Veteran seeking advice on Online Schooling

usaftylerusaftyler Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
I am a current Active Duty USAF member serving in Germany. I am a Systems Admin by trade but just did a "tour" of desktop support for a year and am about to wrap up with that. Due to my station I cannot take local classes at a B&M university. I am highly interested in getting my Bachelors in IT Systems Administration. I have looked at several colleges and understand that the best way to do this is through a brick and mortar school with an online program for legitimacy.. However some universities (particularly WGU) have me interested with just how affordable it is, the certifications added, not to mention the low tuition would make the most out of my tuition assistance. However I worry that because it does not have a physical campus, some HR members or hiring managers may toss my resume in the circular file bin.. I have 4 years and 5 months left on my enlistment, so if I enrolled in UMUC or University of Arizona online I could finish in the time frame, but would not be able to have TA pay for basically all of it.

My question is basically this, would you say it is worth the expense to go to an actual B&M online campus(not an ivy league), or go the WGU route? Would you say that the two are equal in terms of credibility? I know people will say its regionally accredited, but so are schools like Pheonix... I'm just a guy on the fence about this, and would love for more feedback from people I feel like are unbiased.

Comments

  • JoJoCal19JoJoCal19 California Kid Posts: 2,772Mod Mod
    The key in addition to going to a regionally accredited school is to make sure you do not go to a "for profit" school. Try to go to the best school you can that fits your needs.
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  • DeathmageDeathmage Posts: 2,496Banned
    Pretty much everyone here is current or former WGU graduates or went to WGU because of this forum. That being said pretty much everyone that is on here has very well paying jobs and education.

    At the end of the day it's what you take from your degree and how you present yourself that truly sets you apart from others. The degree is basically just for HR, any technical job will require certifications and experience from getting those certifications. The saying "if you talk the talk you better be able to walk the walk" is very true...

    I'm a strong believer that when you go for a certification you lab it. Meaning you get all the hands-on experience needed to pass the exam and also own the material. Ownership of the material and as mentioned above how you present yourself is what makes someone in IT highly-qualified.

    With this being stated, WGU is highly valued with IT professionals. How you present what you learned in the interview is all you...
  • QordQord Senior Member Posts: 628Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    I would say to take full advantage of your TA while you've got it. (I really, really regret not taking advantage of TA while I was in) I'm a WGU fan, but I completely understand your concerns. I've seen people with similar concerns go the WGU route for a BS, then use their GI Bill for a Masters program at a B&M whose name they feel more comfortable with.
  • usaftylerusaftyler Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Deathmage wrote: »
    Pretty much everyone here is current or former WGU graduates or went to WGU because of this forum. That being said pretty much everyone that is on here has very well paying jobs and education.

    At the end of the day it's what you take from your degree and how you present yourself that truly sets you apart from others. The degree is basically just for HR, any technical job will require certifications and experience from getting those certifications. The saying "if you talk the talk you better be able to walk the walk" is very true...

    I'm a strong believer that when you go for a certification you lab it. Meaning you get all the hands-on experience needed to pass the exam and also own the material. Ownership of the material and as mentioned above how you present yourself is what makes someone in IT highly-qualified.

    With this being stated, WGU is highly valued with IT professionals. How you present what you learned in the interview is all you...

    Thank you for your time, I understand gym time is important! A guy I work with attends wgu *he is an intel troop though, so he doesn't do the comm job* but I am impressed by what he has learned through the course. He has set up home labs that are very impressive, I will keep this in mind.
  • stryder144stryder144 Posts: 1,565Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    The advice that Deathmage gave is rock solid.

    Between your TA and FAFSA, you won't likely have any out-of-pocket expenses for this education if you went to a school such as WGU. Plus, the fact that it allows you to go as fast as you can, means that you might even be able to complete a fair chunk of an MS degree before you pull chocks. A degree from a reputable school (one that hasn't been in the news, for instance), plus certs, plus your experiences will land you a job when you get out, especially in the aerospace/defense contractor world.

    In my post-AF career (I retired in 2012), I have had several discussions with HR folks or have been in gatherings where HR folks have presented. When it comes to the degree, a lot of the HR folks look for names they know. If they don't recognize the school, and admittedly there are several thousand schools in the US alone, they will check for accreditation, private/public, and for- or non-profit status. They might, if they have time, look at the curriculum that your degree requires. Generally, if it is regionally accredited and a not-for-profit school, they tend to check the appropriate degree requirement box and push forward.
    The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position. ~ Leo Buscaglia

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  • networker050184networker050184 Posts: 11,962Mod Mod
    Deathmage wrote: »
    With this being stated, WGU is highly valued with IT professionals. How you present what you learned in the interview is all you...

    I don't know about all that. Don't let it's popularity on this forum fool you. The vast majority of IT pros have probably never even heard of WGU, much less have a high opinion of it.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • wolf9081wolf9081 Posts: 61Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    Are you interested in Cyber Security at all. SANS has a Cyber Immersion Academy that is no cost to veterans that will provide 3 GIAC certifications and Netwars Capture the Flag event. The have several Academy's planned for 2016. Check out their website if you are interested. I just retired from the Marine Corps and am in the current SANS VetSuccess Academy. https://www.sans.org/cybertalent/immersion-academy

    Additionally, Veterans Career Transition Program (VCTP) through Syracuse University provides training and 1 Industry certification at no cost. You can google VCTP and get details about applying. They have CISSP, PMP, CCNA, Microsoft certs and many others.
  • usaftylerusaftyler Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    stryder144 wrote: »
    The advice that Deathmage gave is rock solid.

    Between your TA and FAFSA, you won't likely have any out-of-pocket expenses for this education if you went to a school such as WGU. Plus, the fact that it allows you to go as fast as you can, means that you might even be able to complete a fair chunk of an MS degree before you pull chocks. A degree from a reputable school (one that hasn't been in the news, for instance), plus certs, plus your experiences will land you a job when you get out, especially in the aerospace/defense contractor world.

    In my post-AF career (I retired in 2012), I have had several discussions with HR folks or have been in gatherings where HR folks have presented. When it comes to the degree, a lot of the HR folks look for names they know. If they don't recognize the school, and admittedly there are several thousand schools in the US alone, they will check for accreditation, private/public, and for- or non-profit status. They might, if they have time, look at the curriculum that your degree requires. Generally, if it is regionally accredited and a not-for-profit school, they tend to check the appropriate degree requirement box and push forward.

    Were you a comm guy by chance? Or by chance have you attended here? I feel like as a vet I feel like your experience could assist me with mine if you have the time to answer.
  • stryder144stryder144 Posts: 1,565Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    I wasn't in Comm, though I worked closely on many occasions with the Comm folks. I was a Security Policeman, then an Airfield Manager. I was routinely appointed as the section POC for any IT related problems. My last year in the AF I headed up an IT project where we updated/installed new workstations and implemented a port-security scheme for the network. It was a real pain in the butt trying to trace out the cables to find out where they were connected to, both on the wall and at the switch, I learned a lot. The implementation of that project allowed our Incident Command Center to stand-up and successfully respond to a natural disaster that affected the area surrounding the base. Doesn't get any better than that.


    Given the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had known about WGU while I was in. While I accrued over 100 credits while I was in, I was in a management degree program that I didn't want to be in. Consequently, I didn't finish my degree. After getting out, I decided to go to a technical training school, received training, attained my certs, and found a job. With the help of this forum, my GI Bill benefits, and support from my family, I am finishing up my degree through WGU. If all goes well, I should graduate next year. Paired up with some additional certs (CISSP, maybe a Mile2 cert or two, VCP, etc), I should be able to more fully leverage my past experience, current knowledge, etc and supercharge my career even faster.


    My advice to you would be to take a hard look at WGU. With a Pell Grant and your TA, you should have most, if not all, of the tuition covered. You can accelerate to whatever speed you are most comfortable with, your Security+ will gain you college credits (as well as satisfying one of the admission requirements), and you will be setting yourself up for an easier time finding a post-service job. As has been mentioned, having a degree is a box checked, not an end-all-be-all. Your attitude (confident, not cocky), your ability to display your knowledge at the interview, and your willingness to humbly dig deep will set you apart from everyone else. Add to that a bit of military inspired discipline, timeliness, and a willingness to follow the rules (SOPs, chain-of-command, etc - think Core Values), and you will have a nearly unstoppable career.


    Just my two cents, mind you. I hope you find this advice useful.
    The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position. ~ Leo Buscaglia

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  • usaftylerusaftyler Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    stryder144 wrote: »
    I wasn't in Comm, though I worked closely on many occasions with the Comm folks. I was a Security Policeman, then an Airfield Manager. I was routinely appointed as the section POC for any IT related problems. My last year in the AF I headed up an IT project where we updated/installed new workstations and implemented a port-security scheme for the network. It was a real pain in the butt trying to trace out the cables to find out where they were connected to, both on the wall and at the switch, I learned a lot. The implementation of that project allowed our Incident Command Center to stand-up and successfully respond to a natural disaster that affected the area surrounding the base. Doesn't get any better than that.


    Given the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had known about WGU while I was in. While I accrued over 100 credits while I was in, I was in a management degree program that I didn't want to be in. Consequently, I didn't finish my degree. After getting out, I decided to go to a technical training school, received training, attained my certs, and found a job. With the help of this forum, my GI Bill benefits, and support from my family, I am finishing up my degree through WGU. If all goes well, I should graduate next year. Paired up with some additional certs (CISSP, maybe a Mile2 cert or two, VCP, etc), I should be able to more fully leverage my past experience, current knowledge, etc and supercharge my career even faster.


    My advice to you would be to take a hard look at WGU. With a Pell Grant and your TA, you should have most, if not all, of the tuition covered. You can accelerate to whatever speed you are most comfortable with, your Security+ will gain you college credits (as well as satisfying one of the admission requirements), and you will be setting yourself up for an easier time finding a post-service job. As has been mentioned, having a degree is a box checked, not an end-all-be-all. Your attitude (confident, not cocky), your ability to display your knowledge at the interview, and your willingness to humbly dig deep will set you apart from everyone else. Add to that a bit of military inspired discipline, timeliness, and a willingness to follow the rules (SOPs, chain-of-command, etc - think Core Values), and you will have a nearly unstoppable career.


    Just my two cents, mind you. I hope you find this advice useful.


    I appreciate your help and advice, I have a long way to go (4 and a half years + I'm just an A1C) but my goal has been to get my education and go into the contractor world ever since I enlisted. It seems to be working for you, so I will take heed to your words!
  • philz1982philz1982 Posts: 978Member
    Take a look at DSU, I liked their programs. They are a brick & mortar State university and are pretty affordable. My masters degree came in at around 15k.

    School and certs are just a check box to get passed HR or to flag you on a LinkedIn Candidate Search. Solid interviewing skills, Past experience and personal connections get you hired.
  • stryder144stryder144 Posts: 1,565Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    philz1982 makes some good points. I am looking to go to DSU after I finish my undergrad degree. As he, and others, have said, the interviewing skills get you hired. They use the interview not to just confirm you are knowledgeable, but to see if your personality will fit the team dynamics.
    The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position. ~ Leo Buscaglia

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  • GessGess Posts: 144Member
    Deathmage wrote: »
    Pretty much everyone here is current or former WGU graduates or went to WGU because of this forum. That being said pretty much everyone that is on here has very well paying jobs and education.

    With this being stated, WGU is highly valued with IT professionals.

    Not true.

    Also, WGU is highly valued by people that went to WGU. Nobody else has heard of it. That's not even commentary on the quality of instruction or the learning model, just a truth about name recognition.

    The advice about using full advantage of your TA before you have to dip into your GI Bill is spot on. So is the part about ensuring your school is regionally accredited. Boston University, Penn State World Campus, Dakota State University (mentioned above), University of Maryland-UC, and other B&M schools have great IT programs that are fully online.

    You're not too different than I was. I earned my undergrad from UMUC using TA while in the USMC (Aviation), used that and my experience to get a lucrative contracting job right out of the military, and then started/finished a Masters while doing that and parlayed it all into a cushy federal position where I get to work doing what I love and have a set schedule with lots of time off.

    I applied for and was accepted to the BU, PSWC, and UMUC programs at one point or another. I'm considering getting another Masters from BU or PSWC just because I have 15 months of GI Bill left and it pays well enough that I can treat it like a second job instead of an academic pursuit. Just be sure to apply for Yellow Ribbon if you're pursuing a Masters or a school that the GI Bill doesn't cover in full.

    Best of luck to you, if I can do it certainly you can too.
  • 5502george5502george Posts: 264Member
    A bunch of free training sites I found

    Cyber Free - SECURITY ZIP
  • usaftylerusaftyler Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Gess wrote: »
    Not true.

    Also, WGU is highly valued by people that went to WGU. Nobody else has heard of it. That's not even commentary on the quality of instruction or the learning model, just a truth about name recognition.

    The advice about using full advantage of your TA before you have to dip into your GI Bill is spot on. So is the part about ensuring your school is regionally accredited. Boston University, Penn State World Campus, Dakota State University (mentioned above), University of Maryland-UC, and other B&M schools have great IT programs that are fully online.

    You're not too different than I was. I earned my undergrad from UMUC using TA while in the USMC (Aviation), used that and my experience to get a lucrative contracting job right out of the military, and then started/finished a Masters while doing that and parlayed it all into a cushy federal position where I get to work doing what I love and have a set schedule with lots of time off.

    I applied for and was accepted to the BU, PSWC, and UMUC programs at one point or another. I'm considering getting another Masters from BU or PSWC just because I have 15 months of GI Bill left and it pays well enough that I can treat it like a second job instead of an academic pursuit. Just be sure to apply for Yellow Ribbon if you're pursuing a Masters or a school that the GI Bill doesn't cover in full.

    Best of luck to you, if I can do it certainly you can too.

    Would you say that a school like UMUC and WGU would be on par when faced in front of an HR or Hiring Manager?
  • usaftylerusaftyler Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    5502george wrote: »
    A bunch of free training sites I found

    Cyber Free - SECURITY ZIP


    Thank you for the link 5502george, looks good!
  • GessGess Posts: 144Member
    usaftyler wrote: »
    Would you say that a school like UMUC and WGU would be on par when faced in front of an HR or Hiring Manager?

    Most regionally accredited degrees will be about equal on a resume, as mentioned before they're ticks in the box to get you to the interview where you can really impress.

    I hold UMUC above WGU, but that makes sense because that's where I chose to go. ;) Objectively they're nearly the same, except the chances of someone hearing of "University of Maryland" is higher. WGU is a relatively new establishment and it's unconventional. I don't think either school is really any good for getting into a decent Doctorate program, which is another reason why I want to get another Masters from either Boston or Penn State. Not to mention those schools also have robust alumni associations, specifically in PSU's case.

    I encourage you to investigate all options. There is a heavy WGU bias here, my only point was to give you another perspective from someone that was in your shoes and has achieved a career worth having going somewhere other than WGU.
  • networker050184networker050184 Posts: 11,962Mod Mod
    From a pure name recognition stand point (which is probably the first thing when people read your resume) I'd have to say UMUC would come out on top for most people.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • revnedrevned Posts: 22Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    With your experience in the military a degree would be that advantage you have over another applicant when it comes to hiring decision. I currently am attending Capitol Technology University's Cyber Security program. Their tuition is very reasonable. I also looked in to Dakota State University and they have an NSA approved cyber security program for their BS. In my opinion, with the experience you have you do not need to get a degree in "Network Administration" since you already do that and instead why not get a degree in Information Systems or Information Assurance/Cyber Security.
  • usaftylerusaftyler Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    revned wrote: »
    With your experience in the military a degree would be that advantage you have over another applicant when it comes to hiring decision. I currently am attending Capitol Technology University's Cyber Security program. Their tuition is very reasonable. I also looked in to Dakota State University and they have an NSA approved cyber security program for their BS. In my opinion, with the experience you have you do not need to get a degree in "Network Administration" since you already do that and instead why not get a degree in Information Systems or Information Assurance/Cyber Security.

    The reason I had initially intended to get the Net. Admin side of the degree is because I fear that 6 years experience may not be enough when I exit the military, and a degree with that focus would be extra padding when I get out.. I do know security pays more and it interests me more, but I fear that I wouldn't be able to land the job when I get out with the limited experience. I've heard security takes a long time to get into.
  • philz1982philz1982 Posts: 978Member
    Here is my take as a former military guy who is now making 100k+.

    If you want to be in IT get a CS degree. I know it sounds silly, but knowing the in's and outs of comp sci will be invaluable and will get you past a ton of call screens. I see WGU as a school for folks who have been working in the IT space.

    The trend these days is towards big data, cloud, and devops. Those who can program and design will be invaluable. If I were you. I would get the CS degree, get my CCNA, SSCP, and get my MCSA Server. With those three things you will have a solid understanding Networks, Compute, and Security. You will also have fundamental skills around coding. This will position, from an HR perspective, you for any IT position (taking into account experience). Next you move towards an MBA or a MIS and then you are golden. Following this plan you can make 100k+ in 2-4 years.
  • networker050184networker050184 Posts: 11,962Mod Mod
    Agreed with philz1982 that is a great route. Devops and the likes is a great place to get into for someone right now. I'm certainly wishing I would have picked up programming a lot sooner than I did.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • fullcrowmoonfullcrowmoon Posts: 172Member
    I checked out WGU and wasn't all that impressed with the setup. I ended up at Norwich University in Vermont. They have a highly rated MS Information Security and Assurance program that I'm currently attending online, and I believe they just started up a BS for Cybersecurity. They're accredited, were ranked in the top 10 for cybersecurity programs, and they have a wonderful way of teaching. It's a ton of work but it's worthwhile, and with my TA from my company, it's a very affordable degree. Also, it's a military school with a long history of supporting members of the armed forces.
    "It's so stimulating being your hat!"
    "... but everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked."
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