Get Certified, But Keep Your Expectations Realistic
While a certification may help you to get a job, it does not guarantee you a high salary. You may have paid $4000 for a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certification, but if you dont have any practical experience, you shouldnt expect to start out at $50,000 a year. If you have a degree in Computer Information Systems, you might be able to get an entry level salary of $25,000 to $30,000 here in Memphis.
Before You Are Certified
What if you need a job while you are working on getting your certifications? Two companies that come to mind who hire technicians without certifications are Flextronics Logistics and Solectron. Both have production positions that resemble IT in the sense that they require working on computers. These positions will provide valuable experience in repairing hardware and diagnosing operating system issues. While an A+ certification would be preferred, all that is required is that you pass a test given by them and do well in the interview.
If money isnt the issue, volunteer work may be an ideal way for you to gain experience. Many churches are often looking for help with their computers. There are many non-profit groups that need IT help but have little or no budget to staff such a position. With a little know-how and some personal drive you can get into a position to learn things you would not have had the chance to learn otherwise. In addition, this will also allow you to network with other IT people. As in any other industry, personal networking will generate more jobs than anything else. When a job opens up, most hiring managers have a multitude of resumes on their desk. If someone he knows happens to know you and they mention your name well, that puts you ahead of the crowd.
Where to Start Once You Are Certified
A great place to gain experience is in a shop floor support position. This job entails keeping production line computers running in a warehouse type facility. Its loud, its dirty, and its hard. In this position you can expect to earn anywhere from $13 to $15 an hour. But the hours are extreme -- its common to work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, for several months at a time. While there is obviously money to be made working such long hours, it takes its toll and there is usually a high turn-over in jobs of this type. Again, in the Memphis area, Flextronics Logistics and Solectron are good places to start. Both have large shop floors with plenty of positions available. Usually you will need a certification of some sort to get on at either one of these places. But its a great place to get experience and save a little money.
Love What You Do
Whatever you do, dont assume that a job in the computer industry will help you to get rich quick. It wont. The truth is, you should get into IT because you love to work on computers or maybe you just love solving problems.
In the IT industry, you will work when everyone else does because they need you to support them. You will work when everyone else is off because thats when the network/system can be down for routine maintenance. You will be responsible for staying current on changing technology, long after you have earned a degree or certification. The money may be good but only if you work long hours. So at the end of the day, youd better love what you do and get a sense of satisfaction from a job well done. Otherwise, the rest just may not be worth it.