What is the best way to break into the IT field?
I am currently about a year away from a BS in information technology. I am looking to change careers and get into the IT field someplace when I receive my degree. I am just a little unclear as to what types of certifications I should try to get so I can increase my chances of getting a job when I graduate. I currently have no experience in the field and I need to know what the best way to break into the field is for a 32 year old graduate.
Obtaining experience isn't just necessary for employment nowadays, it's also an important ingredient in prepping for certification (though there is a difference here: employers mostly care about on-the-job experience, while cert success these days requires hands-on experience, whether earned working or fooling around in a lab really doesn't matter). Unfortunately, you didn't tell me what you were studying or if you're concentrating in any particular technical area in IT. Alas, that would give me the chance to provide you with some more custom-tailored advice. As it is, I'd urge you to investigate Microsoft and Cisco programs in detail, then perhaps prep for either (or both) with some CompTIA certs as a warm-up (I recommend A+, Network+ and Security+ these days). I'd also suggest you try to get a part-time job on or off campus working around networks or whatever technologies interest you more, so you can legitimately claim some work experience to go with your pending degree and certification(s). This will actually help you out a lot, and will also help you sanity check what you're learning in school by leavening it with some real world experience.
This was first published in July 2004