    • In my experience, college doesn't impart a "got to get this working" attitude. It's just that the people with that work ethic are going to do everything they can to ensure their success, which often means college. Those who are a little less proactive about their success are also going to be a little less tenacious about their work.
  • by spring ( 116537 )
    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.
  • The job market right now is EXTREMELY thin, so you're probably going to be better off if you can really separate yourself from other candidates. At the very least, make sure you have SEVERAL certifications (an MCSE alone isn't gonna land you a job these days). Go for combinations of varying certs that compliment each other. For example, try pairing a CCNA (Cisco) with a CNA (Novell) or RHCE (Red Hat). That should get you off to a good start.

    You might also want to look into a two-year technical degree to further compliment the certifications. It doesn't really mean much, but it does give you an advantage over the guys who don't have it. And besides that, it will allow you to "sit out" of the job market until it picks up again (analysts are guessing that the next two years should be pretty good for IT guys).

    Good luck, in any event.
  • 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.

  • I've found that the largest barrier to entering management is the lack of a degree. The chance that you will be the *insert 3 letter business acronym here; C*O etc.* of a successful company (a la Gates, Ellison) without a degree are very, very slim.

    If you don't mind being a SA forever, don't worry about a degree. If you want to be a CTO, VP Technology, etc. (making the big bucks, *really* being able to make a difference, etc.) then you'll need a BS/BA in the least (MBA doesn't hurt ;)).
  • 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 to school as much as you can. You will have the rest of your life to work. Not necessarilly college (which I think you should attend), but any formalized learning past high school.

    I strongly believe that continuing education provides you with a better framework to deal with real-world problems.

    In general you may find it harder to find open positions, or advance your career. Sad state of the world is that people are judgemental, and college is becoming a standard.

    College also affords you the chance to live on your own but still have a strong support network if you get into trouble socially or financially - a safe place to screw up.
  • Choose no life. Choose sysadminning. Choose no career. Choose no family. Choose a fucking big computer, choose hard disks the size of washing machines, old cars, CD ROM writers and electrical coffee makers. Choose no sleep, high caffeine and mental insurance. Choose fixed interest car loans. Choose a rented shoebox. Choose no friends. Choose black jeans and matching combat boots. Choose a swivel chair for your office in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose NNTP and wondering why the fuck you're logged on on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting in that chair looking at mind-numbing, spirit-crushing web sites, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last on some miserable newsgroup, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up lusers Gates spawned to replace the computer-literate.

    Choose your future.
    Choose sysadmining.
  • There are two ways (generally) that you can become a Sys Admin for a company. The first takes for granted that you're looking for a company that knows what a Sys Admin does and actually has a separate IT department. The second way involves a company that has only just incorporated IT into their day-to-day business and is looking for Someone To Help With Computers (aka a Sys Admin).

    The first scenario largely involves bigger companies and would most likely require an extensive (and diploma'd) knowledge of IT administration. The second scenario involves (usually) smaller outfits that are simply looking for an Alpha Geek with good credentials and a letter of reference from somewhere, not necessarily a seasoned vet or a college-trained guru.

    It really depends on what kind of environment you're looking to start in.

  • I've been working for Raytheon for a bit over three years as a systems geek. They just hired a new systems geek to do the same thing I do in the same place on the same contract. They started him at $10k more because he has a degree, even though he has less experience.

    Get your degree if you're going to enter the commercial sector in big business.
  • Amazing how people don't learn from history, or in this case, now.

    A few years ago, everyone was skipping college, picking up a "programming for dummies" book and making 50K a year riding scooters around the office.

    Some of us went to college, worked hard, got degrees, and then went out and got the same jobs.

    Then the economy went belly up and everyone without a degree is now trying to get the job they once had back. A lot of people with degrees are trying to get those jobs now too.

    You might know your stuff, you might be super great, but most people will hire someone who cared enough about their career and what they do to go to college in the first place over those who did not.

    There are a lot of people in these forums who would disagree I'm sure. But there is no denying that a college degree goes a long way in todays workplace. And since companies can't afford to make the same mistakes they made in the 90's, things will stay that way...
  • Oh, no you don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apuleius ( 6901 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:20PM (#3530898) Journal

    You think you want to be a sysadmin. That's because you're young and stupid. (Sorry, dude, but every high school senior is young and stupid.) You don't yet know how demoralizing it is to work as a sysadmin. The pay gets a lot less attractive as soon as you have a family. You get very little respect, very little appreciation, in order to do a good job as a sysadmin you have to give solemn orders to people above you in the org chart of your work place, which makes you a prime target at every round of layoffs. The hardware and software both such and drive you to exasperation.

    The hours suck rocks through a garden hose. Trust me on this, there is nothing more demoralizing than rushing to work to fix an outage at 3 AM because your ISPs clients are getting mad at having to wait for their pron. The hours suck more when you're on call and you realize your wife is better looking and your kids far cuter than any of your cow orkers or clients, and that your wage rate cannot justify a single additional hour away from them.

    So, forget about sysadminning, at least for now. Go to college. Shop around for areas of inquiry that might interest you, or might not interest you yet. Join the army. I'm not kidding. The army beats sysadminning hands down. Or try jobs that involve your hands or the open air. But for mercy's sake, don't sysadmin just yet.

  • by DragonWyatt ( 62035 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:21PM (#3530905) Homepage
    They won't directly teach you how to be a good admin, but they have a lot to offer:
    1. All good admins had good mentors. A good college or university is the place to find them.
    2. While at college, you can choose a less challenging curriculum and still do some admin work on the side.
    3. At the end of your college career, you'll already have 2 or 3 years of experience under your belt.
    4. Stick with Unix- don't waste time with NT or Win2K. Then windows admin market has two dubious issues: A. The market is saturated, making them a $28k/year commodity; and B. It's much harder to distinguish yourself in the industry in a saturated market.
    5. Beer, women, and community. Those reasons are enough to make me want to go back almost every day :) .
    I can seriously vouch for #'s 1, 2, and 5. By the time I left school, I had 2 years of sysadmin under my belt, and excellent skills because of a good mentor. I was even able to take my time and choose between a couple gigs > $70k.

    Good luck!
  • College can be a time where you immerse yourself in something and can participate in experimental projects and activities. Trust me, in most jobs, you don't get to do that. But in college, you won't have to justify your projects -- the payoff is the education, not the usefulness or profitability of the project. In college, you will find yourself with many people around you who are excited about learning and experimenting as you are (if you look).

    Or you could spend it trying to live a beer commercial fantasy and wonder why you wasted 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars. Your choice.

  • 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@spotsoftware . c om> 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.
    • Re:Go to school (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 )
      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.
      How about this one: Just don't tie yourself to a career path, ever -- especially if you're going into the computer field. This business burns people out at an alarming rate, and shoves aside the ones it's had enough of even faster. Just try to get a job at some hot tech startup as when you're fifty.

      I've had a number of different jobs in the tech arena now, from systems administration to Web development to writing and editing, as well as doing other things on a freelance basis, like consulting and even illustration. And no, I didn't go to school -- which isn't to say that anybody else shouldn't go.

      Whether you go or not, though, my advice is to diversify your skillset as much as possible. And if you want to concentrate on some "top" skills that will get you farthest ahead, then forget about sysadmin and forget about programming. Bone up on your communication skills. Take English classes, take public speaking, take debate. Learn to communicate effectively. On top of that, read the newspaper, listen to NPR, and learn how the world works outside the server room. It'll all help keep you afloat a lot more than knowing Unix ever will, cuz 19-year old Unix gurus are a dime a dozen.

  • Definately College (Score:3, Informative)

    by ruebarb ( 114845 ) <colorache@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> 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.
  • I think you need to follow your heart. Do what you want to do. However, let me talk about my experience.

    I decided to drop out of college after getting a decent job as a system support tech. It eventually lead to a good network administration job. However, I the down turn of the market resulted in me being out of a job. The problem I ran into was that although I had a great deal of experience there were people that had experience AND degrees that ultimately became more desirable because of the degree. Thus I never found a job. I am now a bartender.

    I am not trying to say you should go to college, but even though most people will tell you that college takes a long time and what you learn can be self taught MUCH faster - realize that the paper you get from them carries a lot of weight.

    Oh yea, as a small end to my story - I am now back in school and headed into my 3rd semester trying to make up for lost time.

    (Age 28)
    • Hi Ron-

      I just wanted to say that I admire your persistance and hard work.

      You are right, there are a lot of naturally great coders/admin types out there (Carmack comes to mind) but your first exposure to a hiring person is on paper, and without that degree, things are bleak and likely to stay that way.

      Good luck!
  • There are very few people who can become outstanding system administrators and keep that career path growing without a degree. And it's not based on ability, it's really based on luck, a combination of how the economy goes and the right company needing to hire someone when you're available.

    Consider 5 years down the road. Which do you think has a better top-end salary and job opportunities? Engineers can continue to evolve and accept more and more responsibility via bigger budgets, better technology, and more training. SA's generally have a certain number of machines they can fit into their headspace, and then they've topped out.

    Consider 10 years down the road. What will the operating systems look like? I don't know, but I can guess that they'll still need to handle things like device access, paging and memory allocation, and process scheduling. Once I figure those bits out, I know how the OS works to a large extent, and I can start making guesses about how many users it can support, how much load it can support, and how much it's going ot cost when it's fully implemented.

    In short, do you want to spend your life being a technician or an engineer? If you want to be a technician, the best training is on the job training. If you want to be an engineer, to get anything out of the on the job training you need, you've got to have foundation that you'll pick up in a good computer science curriculum.

  • You do not need a college degree to be successful in the IT industry, particularly if what you want to do is be a SysAdmin.

    However, there are a couple of questions I'd reccommend asking yourself.

    • Are you sure that you'll continue to be satisfied with Systems Administration? If you've been doing it for a short time, it's certainly possible that your interest in it stems from the novelty and discovery involved in mastering the subject. But once you've mastered it, is the lack of challenge going to sustain your interest/enjoyment? Most companies don't want a sysadmin who's going to experiment in wierd ways w/ their servers to pique their own interest. They just want uptime and some level of security.
    • Are you considering that there are other reasons besides career preparation for going to college? I know that in our material culture the idea of "bettering oneself" has largely fallen by the wayside...
    If you're really passionate about Systems Administration and aren't concerned about the magic fading, then by all means, go for it.

    However, if you're just thinking along the lines of "hey, there's money to be made here and I think I have the chops to cash in without spending any money/time" then I'd say:

    • Doing what you love is more important than making money;
    • computers aren't going away soon -- if you take the time to explore different things, "better yourself," and discover your true passion and it turns out it's still Systems Administration, we'll still need you!
    My most concrete piece of advice is WRT college should you choose to go that route: pick a cheap one (that is, pick the cheapest one that's good enough to meet your needs).
  • Reguardless of what field you get into having a college degree will ALWAYS help you later in life to make more money and have more doors open for you. Even if you get a degree in basket weaving it is still a degree. On top of the job related benefits college is just too damn fun to pass up, not to mention a great place to get laid (I am sure I will get flamed for the last statement, but I don't think it can truely be argued against).
  • Go To College (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jhealy1024 ( 234388 )

    Let me start by saying that I had an overwhelmingly positive college experience. I knew I was a computer geek before I went, and I figured I'd major in CS and become a programmer.

    I went to a small liberal arts college [williams.edu] with a great CS program [williams.edu]. But also important was the fact that there was a student-run web group [williams.edu] that had just gotten off the ground (this was 1996, mind you). It was a student club -- none of us were paid for the work that we did, but we maintained several Linux machines for students to serve web pages from (at this time, the college did not provide web space for students, and most students could not set up their own web servers.

    I learned a heck of a lot from that club, both from trying things out on my own, but also from being around other people who knew more/different things than I did. I have since applied that knowledge in sysadmin and programming jobs.

    All this would seem to indicate that you don't really need classes to get good at being a sysadmin. However, I found classes helpful (and relevant). You'll need to be a good programmer to be a good sysadmin (at least on Unix, anyway -- can't speak to Windows since I don't use it). More importantly, many employers want to see a college degree. It's not 1999 anymore, and you can't just wander into a startup and demand a job because you know a little bash scripting

    College is practically a prerequisite for most high-paying jobs now, and even when the economy wasn't soft college was considered important by many employers (at least, all the ones I interviewed with).

    So, my feeling is that college is both important to employers, and also a great opportunity to grow and learn from other people like yourself. Yes, it costs money (sometimes a lot of money), but the experience is well worth it. Plus, if you can find a more sysadmin-related group at your school (as I did), the experience can be much more valuable than any certification course you can take. Even if there's no ad-hoc group, you could always look for employment in the college itself (running a public lab, for instance), which both looks good on the resume and gives you valuable experience.

  • If you're REALLY interested in a SysAdmin career, then forget about college. Most colleges don't offer anything in the way of Network Admin courses...it's all Engineering or Programming.

    Get your certifications now, and concentrate on getting a job in the field. You'll probably start off at the helpdesk (don't we all?), but if you're knowledgeable and dedicated, you'll be tapped for a promotion soon enough. I'd recommend knowing the Windows clients backwards and forwards, and knowing network basics as well. And don't be afraid to talk to the admins in your company either, they can ALWAYS use help. Just don't act like you're the all knowing God and they're just there because they have an MCSE (even if it's true)...that'll get you nowhere pretty fast.

    If you're going to be OS-agnostic, I'd recommend starting with an A+ and Network+ cert (you should be able to get those in less than a month). That should get in the door with an entry level position.

    After that, get an MCSA (Microsoft Certfied Systems Administrator) which will easily upgrade to an MCSE. The MCSA should take about 3-6 months to earn. Then, start looking at the RHCE (assuming you have previous Linux/UNIX admin skills, you may want to start with the RHCE...it'll open a LOT of doors, but it's a good bit harder to get than an MCSA/E) to add to your resume. I'd skip the Novell CNA/E (NetWare is dead, Novell just hasn't noticed yet) and save Cisco for later (they're a royal PITA).

    At that point, you should have around 2 years experience in the field, and should be able to grab a junior admin position for a larger network, or a sysadmin gig in a smaller shop. Of course, it goees without saying that if you just study for the certs, without knowledge to back it up, you'll be quickly found out and treated accordingly-so make sure you know your stuff as well.

    Oh, and while I'm at it, learn Perl and shell programming for Linux/UNIX administration, and WSH/VBScript (or JScript if you prefer) for Windows administration. It'll make life easier and prove a lot of people wrong when they say "you can't do xxxx on Windows/Linux".

    If, OTOH, you THINK you want a sysadmin position, but can see yourself changing careers later in life (including IT management), then go to college. Get a degree in SOMETHING (Business Admin, CIS/DIS, Comp. Eng., etc. would all work wonders). That will give you the opportunity to change career tracks later in life. An MCSE/RHCE does not prepare you for a management position.

  • by asternick ( 532121 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:25PM (#3530976) Homepage
    You have ONE and ONLY ONE chance in life to be in college while of college age. College is an experience, not a major, not "time consuming", not career preparation, not a rehersal. If you miss out on it, you will regret it for the rest of your life. And don't go majoring in a hard science that will keep you from having fun. If you have the brain to be a sysadmin as a high school kid, you'll do fine in life, whatever you end up doing. Major in something that is easy, with a lot of cute chicks. And sleep with as many of them as you can. Life is about more than money and pursuing a career efficiently. In about April of your freshman year, at the spring music/beer/bong festival, you'll think back to this posting, and thank me.
  • by cbang4 ( 574107 )
    If they're offering you jobs now, think of what you could do with a degree.
    But what if you change your mind along the way?
    I know that a lot of people say that it never happens that much, maybe it doesn't. But it still happens, and if you haven't got a college education, you're aimed in only one direction. One of the nice parts about college is that you get to try a lot of things and get a more well-rounded education.
    Perhaps you could just opt for some kind of part-time job instead. If you're really loving the job more than college, you can switch over.
  • Dude, go to college.

    Just because you think you want to spend your life as a SysAdmin right now doesn't mean you will feel the same way 10 years from now. If you get a college degree, any degree, it will open doors that you don't even know exist.

    A 9-5 job gets pretty damn old quickly and college is an experience you can only do once in your life (I'm talking about the young college experience-- dorms, drinking, women, etc.)

    The best part about college is the people you meet and the non-academic experiences. And who knows, you may find a different field that intrigues you beyond belief.
  • Do both.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by (H)elix1 ( 231155 ) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:26PM (#3530987) Homepage Journal
    Do both, and get the best (and worst) of both worlds. You are going to get an entry level job regardless, so might as well start while you are going to school.

    On the plus side,

    work often pays for tuition

    you have a lot of experience when the time comes to move into that "real" job.

    might even find that real job while going to school (woot!)


    It will take an extra 2-3 years to get your degree

    you may become cold and jaded as the real world exposes you to the way things work in business rather than class.

  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:28PM (#3531022)
    This is long winded, but I went through what you are asking about and I fucked it all up. Pay attention.

    A few years ago I dropped out of college after my second year and started working as a full-time sysadmin. During that time I have had multiple jobs, moving from working in the financial industry, to a dotcom (Which crashed and burned.) to government contracting. Each job change has resulted in a huge raise, and my salary (With no degrees or certifications.) has risen to over $65,000 USD with incredible benefits, not bad for a 23 year old college drop out with no degrees or certifications. I have my own car, my own apartment, little debt, and life is generally pretty good. But...

    Not a day goes by that I don't regret not staying in school. Having a degree opens doors I never dreamed of, and people who do go through school come out knowing things that you will probably never learn on the job. Every time I turn around I think about all the useful skills I could have picked up by staying in school, especially when it comes to serious programming and computer internals. On top of that, there are always plenty of people who will not take me seriously until I get myself through night school an earn the degree.

    I can understand why you might not want to go to college to be a sysadmin; most computer programs don't teach what it takes to do a sysadmin's job. But as a sysadmin who passed on college, you will find yourself trapped in far more limits than the limited choices you may have when it comes to learning to manage a network at school.

    So stay in school. Just get yourself through a four-year computer science degree, and spend your time worrying about programming, network and computer internals, and other such stuff. Build good relationships with like minded folks at school and online, because helpful friends, especially on EFNet or mailing lists, will save your ass at work more than any vendor support or book. Plan ahead to find yourself good summer internships at tech related companies, even if you have to just volunteer. Try to get a government internship with a Top Secret clearance and you will be guaranteed a great job as soon as you get out of school.

    When it comes to school, it sucks, but it will be worth it. Trust me.
    • Great message.... and I, for one, appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences.

      I'm probably in a similar situation myself in many ways. I went to a local community college for a few years (part-time, working towards an Associates degress) before getting completely burnt out on it and dropping out of the program.

      I've been working in the computer industry ever since, starting out with PC technician and sales type jobs and working my way up to a decent job in I.T./systems administration today.

      To this day, I still believe in many ways, college is a big ripoff. You pay out huge sums of money to get a random mix of good, bad and useless teaching, and when it's all said and done, the need to pay back that student loan is guaranteed but a good paying job isn't.

      On the other hand, reality and perception are two completely different things, and as long as the "work world" believes in the perception that a college degree means a better employee - you're at a disadvantage without one.

      I've always been stubborn, so I insist on plowing ahead without going back to school. (I'm still doing plenty of learning, but on my own as opposed to in a classroom.) Nonethless, do I recommend this to anyone else? No, not really - unless you're just as stubborn about school as I am. I spent a long time struggling to get by and trying like crazy to get a good career job. I was turned down by quite a few places I'd really like to have worked at - and I'm sure the lack of the degree was the primary reason. (I definitely had the skills they required, and could do the job well for them.)
  • by joshamania ( 32599 ) <jggramlich@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday May 16, 2002 @01:38PM (#3531155) Homepage
    Reason numero uno to go to college. Sex. I had more sex in college than ever and I sometimes think about going back just for that. You'll meat shedloads of people and have a lot of fun, but for the money, the sex is the biggest reason to go.
  • 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.

    College for sure, but working first will help give you a reason for college and some money.
  • by phoenix_orb ( 469019 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:02PM (#3531439)
    And here is what I did.

    I joined the military for the smallest amount of time that I could (2 years 19 Weeks), although that may not be in your options. Because of that, (I did non-computer related things in the military) I gained people skills, leadership, and all of the other things the military teaches you. I also got a six pack stomach, and a nice chest, and ladies dig that. I work now as a sysadmin, and go to school part time. Make good money (35k), get paid even more to go to school through the GI Bill (around 3k per semester) And I am only 22!

    If you live in Illinois, Florida, or Texas, I believe, You get to go to a public school free, but you still reap the GI Bill Benifits.

    I did simple math before I joined. 2 years making dirt pay,but when you add in what you will recieve from schooling, it makes good sense

    My easy Math

    where I could find the time to hone my system skills on my own (I did combat related jobs in the Army) and I did some side consulting work while I was in. You can even take CLEP tests for Free as well as other major tests (retake the ACT, SAT, ASE)

  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:10PM (#3531515)
    This is advice from someone who didn't take it himself. I went to college, but didn't finish. It never stood in my way because I went into software development and I had already been doing it for years before I went into the workforce full-time.

    That said, I think a college education can be invaluable, if you're into it. If you're not, don't go and waste your parents' or your own money. If you go to college, go because you want the education, and I'm not just talking about an education in computers. If that's all you really want, then just get your certifications and go into the workforce.

    College isn't much of a preparation for a particular job, so much as a general education, which I think everyone needs. One of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain is, "Never let your schooling interefere with your education." My personal translation that I live by, is "Don't limit your education to your schooling." Education is a lifelong process that shouldn't end until you die.

    I was always a horrible student in English, but I discovered in the "real" world, being literate, in speaking and in writing is very important. While it may be wrong, many people, myself included, judge a person's intelligence, to a large degree, by their literacy. If people write poorly, I tend to think less of their intelligence. Is that fair? Maybe not, but you'll find it's quite common.

    Education in other subjects is just as important, for a variety of reasons, but in general, to be an interesting and interested member of the human race. There's a lot more to life than your job, and an education, formal or otherwise, adds a lot of dimensions to your life.

    But that's just my degree-less opinion.
  • Do both! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dixie_Flatline ( 5077 ) <vincent DOT jan DOT goh AT gmail DOT 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 gonerill ( 139660 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:16PM (#3531579) Homepage
    > I wan't to be a programmer

    This sentence makes the decision for you, I'm afraid. Go to college. And pay more attention in high school English class while you're still there.
  • by Prof_Dagoski ( 142697 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:26PM (#3531677) Homepage

    I'll start off by admitting that I am infact a college grad. However, I'm not working in my field, physics. I've been a professional programmer ever since I graduated. Here's the rub: I have zero formal education in the field. I built my skills up on the side during college and started getting progressively more responsible jobs afterwards. My physics education has been useful indirectly(analytical skills, math knowledge etc), but has only rarely been directly applied. Do I regret wasting four years on an education that hasn't helped me professionally? Heck no! I loved physics. I'm just not really good enough to make it as a scientist. I went for it and didn't make the cut. No regrets whatsoever for trying. Just a few for not making it.

    So what does this mean for your plans? College is not a trade school, and frankly, thats what much of the computer field amounts to, a trade or vocation. I'd say you're better off getting some certs and some junior college creds if you want to be a sys admin. Meanwhile if you go to college, study something you love for its own sake. Looking at what college costs now as opposed to when I went, I'd really have to ask myself whether the skills I would acquire would be worth it. However, the cautionary note here is that a lot employers in the IT field want a bachelors. Some state "or equivalent experience", but most want that BA or BS.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @02:37PM (#3531786) Homepage

    College is not needed for most computer/IT/internet careers ... at least not to be able to do them. I've seen too many "idiots with degrees" to ever believe that college makes much of a difference. And this applies whether the career is programming or system administration or network administration.

    What college will do for you is:

    • Let you "earn" a degree which is useful in the first 2 or 3 years of your career in "getting in the door".
    • Let you bank some more non-employed, and maybe even some employed, experience, which can be a plus on your resume.
    • Let you sit out the economic doldrums we are in right now where all the money people have basically "screwed the pooch" for everyone else. Hopefully things will be better in 4 years.

    I may be hiring by the end of the year in a business I'm still trying to get launched. I can tell you this. I'd much rather hire someone coming out of the military than someone coming out of college. Good people can learn new technology. Bad people are stuck in what they managed to learn some of. Learning takes discipline, and you get far more of that in the military than in college. Not everyone coming out would be worth hiring, but even fewer coming out of college will be ... and fewer still coming out of high school. I'll be looking more for solidity in understanding basic logic and strategy, then in understanding any particular system. I'd rather hire a smart person with an MCSE (which is otherwise worthless) than a dumb person with an RHCE for doing Linux administration.

  • by Permission Denied ( 551645 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @04:44PM (#3532565) Journal
    assume that I wan't to be a programmer or an engineer.

    Good writing is critical. Go to college, and not a technical two-year college, but a traditional four-year university program. Don't be afraid to go to a college that has a "common core" requirement, or something similar. Reading Plato and Weber will not help you be a better systems administrator, but writing about Plato and Weber and having access to a real professor who can actually give you helpful information about how to improve your writing is an invaluable experience.

    When employers talk about "interpersonal skills" or a "people person," they mean exactly two things:

    1. You can communicate clearly and efficiently.
    2. You're not an arrogant asshole.

    If you have a full command of the English language, PHBs eat that up. I've found that there are three things that management can't get enough of:

    1. Transaction-based systems. When you write your department's payroll/vacation time database, don't just keep track of the final sums - instead, make each paycheck a transaction; perhaps keep a running sum of the totals for efficiency.
    2. Logging for accountability. Have your print server keep track of how many pages were sent to each printer by IP address. Then, when your printing budget runs out halfway through the year, you can say "Over 40% of pages printed came from HR!"
    3. Keep them informed. Log every minute change you make, and talk to your boss even if he isn't tech-saavy. Your boss might not know how to use SQL, so figure out interesting statistics that you can glean from your database and put it together in a quarterly report. Your boss might not know perl, so throw together scripts to parse your web server logs and put that into a quarterly report; and, don't be insulted when your boss wants to buy a $40 program that parses your logs and puts together reports, which your boss likes better than analog or the other free log analyzers. This is not a sign that your management doesn't believe you possess the skills necessary to throw together a perl script; this is a sign that your management understands you have better things to do with your time, and $40 is a pittance compared to the time it will save.

    Point (3) is where the writing comes in. It is absolutely critical, and a simple spellcheck/grammar check/automated thesaurus will not improve your communication.

    In addition to communication skills, you'll need the right attitude to be a successful sysadmin. Basically, the way to achieve this attitude is to remember that you're not the reason the company is there: your role is a facilitator. You don't drive the business - you ensure the business runs smoothly. If your boss asks you to do some routine technical support, don't respond that that sort of thing is "below" you. If the CEO's secretary doesn't understand some setting in her email program, explain it to her, briefly and sans holier-than-thou attitude.

    However, if you have ideas on how to improve efficiency, share them immediately. In fact, I would recommend that you occasionally visit other parts of your company to see if they need any help. I've noted this strange phenomenon: some departments may not have a real technical person working for them. They'll have the general technical support staff which is limited to ensuring PCs run smoothly. This department will then continue receiving new tasks to do routinely, and, since they don't have a technical person with them, won't figure out that certain jobs can be automated. I'm talking about things like printing out reports from the unix server to type the data into excel; cutting and pasting data from excel into an editor to reformat it for some database app; scanning through hundreds of text documents by eye, in combination with word's search features because they don't know how to use grep from the command line. Every large company has lots of trivial things like this that can be automated, and you should search for them, because non-technical people won't realize these tasks can be automated.

  • 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 Etyenne ( 4915 ) on Thursday May 16, 2002 @06:22PM (#3533158)
    You're young. You're free. You're careless. WHY DONT YOU GO TO COLLEGE ?

    A few point for college :

    - Early 20s is the best time to go to school. When you are nearing 30, got debt to pay, kid to feed and a full time job you must keep, going back to school is a major undertaking requiring serious sacrifice. I am speaking from experience here. Why not play it safe and go to college when it is actually EASY to do it ?

    - You will actually learn useful thing in school. Unfortunately it is hard to put that into perspective when you dont have much experience.

    - It is a common misbelieve that sysadmin don't need programming skill (or anything else taught in CS). That is false. The best sysadmin are at least passable programmer, if only to write an odd script here and there. Also, a little C will go a long way toward understanding those cryptic error you get when you are compiling a new kernel. Plus getting the big picture is important if you want to be polyvalent.

    - The chicks. The partys. The network of friend you are building in college.

    - Certs are useless. Period. (Ok, maybe if they are backed by serious experience ... but then, you don't need the certs anymore to get hired !)

    There is a lot more to say, but these are the most important one to me. Personnally, I wish I had gone to college/university back a decade ago. My life would certainly not be the same (probably better).
  • by martinflack ( 107386 ) on Sunday May 19, 2002 @04:32PM (#3546818)
    A couple hundred posts from other wise Slashdotters will tell you why to go to college to better your career. It will make you more attractive to employers, yada yada yada.

    My advice - go to college. But for these reasons:
    1. Beer parties
    2. Doing stupid shit with people you barely know
    3. Road trips
    4. Sororities (no, not being in them)
    5. Girls exploring their female assertiveness
    6. An excuse for lousy clothes (I'm a student)
    7. Student discounts for another 4+ years
    8. Awesome buddies that will be different from those you made in high school
    9. A happier mom

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky