Ok first and foremost let me state this. While formal education is nice to have it is not required 80% of the time. All that Degree sayes is that, I'm not an idiot and know how to learn. I agree that a degree can be benefitial in some aspects when it comes to IT the whole dynamic changes. Now if you want to get a degree or get formal education as part of your personal goals then by all means go for it.
Now spending 5,10, 20 grand or more just to get into IT is beyond my comprehension and causes me to ask *** are you thinking. With a little more research you could have gotten into that Administration job, then onto an Engineering job with a lot less cost. Granted some people are not self disciplined enough to do self study and basically need to have a classroom atmosphere.
I want to be a Systems Engineer.
Step 1, find an Entry level job on a help desk (essentially answering pones and opening tickets) (This also gets your foot in the door of places where you can transition out into desktop and your start building experience)
Step 2, start studying for your MCP, and MCSE.
Step 3, once you have attained your MCP, start looking for a desktop support position or tech bench then finish your MCSE.
Step 4, once you have attained your MCSE start looking for a Systems Administrator aka Server Admin job, then start working on your specializations (These will be Database, Mail, Citrix, Virtualization so forth and so on) which is where you really start into the actual Engineering aspect.
I want to be a Network Engineer
Step 1, same as above...find an Entry level job on a help desk (essentially answering pones and opening tickets) (This also gets your foot in the door of places where you can transition out into Networking and start building experience)
Step 2, if your are a complete n00b to networking start with your Net +, This should teach you the basic fundamentals like OSI model, subnetting, and converting hex
Step 3 at minimum you should understand the Net+ even if you don't obtain the cert
, start working on your CCNA yes this can be done in 2 separate test with the CCENT however it is not required Do you need to have equipment no
. Back when I took the CCNA granted it's been a few years Todd Lammle put out by Sybex had one of the best books far better than the Cisco Press ones. Even if you do not have access to equipment or simulators (GNS3 and/or Cisco Packet Tracer) there are examples shown with exactly what commands are required. I would recommend at minimum getting a simulator so you start to get familiar with Cisco syntax's. http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/netacad/index.html
with GNS3 you have to get the IOS images and does not support Cisco switches. If you go the GNS3 route I would only recommend picking up a used 3550 not a 2950 nor 2960
. You will need the 3550 for your later certs.
Step 4 after you have obtained your CCNA start looking for a Network Administrator or NOC (Network Operation Center) position. At this point there is a split you need to decide which path you want to proceed. Path 1 Route/Switch, Path 2 Security, Path 3 Voice, Path 4 Wireless, Path 5 Data Center, Path 6 Service Provider and Path 7 Design (I would not recommend Design at this stage) Once you have decided which path you want to continue down start studying for the appropriate CCNP. These are were it is normally recommended to pick up hardware or heavier use of simulators are used.
Now I can tell you from experience that out of the many jobs in the IT field each have a salary cap and each get into various specializations. Also it can not be stated enough these salaries are also based on location location location. If you live in the middle of the country, you will have a harder time finding these types of salaries. If you really want to hit these then like it or not you will 90% of the time have to relocate. Also note that all of these salaries is with approximately 15 years of experience and certified to the hilt. For anything Networking I am talking CCIE level.
Systems Engineering seem to cap at around $160k per year
Solutions Architecture seems to cap around $200k per year
Database Engineers seems to cap around $175k per year
Configuration Management seems to cap around $155k per year
Information Assurance seems to cap around $175k per year
Network Security Engineers seem to cap around $250k per year
Network Engineers seem to cap around $325k per year
Network Architecture seems to cap around $375k per year
now compare this to most on the business side
Project Managers seem to cap around $150k per year
IT Directors seem to cap around $200k per year
Program Managers seem to cap around $300k per year
CTO/CIO's are normally around $300-500k per year
CEO are $400k and up