IT is a hot career. Not only are there plenty of people looking for qualified individuals, but there are also several career paths you can take. “IT administration” can mean several specialties – networking, security, desktop support, help desk support, QA analyst and integration engineer just to name a few.
Determining Your Niche
Before you determine the best career option, you should determine what you want to do. For instance, you might like cyber security but loathe QA analysis. IT administration can be demanding, so you should choose what you like to do or you could suffer burnout in the near future.
To find the right niche for you, read books, articles on typical daily tasks for each niche and perhaps take a few classes to get a feel for what you need to know. Certifications are also a great option for someone with no college education but good hands-on knowledge of a specific topic.
Finding the area of expertise that you prefer could be difficult if you never get any hands-on experience. Many IT administrators start off in help desk support or level 1 desktop support for larger companies. If you’re a college student, your local college career center will have a list of companies looking for entry level administrators. This will help you get some experience in the field to see if it’s something you want to do as a career.
Career Options within IT Administration
IT careers are separated into two main functions: Operations and Software Development. The operations side of IT is where administrators work. They handle all of the hardware and security that protect an internal network. They also ensure that the network has the latest upgrades and patches, and the hardware is working at peak performance for your users.
QA (quality assurance) people work in both software development and operations. They usually work with developers to ensure that any deployed software meets the customer’s expectations, the business rules, and no bugs are found during testing. They are the gatekeepers for good software. QA is sometimes found in operations to ensure that any new equipment works well with the current environment.
Out of all the administration careers, cyber security is trending upward as the hottest one on the market. Security wasn’t a prime concern years ago, but major breaches such as the Ashley Madison hack and the Linode outage are bringing to light the importance of IT security. It’s also one of the most difficult careers to follow, because it requires extensive knowledge in hacking, networking, networking protocols, security equipment and mitigation techniques.
As you build a resume in any one of these careers, you also have the option to move on to IT manager positions. Just like any other managerial position, you’re given the responsibility of overseeing an IT department and its staff. You have a team to manage, so you build relationships with your staff. These positions pay well, and they are usually the next step after several years with hands-on experience.