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Making It in IT: Advice for a Veteran IT Pro Without a Degree

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Ed Tittel advises a 55-year old IT profession who never got a degree or any certification other than a CNE 3 /4 and ComTIA + PC Technician.

Making It in IT: Advice for a Veteran IT Pro Without a DegreeMaking It in IT: Advice for a Veteran IT Pro Without a DegreeDear Ed,

I’m a 55-year old IT person, but never got a degree or any certification other than a CNE 3 /4 and ComTIA + PC Technician. I was a Manager at an association that had 100 workstations and around 20 servers.

I am on Linkedin, if you want to look at my experience, I worked at a Chicago-based financial services firm for over a decade.

I’m over one year unemployed, got this contract doing Exchange/Enterprise Vault pst extracts and soon will be out looking for work.

So I am wondering, with some more certifications, but no degree ( I’m in the first semester of a community college IT degree ), does it make sense for me to continue?

I’m trying to get into the WIA program in my area, which furnished free vouchers for MCSE/CCNA classes and tests.

The interesting thing, to me at least, is the change I see in the industry. MCSE certification is going away, so my thought is to get Cisco and CompTIA training ( Security and Network/Server ) and then try for tech support or some other non-managerial job.

Any thoughts?


Jack F.

Chicago area, USA

Thanks for your e-mail inquiry. Sounds like you’re in what might politely be called an “interesting situation.” At your age, the absence or presence of a degree doesn’t make a huge difference (you’d have earned that degree over 30 years ago, so what you’ve learned and done since then – especially in the last 10 years – is what really counts).

Thus, I don’t think it’s really necessary for you to pursue a degree, unless of course it’s something you WANT to do (in which case, go for it). If you can get into the WIA Program that would be great, because the MCSA/MCSE credentials have just been recently resuscitated to cover Windows 7 and Server 2008 on the trailing edge, and Windows 8 and Server 2012 on the leading edge (check out the links I provided under the program acronyms earlier in this sentence). MCSE is most emphatically NOT going away any more; rather it is the never-popular MCTS and MCITP certs that are going away instead – most by the middle of 2013, in fact. If you look over some of my recent Tom’s blogs, you’ll find coverage on the “new and improved” MCSA, MCSE and even MCSD credentials, including:

Nevertheless, your ideas on Cisco (CCNA and perhaps also CCNP) and CompTIA (Network+ and Security+ are quite sound, but I’m not so sure that Server+ has sufficient traction to make much difference one way or the other) are very good ones, and probably also worth pursuing. But with your existing MS background and the possibility of government support for exams and education via WIA, you should probably focus your efforts first and foremost on Microsoft credentials. Plus, given your recent Exchange experience and the relatively high demand for qualified Exchange people, you might even want to consider pursuing such credentials in that area as Microsoft currently has to offer (MCSE: Messaging, primarily) and think about their pursuit as well.

Good luck in your career development planning. Do please let me know if you have additional questions, or if you’d like to share more about your background in exchange for more detailed and pointed advice.

Happy holidays,


Ed TittelEd Tittel

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.

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