As a service member who developed a rewarding Information Technology career after leaving the military, I want to share some perspective on factors you need to consider when choosing an educational program for developing your career in IT. Talking with prospective students and attending education fairs, I interact with military members looking to advance their education and considering IT careers on a regular basis. The 4 most common situations I encounter –
The military member is:
o Seeking a specific IT degree and has the background needed to be successful
o Already employed in a career in IT and interested in pursuing that Information Technology career path, but unsure how best to proceed
o Not currently working in IT, but interested in an Information Technology career
o Currently working a career in Information Technology, but wants to get a degree in a different field of IT
With my military and IT related experience, I feel uniquely capable of offering relevant guidance to the member to help them make an informed choice of how to proceed. This 2nd article in my Information Technology series provides discussion of some initial considerations the service member faces in choosing an education path, as well as some things to consider when choosing information technology careers. Center to any decision should be the understanding that advanced education is important for promotion purposes and to enhance the quality of life potential for you and your family. Further, you should take advantage of the available funding to get your education as soon as possible, before it is no longer available.
Three main ingredients will likely determine your success in an IT career path: your degree, your certifications, and your relevant experience in the field. Don’t short change any one of the three if you want to maximize your potential and worth to an employer, and minimize your likelihood of being laid off or replaced. You should also be aware that the IT arena is constantly evolving and advancing, so continuing-education and updating certifications will be a way of life. Don’t let this discourage you since this makes for an interesting long-term career that can be tweaked in varying directions and be very satisfying and fulfilling.
As for IT careers in general, you should also understand that Information Technology must be a strategic partner in most successful enterprises. It is not a silver-bullet to the organization’s success but is a vital and critical support component to any enterprise. As such, IT careers usually require 24/7 attention, so be prepared for varied daily schedules, and know that IT work-weeks can be notoriously long. If you choose your path wisely, this should not be a problem considering that the IT field has been one of the top two fields for job security and pay/benefits for the past many years.
No matter what your personality – careers in IT are available for you. If you are not a people-person, IT jobs are available in which you are off in a corner rarely seen or bothered by anyone (you can be like a mushroom in a dark cave.) However, if you’re a socialite, Information Technology jobs are also available where this trait is critical for promoting collaboration and helping keep IT a valued team player in the enterprise. Jobs abound for personalities in-between those.
Finally with IT career experience in your background, don’t short change your education or experience as you move to another career field such as business, healthcare, or criminal justice. That knowledge and experience can make you more valuable to a future employer since Information Technology is a key ingredient in all of those fields also.