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Making it in IT: Digging into a Meaningful IT Career

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

An older-than-average prospective college student and IT certification candidate shows his maturity by asking for guidance on fields of study, and approaches to help him prepare to enter the workforce with style and panache. Ed Tittel does his level best to provide commensurate answers to some very good questions on finding a meaningful IT career with college and certification that will lead to a job following graduation.

Hello Ed,

My name is Luke. I am 30 years old and am interested in pursuing a career in the IT field. I am just now starting college, I have a high school diploma. I would like to pose a couple of important questions to you, if I may. I was wondering which path to take as far as which are the best fields in IT that will have jobs available. Is cloud computing and security the best way to go, because cloud computing represents the future of IT? What degree and certs do I need? I am interested in networking and security, so what certs and/or degree do I need and will there be job demand in that field in a few years after I graduate? Any insight or recommendations you can make would be greatly appreciated. BTW I am located in central Kentucky and will be attending either Sullivan University or University of Kentucky.

Thanks in advance,

Dear Luke:

Thanks for your email. Although you are a bit older than most entering college students, my experience has taught me that older students usually concentrate more on studying and less on partying while in college. Perhaps that’s because they already have lives, and understand that they have to get into the workforce to start making money; or perhaps it’s because they’ve got less time to repay their student loans! Your questions are obviously motivated by a desire to join the workforce, and to make sure that you have good options for finding work when you get your degree(s) and IT certification(s) under your belt.

With interests in networking and security, you have lots of programs from which to choose, both at Sullivan University or the University of Kentucky (UofK). At UofK, you have to look into the College of Engineering to find the computer science department, but they also have what looks like a very good IT program in their College of Communication and Information (which, as is often the case, looks like an offshoot of their Library Science programs). By targeting cloud-based computing and security, in fact, I believe you will be very well positioned to pursue your interests at UofK, because that school is also a Microsoft IT Academy, and you will be able to study up for the MCSE: Private Cloud in addition to whatever degree you decide to pursue. This could prove a potent combination when it comes time to start looking for a job. The College of Engineering Co-op program is also worth looking into, because it integrates 12 months of real work experience into progress toward your computer science degree.

As for Sullivan University, their Sullivan College of Technology and Design is also a Microsoft IT Academy, and they’ve got programs in both Computer Network Administration and Computer network Security/Forensics, either of which could lead you in directions it sounds like you’d be interested in following. I don’t see anything about a co-op or internship program there, so you’ll want to ask about that, to see how it compares to what UofK has to offer.

It looks like you’ve got some excellent options from which to choose. My advice would be to schedule visits with both schools, and to meet with computer science or technical programs staffs to find out about the following:

  1. Overall program duration and hours required
  2. How work-study operates at the institution
  3. Kinds and amounts of financial aid available, including scholarships, grants, loans, and so forth
  4. Overall costs likely to be incurred while earning a degree and one or more certifications

That will give you a good basis for comparison, and let you choose the institution you’d like to attend. I don’t think you can make a bad decision either, so you’ll probably want to choose the option that results in the lowest debt upon graduation, unless you decide you prefer one school over the other, debt notwithstanding.

 Good luck in planning your education, and pursuing your dream. Best wishes, too.


Ed Tittel is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who’s worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.

Check out Ed's Tom's IT Pro blog Making it in IT - Certification & Training.

See here for all of Ed's Tom's IT Pro articles.