1. #1
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    Entry Level computer jobs

    So I am pretty bored at work these days. I sit on the internet all day and twiddle my thumbs.

    Are there any entry level jobs that involve working with computer parts or Helpdesk that do NOT require a college degree? If so what is the pay normally like?

    Any tips for breaking into the industry without a degree?

  2. #2
    My first tech job was working at Best Buy right out of high school. This was very entry level, but it was a stepping stone to other jobs that lead to where I am today.

    I made $10.00/hr back in 2000 at that job.

  3. #3
    Show that you know your stuff. Best way is some kind of portfolio. Recruiters seem to love when you can show them something rather than just saying 'yeah, I did this and that'.

    Degrees are always nice to have but it's the experience that shows (and it doesn't need to be work experience either). You can also try and go for certifications. They will help get a job. It's not a supplement for a degree, but more of a bonus that recruiters do like to see. Some are easy to get, it just depends on how much information you know about a certain product/area. They also sell books to help study for them.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Adorada View Post
    Show that you know your stuff. Best way is some kind of portfolio. Recruiters seem to love when you can show them something rather than just saying 'yeah, I did this and that'.

    Degrees are always nice to have but it's the experience that shows (and it doesn't need to be work experience either). You can also try and go for certifications. They will help get a job. It's not a supplement for a degree, but more of a bonus that recruiters do like to see. Some are easy to get, it just depends on how much information you know about a certain product/area. They also sell books to help study for them.
    As this person said, in the Computer Tech industry certifications are more important than degree. You will see companies asking for degrees but most jobs want certain certs. One of our Sys Admins that used to work here had no College degree and went from working here to another job paying very well based on certs and his knowledge.

    I have my 2 year degree, but am aiming to get some certs to make it so I can move up in my field.

    The starter ones would be things such as (Network +, Security +, A +) Those are entry level certs that you can get with some studying

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by abndrew82 View Post
    As this person said, in the Computer Tech industry certifications are more important than degree. You will see companies asking for degrees but most jobs want certain certs. One of our Sys Admins that used to work here had no College degree and went from working here to another job paying very well based on certs and his knowledge.

    I have my 2 year degree, but am aiming to get some certs to make it so I can move up in my field.

    The starter ones would be things such as (Network +, Security +, A +) Those are entry level certs that you can get with some studying
    Thank you for the information!

    What kind of jobs would people apply for with these types of certs?

  6. #6
    I got a job as a tech support specialist at a local community college in Atlanta. I am a college dropout, but I am a computer enthusiast and taught myself most everything I know. The pay here is decent, but would be much better with a degree. $16-$18 per hour is about as good as it gets until you have paper to back up your skill set.

    Just to add, A+ is probably the best starting point for certs, as it deals with mostly desktop PC stuff. That will be the most useful and recognizable for starting off. I have passed all the practice exams I have taken, I just haven't worked up the initiative to go take the test for the certification. You do not need any certification or degree to get a part time or low paying full time position. You can work on those things while you are working. Try out colleges and government agencies, as these tend to have a bit lower expectations for entry level positions, but will pay off in the long run with excellent job security and potential for advancement.
    Last edited by Demoness; 2012-04-16 at 02:36 PM.
    "Man is a slow, sloppy and brilliant thinker; the machine is fast, accurate and stupid." -William M. Kelly

  7. #7
    I'll just throw out an option: schools.

    I work in a school district that is relatively well-regarded, and they gave every high schooler in the county school district (3 schools) a MacBook. Now, seeing how kids from 14-18 aren't exactly the smartest when it comes to what web sites to go to, what not to click, and rank pretty low in their respect of technology that isn't theirs (and sometimes even that is sketchy), you can imagine there's a need for a full-time IT guy.

    Anyway, someone has to service all of these MacBooks. There are the actual Apple professionals who travel and come in every few months, but each of the schools has a devoted IT guy who takes care of projectors, general technology hook-ups, keeps track of the network and the school students' access to it in particular. They also do quite a bit with the content filters (mostly recommend sites to block to the board) and monitoring of students in real-time.

    If you're not down with working with children you may just want to pass, as you will be asked a lot of dumb technology questions (I snigger sometimes whenever someone has to leave the room because of their Macs) by both students and teachers alike. For example, once I couldn't even get an AV hookup on a DVD player to work. Thankfully, I was saved from negative branding since the cords were bad and we had no idea until we fiddled around with it. However, for day to day stuff you may be able to offer credits to students and give them mentoring in exchange for them doing much of the walk-around work.

  8. #8
    I think you might be approaching tech jobs from the wrong perspective. A degree is the most important in this industry at the beginning of your career. After a few years on the job the focus transfers to experience. You can make well into the 6 figures w/o a college degree in IT, but you need to know some things.

    1. Jobs that anybody can do, don't pay well. This includes any type of hardware repair, helpdesk, and most windows work
    2. Any Microsoft oriented job (Win sysadmin, Exchange admin, etc..) has more people to do them than open positions, this drives the salary down
    3. Specialty roles pay the most, but you need to live in a city that supports them
    4. You can do okay as a unix system admin, but you need more than desktop experience. No job interview will ask you about your graphical desktop.
    5. If you like programming, you can do okay, but interviewers will be interested in "how you solve problems" with your code rather than you know the syntax (There will be a few of these questions at the begining). You also need to be prepared to be the first one cut during tough times.
    6. If straight up operations is more your thing, Networking, Storage, and Database Admins all pay pretty well and aren't that hard to pick up the skills for.
    7. Certifications only matter for jobs paying under $70k. Experience trumps everything, even a degree the higher you get. (Until you get into upper management and they need to start writing Bio's on you to sell you to investors)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Popabear View Post
    I think you might be approaching tech jobs from the wrong perspective. A degree is the most important in this industry at the beginning of your career. After a few years on the job the focus transfers to experience. You can make well into the 6 figures w/o a college degree in IT, but you need to know some things.

    1. Jobs that anybody can do, don't pay well. This includes any type of hardware repair, helpdesk, and most windows work
    2. Any Microsoft oriented job (Win sysadmin, Exchange admin, etc..) has more people to do them than open positions, this drives the salary down
    3. Specialty roles pay the most, but you need to live in a city that supports them
    4. You can do okay as a unix system admin, but you need more than desktop experience. No job interview will ask you about your graphical desktop.
    5. If you like programming, you can do okay, but interviewers will be interested in "how you solve problems" with your code rather than you know the syntax (There will be a few of these questions at the begining). You also need to be prepared to be the first one cut during tough times.
    6. If straight up operations is more your thing, Networking, Storage, and Database Admins all pay pretty well and aren't that hard to pick up the skills for.
    7. Certifications only matter for jobs paying under $70k. Experience trumps everything, even a degree the higher you get. (Until you get into upper management and they need to start writing Bio's on you to sell you to investors)
    Thanks for all the information Popa.

    So I guess my question is this- if I am very computer savvy, know the ins and outs of helpdesk and computer parts, and have no degree or certs, what would be the best route to take? I need something paying at least 35k+(if even possible) and if that is not possible I will probably need to finish my CS degree.

    I am 25 and trying to support a family.

  10. #10
    Find an entry level helpdesk at something other than windows. Try Web hosting providers or some development companies that use more linux desktops. Again, I can't stress this enough but you want to find something outside of Microsoft for sustained career growth. You might even find an underpaying jr. sysadmin job. Junior jobs don't require an in depth technical ability, but more an ability to learn. After 2 years at those jobs you can jump ship for a substantial pay increase.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Popabear View Post
    5. If you like programming, you can do okay, but interviewers will be interested in "how you solve problems" with your code rather than you know the syntax (There will be a few of these questions at the begining). You also need to be prepared to be the first one cut during tough times.
    Programmers are one of the most paid in the IT industry, so I don't see how that is just 'okay'. That's also why they are one of the first to be cut. Companies start cutting the people that make the most.

    Quote Originally Posted by Popabear View Post
    7. Certifications only matter for jobs paying under $70k. Experience trumps everything, even a degree the higher you get. (Until you get into upper management and they need to start writing Bio's on you to sell you to investors)
    I don't see where you get that information in regards to certifications. They generally add $5k+ to your salary if you a certain certification that the company is looking for. And of course experience will trump everything, it generally has always done so.

    Anyways, OP,

    If you don't want to go back to school to finish your degree, then you have to show them what you can do (whether by going and getting certifications or by making a portfolio, which might be hard for a IT specialist). You might be able to set up some type of lamp server and send them a link to showcase that.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by hapylol View Post
    So I am pretty bored at work these days. I sit on the internet all day and twiddle my thumbs.

    Are there any entry level jobs that involve working with computer parts or Helpdesk that do NOT require a college degree? If so what is the pay normally like?

    Any tips for breaking into the industry without a degree?
    Join the military, select communications field. See ancient lands. Meet exotic people. And kill them.

    Be the first computer geek on your block with a confirmed kill. Looks great on the resume.

    - medically Retired USMC CWO.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by abndrew82 View Post
    As this person said, in the Computer Tech industry certifications are more important than degree. You will see companies asking for degrees but most jobs want certain certs. One of our Sys Admins that used to work here had no College degree and went from working here to another job paying very well based on certs and his knowledge.

    I have my 2 year degree, but am aiming to get some certs to make it so I can move up in my field.

    The starter ones would be things such as (Network +, Security +, A +) Those are entry level certs that you can get with some studying

    /thread

    This quoted post is exactly correct. Start finding practice exams for A+ and Net + those 2 are the primary entry level certs. Security Plus you should take immediately after the other 2. the 3 of them together are a good way to get noticed before those who don't have a degree or any certs.

    1 other thing that i find helps a whole hell of alot. Customer Service Experience. most helpdesk jobs or field tech jobs will want you to have some sort of experience working with people. I worked in Customer Service for over 10 years, took a 2 year Networking and Security course in 1 year, only got a diploma. If i did not have the Customer Service experience i have, i would never have gotten call backs from the companies i applied for.

    Hit up Jobfinder and Craig's List and such, even if a job has high requirements such as XX Years of experience or such and such of a degree, apply anyhow. Many times those things are placed in an ad to scare off under qualified people. Most the time they will interview you even if you do not meet the requirements.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Cannonballs View Post
    Join the military, select communications field. See ancient lands. Meet exotic people. And kill them.

    Be the first computer geek on your block with a confirmed kill. Looks great on the resume.

    - medically Retired USMC CWO.
    mkay, I now have my new career goals.

  15. #15
    When I was in highschool I picked up a job writing mail server 'sorting' routines, fire wall traffic routing stuff, etc. for hp/ux and sun systems. I got the job through a friend's father after having won a highschool programming contest. I'd grown up with unix/bsd/linux as my primary operating system so perl and ipchains were pretty second nature back then (Linux sucked way more than it does now). The rate of pay was obscene ($45/hr) and the work was the sort of thing they wanted done outside of office hours - which worked great because I was in school 9-5 anyway. I'm not sure how realistic it is to get a job like that these days: there are far more people with unix/linux experience than there was in 1999.

    In college in my 3rd year I took a job as a TA for one of the first-year courses - I'd be available for tutorial hours (which nobody came to until the last week of class) and then just grade assignments. Pay wasn't great - $15/hr but for basically just browsing the web for 10 hours a week it was hard to complain. That job expanded a bit in my second term to include a chance to teach 'gifted' kids the basics of computers and programming with lego mindstorms, logo, etc. Introduction to video editing, etc. and the bringing the staff (teachers, principle) up to speed with Mac OS X which they were just rolling out at the time. I know I had relatively little competition for the job: this was around the time of Mac OS X 10.3 so there were hardly any mac users in colleges. I'd switched from Linux to Mac OS X with 10.1 came out and found it to be "the perfect unix". Pay went up, I got some special recognition in the paper about the partnership between the university and the elementary school - also a handful of great reference letters. Pay was a little better but nobody works for the public school system to get rich.

    After college I worked my way into a management roll at a development shop pretty quick (they made telecom hardware/software - I ran the interface design department). I often hired young people to do UX testing: "here's a list of what I want you to do. Sit in this room in front of this computer and try to do it while we record your keyboard/mouse and film you." It wasn't regular work - maybe 2-3 hours a week for $20/hr but it put pizza on the table. A couple of those people ended up having some passably good HTML/CSS skills - I hired a couple to do basic QA testing full time when the company branched into doing web development - one of them went on to become a full time web developer at a pretty big firm: you'll almost certainly have seen his work.

    I have a couple of friends who just started their own business (one a hosting company, another a site sort of like IMDB): both addressed what they saw were fatal flaws in the market. They had both done 2-year technical college courses but don't have a degree. The first sold his hosting company about 5 years ago and got kept on to run it by the people who bought it -- that lead to a management position which he parleyed into a project management roll at an advertising company. The second grew his IMDB-like site to the point where large companies started using it for data - eventually those people started paying for the expenses and paying him to add features they wanted for their products, eventually one of them bought it out right for a fair chunk of change. He works on it from his home adding features for a regular salary: that's pretty much living the dream right there. Getting paid to work on a project you start as a labor of love.

    I met a guy (he contracted for that company I worked at) who started contributing to the QT widget library while in college: bug fixes, adding features, documentation, tests, etc. before he'd graduated he'd been hired on by a smartphone maker to work full time on that project. He got the contract with us because I was looking for a guy to build an administration UI for a Linux server application and QT is a pretty popular widget toolkit for that. A friend recommended him said he'd contributed to the project. I looked up some of his commits to the project - saw it was good - sent an e-mail. Even if your effort doesn't lead to a full time job, contracting can be very lucrative (I rarely do it, but have always been able to command between $150-300/hr depending on the deadline and the nature of the work).

    The common thread here is that people built portfolio: something they could point to and say "this proves how awesome I am". Some of the examples I mentioned are people who went on to get a proper education (ie: I have a comp sci degree now) but none of them had it when they started. They picked something they thought was cool, worked on it passionately, and then used that demonstration of their skills to land a paycheck.
    A new UI series for 5.2Steal my old UILearn about WeakAuras • Nobody to raid with right now so no PVE videos.

  16. #16
    Stood in the Fire Nilan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abndrew82 View Post
    As this person said, in the Computer Tech industry certifications are more important than degree. You will see companies asking for degrees but most jobs want certain certs. One of our Sys Admins that used to work here had no College degree and went from working here to another job paying very well based on certs and his knowledge.

    I have my 2 year degree, but am aiming to get some certs to make it so I can move up in my field.

    The starter ones would be things such as (Network +, Security +, A +) Those are entry level certs that you can get with some studying
    CompTIA certs are cheap too (Network+ etc), even in the UK and a good basis. I went into IT originally with experience, a degree but no certs, so started first line and was immediately put through the CTIA's and the CCNA by the company I worked for, which eventually led to MCITP/VCP/CCIE etc. They definitely help.

    However, for me at least, it was a history working in retail management (After Uni, I couldn't get anything else) and 5 years during studying in a gaming center which, with 3 upgrade cycles, was building about 150 systems which stood out for my employers. Can't beat practical experience but very few look beyond qualifications - Luckily I found a company that did.

    Gotta admit I still value them for the fact they probably put down over 4k in training and exams for me in 2 years - the VCP alone was worth about 2k. They did my career a world of favours (Which I repaid by..erm..going into Web development, completely unrelated!)
    Last edited by Nilan; 2012-04-16 at 03:55 PM.

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  17. #17
    My first real job in a corporation (Non-tech) paid 10.5k for the year. Wasn't much, but it paid the bills.

    My first job that somewhat related to technology was with Customer Service at CompUSA and that was an hourly job. Paid well when you put in OT. You can start entry level practically anywhere if you find the right role. Tech support, customer service...provisioning is a good one too if you are into active directory and exchange account creation.

  18. #18
    Why don’t you go for CompTIA A+ cetification. If you are looking to get a more formal, structured job, looking at more certification in computers, might be the way to go. Also with certification you can increase your gross snip because people will trust you and your work better.
    Last edited by tetrisGOAT; 2013-08-28 at 08:55 AM.

  19. #19
    While your intentions were good, this thread was last posted in nearly a year ago, closing.

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