Has tech gotten your attention in your recent job search? We can’t blame you. Job sites are flooded with positions in IT, from cybersecurity to network admins to computer and network support positions. But maybe you’re hesitant to take the leap into IT because you don’t know a ton about computers or you don’t have the time or money for that type of commitment.
You’ll be happy to know that the field is filled with positions that don’t require a ton of experience or a four-year degree. IT is one of the easiest fields to break into and get your foot in the door. The opportunities for movement and advancement are phenomenal. Every industry – banks, schools, government, hospitals, retail, factories – uses IT in some shape or form, so the possibilities of where you could wind up are endless.
Looking at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics report for “Educational Attainment for Workers 25 Years and Older,” you’ll notice big numbers in the computer and network categories. 31% of Network and Computer Systems Administrators, almost 35% for Computer User/Network Support Specialists, 26% for Network Architects, and 21% for Information Security Analysts have “some” college at most. And those jobs are legit.
So now that you know that you don’t have to give up four years in college to get started in IT, let’s take a look at some in-demand and rewarding positions that you can realistically achieve — and what you’ll need to do to get them.
Average Salary: $35,829 / $53,470
Job Demand/Outlook: Above average. Number of jobs increasing by 11% by 2026.
Have you ever wanted to have a magic touch? Both of these jobs are all about helping and advising non-IT people in offices or at home when computer issues come up. And to those people, their support specialist is their MVP. There are people that may test your calm and patience, but you’ve got it under control. A sunny disposition and excellent communication skills can leave your customers and co-workers alike feeling gratitude and relief in your presence. Your air of authority (even when you’re not quite sure what’s happening) in their time of desperation and need will have them overflowing with gratitude.
Both jobs are similar in nature. You will have to know a little more for a Computer User Support Specialist position but you’ll start with a bigger paycheck. Communication, patience, attention-to-detail, and problem-solving are all skills you will need to hone in this job to be successful. Both of these positions are excellent entry-level tech jobs that everyone should experience, even if only for a little.
Tech Support and Computer User Support Specialists get to experience a variety of issues and show off their problem-solving abilities rather quickly so it is very easy, with the right attitude and knowledge, to advance to from here. Logical next steps would be Network Admin, Systems Admin, or even Software Developer. Advancement within the support department is also easily achievable, such as Support Manager or Supervisor. This position is in high demand across the board, so maybe you’ll even use this entry-level position to just get your foot in the door at your dream company.
Average Salary: $55,044 / $82,050
Job Demand/Outlook: About average. Expected growth is 6-11% by 2026.
Do you stand tall in the face of router adversity? When others are begging their internet or network drives not to act up, do you enter attack mode? If you’ve ever worked on your own home networking issues, you may have a sense whether this is a position you can thrive in.
Network Support Specialists are very similar to Computer User Support Specialists. In general, they again work with mostly non-IT people to solve their computer problems — specifically, network problems. From disappearing network drives to slow internet connections, they test, evaluate, troubleshoot, configure, repair, and maintain LAN and WAN networks as well as internet systems. Once again, the need for patience and good communication skills is a must. The most important skill, however, is problem-solving. The ability to analyze issues, simple and complex, and then provide a resolution is the main part of this job. So if you feel accomplished and invigorated when you finally show that network card or router who’s really in charge, you will likely find this job to be a rewarding and invaluable early step in your IT career.
A Network Administrator, on the other hand, is responsible for the overall maintenance of a computer network consisting of hardware and software. There is less direct contact with end users and a bigger impact on how the business functions as a whole. A network admin can be responsible for deploying, configuring, maintaining, and monitoring active networks and equipment. A Network Administrator may have Network Support Specialists that report to him or her. As a Network Administrator, you would be invaluable because of your expertise in analyzing, maintaining, testing, and troubleshooting network and internet systems.
A Network Support Specialist position is a very attainable title with some training and/or certification achievements. Again, a lot of specific training you’ll need will depend on where you work so expect to learn a lot on the job and on your own time if you want to excel. Becoming a Network Administrator is a logical step up for a Network Support Specialist. If there are advancement opportunities at your current employer, you would be leaps and bounds ahead of any newcomer because you would already be familiar with the company’s network.
Network Support Specialists and Network Administrators can easily move laterally or up by adding cybersecurity training and/or certifications to their portfolio.
Average Salary: $98,350 / $112,301+
Job Demand/Outlook: MUCH faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 28% increase in jobs by 2026 and over 3 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021.
If you’re someone who loves a challenge laced with ruthless opposition, strategic defenses, intriguing options, and endless possibilities, you will be right at home working towards this position. It’s a race against time as you systematically ensure that every path into your tech world is locked and guarded against a constant onslaught of invisible threats. When a person or company gets hacked, the results can be disastrous.
Personal identity theft that can happen because of something like the Equifax breach, for example, can ruin your finances, destroy your reputation, prevent you from getting necessary medication, and even land you in prison. Companies all around the world that we trustingly give our information to are constant targets. Adobe, Target, Sony, Yahoo!, Marriott, and even South Korea have all been hacked. Today, hackers are more organized and oftentimes part of groups that can potentially bring down entire nations through economic espionage.
So, in short, as a cybersecurity professional, your job is to protect and keep people safe from malicious activity. It's one of the most challenging yet supremely rewarding careers out there.
Both of the job titles mentioned here are very similar in nature. Here at ACI Learning, we consider a Cybersecurity Specialist to be a level up from Information Security Analyst. For either job title, you will want to understand the ins and outs of computers (hardware and software), networks, VPNs, the internet in general (including Secure Socket Layers), and much more. Your average day can be spent upgrading virus definitions or blocking DDoS attacks from a small army of cyber criminals trying to infiltrate your front line. Hackers are unpredictable and they change their strategy so trying to predict your day will just result in utter failure. If you’re one who can keep your cool under pressure, this could just be the challenge you are looking for.
In our defense…
There is obviously so much at stake in this career track. So even though we said “no degree required,” you more than likely will need to pick up your Bachelor’s degree to be a true Cybersecurity Specialist. The need for this specialty is so great and the job and pay are so rewarding that we just couldn’t miss an opportunity to expose you to the possibilities. Ultimately, the more experience you have will benefit everyone you’re protecting, so procuring a couple of key certifications at the beginning so you can get started more quickly will allow you to explore this career and start racking up experience without making a four-year investment. This career track isn’t for everyone. It can often be extremely stressful and you may be under extraordinary pressure at times. So start gaining some experience that can be applied to other places within the tech world, and learn if it is what you want to dedicate yourself to. You may even find a great company that will help you get that degree down the road if they require it. They know you will be a good candidate for advancement if you already know the systems they have in place.
The opportunities are almost endless in cybersecurity. You can find many offshoots available including ethical hacker, forensic investigator, incident handler, security practitioner, and network defender to name a few. With the growing employment gap (over 3 million unfilled jobs by 2021), low competition, excellent pay, and rewarding outcomes, you just scored a winning career track that anybody can start on today.
Since many of these positions vary so widely per industry and per company, a lot of your training may happen after you’re already hired. However, to get hired, knowledge of computers and computer systems is a must for all of these positions. There are several courses you can take to level-up your understanding of computer and network systems. When you combine them with professional certifications, the employer knows two things. 1) You have ambition and are serious about the field and the job. 2) You have learned AND can implement a specific set of industry standards and practices that have been proven to be effective and efficient. Ready to get started? ACI Learning certification courses are 1-2 weeks. They are fast-paced and developed for those ready to work now.
That’s not to say that degrees are not important. With certification, you can leave the option of a degree on the table while you are working in the field. This alone would put you years ahead of your competition in the experience category and make it much easier to get hired into an advanced position in the future. And you may be able to apply your ACI Learning education towards a degree with ACE Credit Recommendation.
Or maybe you’re just not sure whether IT is for you. Certification will allow you to get your feet wet for a relatively small investment of your time.
Here are some certification courses that will help you achieve an entry-level position in IT:
ITIL will help you take that first step into the IT field and is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to align IT with business, control and reduce costs, improve service quality, and more.
Learn the fundamental skills needed to begin an IT career including how to identify, install, maintain, configure, and troubleshoot hardware, system components, and more while preparing for the CompTIA A+ certification.
Includes foundation-level skills needed to install, operate, manage, maintain, and troubleshoot corporate networks while preparing for the CompTIA Network+ certification exam.
Contemplating a cybersecurity specialization? This is a “must-have” introduction to information security which also prepares you for the CompTIA Security+ certification.
The CCNA certification can be achieved over two courses developed by Cisco. In CCNA 1, you’ll learn how to install, operate, configure, and verify a basic IPv4 and IPv6 network. The second course teaches skills to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot a small enterprise network. This is a great certification for those with an eye toward networking.
To beat a hacker you have to think like a hacker. This immersive cybersecurity course teaches about perimeter defenses, intrusion detection, DDoS attacks, and more.
Prepare for a career in network defense. Learn everything a Network Admin needs to know to defend their network from malicious attacks.
These jobs are all in such high demand right now that we’ve developed programs that will have you fully equipped when you walk into that first interview. Be sure to check out our Computer User Support Specialist, Network Support Specialist, and Information Security Analyst programs.
ACI Learning keeps a sharp eye out for trends and employment gaps — we also work hard every day to forge meaningful relationships with employers in the local area. What that means for you is that we will get you trained for the jobs that are available now in your area. And not only that, we will get you in front of the people that are hiring for those jobs.
Our dedicated career services team is available to our students at no cost long after your training and certifications are complete. They can help get your professional resume together, teach you how to make your online profiles stand out, and make sure you know how to excel in an interview. This commitment to our students and our community makes it possible for most to get trained, certified, and hired in just three months or less. If you meet certain qualifications, we may even be able to find funding for you that you didn’t know was available.
We’d love to learn more about your situation and career goals to see if we can help you get there. ACI Learning is here from the first time we talk until the day you get hired. There’s nothing to lose… except a rewarding career, exciting advancement opportunities, and a healthy paycheck, of course. Get in touch with us today.