Can I get my foot in the door with an Associate's?

N7ValiantN7Valiant Senior MemberPosts: 360Member ■■■■□□□□□□
I will be graduating this semester in a month with my Associate's Degree in Information Technology under their new Cybersecurity program, which has me taking some basic security courses(mostly bookwork, nothing hands-on) instead of the later database administration courses and some electives in the IT field. I made a bit of an error going in as I wanted to go more in-depth into programming over anything else and though I was in the correct program given the 3 programming courses you could take, but I didn't find out that the Computer Science program was what I was looking for until I was almost done.

I have the CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications and expect to take my Security+ exam about a week or two after the semester ends. My choice of courses will also allow me to take the EC-Council's Certified Ethical Hacker exam, which I understand qualifies me for Computer Network Defense under the DoD's 8570 Directive, and the Security+ will qualify me for the IAT Level-II under the same directive.

The intention was that because I live in Hawaii and there isn't a huge Tech market here like Silicon Valley, I could instead focus on Cybersecurity due to the military bases here, making the federal government a big employer.

...Or that was the theory anyway, but after actually looking for both an internship as a graduation requirement and now a full-time job, I'm running into a few hiccups.

For any federal position, they seem to require at least an IAT Level-II even for supposedly entry-level positions and an active Security clearance, so it's doubtful I could even try until I pass that Security+ exam. For any private company that contracts out to the feds, they seem to require a Bachelor's Degree at a minimum, again for supposedly entry-level positions.

That was sort of the problem for my internship as well. The State of Hawaii internship program didn't respond to my e-mails, and neither did most of the private companies I tried to apply to or contact, except for the one who bothered to send a rejection e-mail. I ultimately had to go to my own attending college for an unpaid internship at their internal IT department, which I consider a rather low bar to get in (in the sense that they'll take any students).

The other students generally also found unpaid internships at nonprofits or because their relatives owned a company. It gave the impression to me that the job market for IT was really dry and I may have been sold a bag of crap about IT prospects down here by the college.

You know that old joke about employers wanting people who have Bachelor's Degrees, 6 years of experience, and be under 20 right?icon_rolleyes.gif


I'm kind of wondering what strategy to take right now. To me, it almost seems like the market is oversaturated if nearly everyone demands a Bachelor's. I'm currently not in a financial situation to continue for a Bachelor's even if I get a full scholarship. Although this is November and I don't exactly have a solid experience of job hunting year round, so I'm not sure if this lull is just typical near the holidays, whereas summer is usually the "hot" season for hiring.

If push comes to shove, I am prepared to sell pretty much everything I own to fund a move to the mainland. My only particular motivation to stick around here is just so that if I do find a job in my field and get some money, I would like to grab that Bachelor's Degree before I leave, given the apparent demand for it.

I am also wondering if there are any positions I might be able to get into without a Computer Science degree that might be more suitable than others. My internship was spent as a PC Technician providing Tier 1 & 2 support(according to my boss). I did note that compared to my senior student coworkers, I was much more effective in searching for more complex solutions such as resolving an issue with Windows 8.1 that caused it to search for updates forever(and even deleting the SystemDistribution folder would not fix), editing the registry to fix an issue with the File Explorer opening up on Windows 10 imaged laptops, and enabling the root account on an iMac to erase all traces of an older McAfee installation that prevented the newer version from working. That did give me the impression that I was more suited to more complex software work.
MCSE: Core Infrastructure
MCSA: Windows Server 2016
CompTIA A+ | Network+ | Security+ CE

Comments

  • Moon ChildMoon Child Posts: 182Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    Where I work a lot guys don't even have degrees or certs, some do, and some had previous experience. Starting out as help desk actually wouldn't be entry level. I work as a laptop technician and I think probably getting an entry level job as a PC / Laptop technician actually would be easier than trying to land help desk. Geek Squad I hear is a good place to start.

    I wouldn't shoot for the 30-40k starting pay, do like I did. Go for the $10-12/work and get experience.

    I hear Geek Squad is a great place to start if they are hiring in your area, they weren't hiring where I am at so I drive an hour to work everyday going over state lines working in another state right next to mine that has a lot more IT jobs.

    My cousin has been in field for 15 years and a lot of his co-workers he has had through years have had no degrees or certifications, just tons of previous experience in IT. Experience is king, any IT experience is better than nothing.
    ... the world seems full of good men--even if there are monsters in it. - Bram Stoker, Dracula
  • N7ValiantN7Valiant Senior Member Posts: 360Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Yeah, I was hoping I could do more hands-on work as opposed to walking through or being walked through a solution over the phone or chat.

    I was asked the desired wage question and think I kind of flubbed it by saying $15/hr, mostly because to me that's a very complicated question and would depend on benefits like health insurance. Looking back on that, I probably should have said I'd be fine with $12 since my career plan would largely involve aggressively chasing down certifications and going back for my Bachelor's as soon as I could afford the first classes.
    MCSE: Core Infrastructure
    MCSA: Windows Server 2016
    CompTIA A+ | Network+ | Security+ CE
  • McxRisleyMcxRisley OSCP, CASP, CySA+, CPT+, Sec+, CEH, Splunk Admin Posts: 483Member ■■■■■□□□□□
    Breaking into the IT industry was tough for me when I started out as well. I had to take an unpaid internship for 8 months before I got my first IT job. I would say that getting your Security + would be a step in the right direction, especially if you want to work for the DoD.

    Also I want to point out the unless you have taken a course accredited by EC-Council OR you have at least 2 years of information security WORK experience, you will not qualify for the exam. There was another person here on the forum recently who didn't read the requirements and thought thier school time counted as experience. Long story short, he paid the $100 application fee and was denied because he didn't read. That being said tho, due to the recent changes to 8570, you now have a much better option than the CEH which is CompTIAs CSA+. The CSA+ now qualifies you for everything that the CEH does, so the CEH is no longer king in the DoD.
    I'm not allowed to say what my previous occupation was, but let's just say it rhymes with architect.
  • kiki162kiki162 Posts: 635Member
    You can certainly get your foot in the door /w an Associates, especially in the government/contractor side. So long as you have your 8570 approved certs, you should be good. If you decide to move to the mainland, take a look at other areas in the US, especially TX in Austin/San Antonio. Other areas include DC/MD/Northern VA, Boston, Raleigh/Charlotte, and yes Seattle. Weather wise, TX and NC would be the warmest and cheapest places.

    Definitely go for your Bachelors and get either your Security+ or SSCP, as both are fairly easy, and can help you secure a gov't/contractor role. One other thing you should think about is finding a company that will help you pay a portion of your Bachelors degree. I would agree that the market is oversaturated, so to fix that, you'll need to come up with a plan to market yourself. Figure out what your end goal is. With a Computer Science degree, you'd be getting into programming a bit more, and that can provide a path as a Software or DevOps Engineer.
  • shochanshochan Senior Member Posts: 871Member ■■■■■■□□□□
    Yes, I did it with an AAS in CIS...I'm going on 20yrs IT experience here...I felt I needed to add on some certs to help get HR to NOT throw my resume in the trash whenever they were strictly looking for Bachelor degrees.



    "It's not good when it's done, it's done when it's good" ~ Danny Carey
  • volfkhatvolfkhat Posts: 947Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    I briefly explored moving to Hawaii last year.
    But the impression i got was essentially; Supply vs Demand.

    You're someone with limited EXP and No Bachelors.
    You are competing against contractors/persons who are more experienced/skilled.
    And also dont forget about the servicepersons who have finished their 'commitments', but are looking to stay in HAwaii.

    Yeesh... it's very TOUGH.

    If you somehow live somewhere with cheap housing (family-owned property, etc), and don't have to pay ridiculous $$$... then perhaps you can afford hang in there (and maybe you should).


    But, if not, maybe you should consider a state with better odds...
    /shrug
  • N7ValiantN7Valiant Senior Member Posts: 360Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    McxRisley wrote: »
    Breaking into the IT industry was tough for me when I started out as well. I had to take an unpaid internship for 8 months before I got my first IT job. I would say that getting your Security + would be a step in the right direction, especially if you want to work for the DoD.
    I think I might prefer a private company who contracts out to the DoD or some position that involves a little less being hooked up to a polygraph for my clearance. I say that mostly because I'm already nervous in interviews, and drawing some blood almost caused me to pass out, so I'd expect the polygraph to shoot off false positives every 10 seconds.
    McxRisley wrote: »
    Also I want to point out the unless you have taken a course accredited by EC-Council OR you have at least 2 years of information security WORK experience, you will not qualify for the exam. There was another person here on the forum recently who didn't read the requirements and thought thier school time counted as experience. Long story short, he paid the $100 application fee and was denied because he didn't read. That being said tho, due to the recent changes to 8570, you now have a much better option than the CEH which is CompTIAs CSA+. The CSA+ now qualifies you for everything that the CEH does, so the CEH is no longer king in the DoD.
    My current course is in a community college that offers a discount($500, eligibility application waived) for the CEH and bypasses the 2 year requirement.

    I can't say I can afford to go the CSA+ route unless that doesn't have a work experience requirement, though depending on the cost I may have to pass for now until I'm employed.
    MCSE: Core Infrastructure
    MCSA: Windows Server 2016
    CompTIA A+ | Network+ | Security+ CE
  • EANxEANx Posts: 1,078Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    It is incorrect to assume all Federal IT or IA positions have IAT requirements. That's a DOD requirement, not necessarily applicable to DHS, State, FBI, etc. The thing that ties them together is NIST and OMB, not DOD.

    In the commercial world, it's not hard to get your foot in the door with an Associates. A Bachelors would be better but an Associates gets you part of the way there and a step over just HS. I personally, and I know other managers doing the same, prefer not to list IT DME or O&M positions with a degree requirements. Certs yes, degree no. Now a developer I might have a CS requirement for but a VMware designer? No. Project manager? Absolutely. Cisco engineer? Nope.

    Your biggest issue with trying to get a DOD job isn't just competing with people who have experience with the military when you have little at all to speak of, it's also the clearance issue. You need to find a company willing to sponsor your clearance.

    Having good tech skills, experience and a clearance is like gold if you ever get to the DC area. In my building, you can't swing a cat without hitting someone making 200k+ a year (with a ton of exp and high-end certs, of course).
  • N7ValiantN7Valiant Senior Member Posts: 360Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Well, I suspect nearly all federal jobs here on Oahu require IAT or similar simply because DHS, State, FBI don't have as much of a presence as the multitude of military bases.

    I did find the sponsorship to be confusing since almost every job says "must have active security clearance" and I'm again stuck in the chicken or the egg situation wondering why everyone seems to demand that yet there's no clear way to initially obtain one short of joining the military.
    MCSE: Core Infrastructure
    MCSA: Windows Server 2016
    CompTIA A+ | Network+ | Security+ CE
  • aderonaderon CISSP, CCNA:S, CCNA:R&S, AWS:CSA Assoc, Sec+, Lin+, A+, Net+, Proj+ Posts: 404Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    You sound like you're doing pretty well for yourself.

    You can definitely get a job with an associates in IT and an A+ and Net+. However, I'm not sure that you can do that in Hawaii (I don't know the market, but I would imagine it's pretty competitive). I would expect your first job though to be very low in the food chain. Likely Tier 1 Desktop Support or perhaps call-center Tier 1 Tech Support (for like an ISP, software company, or something similar). The nice thing about this though, is you can use this job to fund your bachelors if you go to a cheap enough school like WGU and use government funding (like the american opportunity tax credit).

    If you want to get into programming, then yeah I would absolutely look for a computer science degree for your Bachelors. It's going to teach you the basics of what you need to know to get you up and running almost anywhere.

    Once you've got your Bachelors, a few certs, and a bit of experience, that's when real opportunities will start to open up for you. Good luck!
    2019 Certification/Degree Goals: AWS CSA Renewal (In Progress), M.S. Cybersecurity (In Progress), CCNA R&S Renewal (Not Started)
  • aderonaderon CISSP, CCNA:S, CCNA:R&S, AWS:CSA Assoc, Sec+, Lin+, A+, Net+, Proj+ Posts: 404Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    N7Valiant wrote: »
    "must have active security clearance"

    Don't let this line stop you. The majority of the jobs that have this will sponsor you if they believe you're worth the effort. Once the employer sponsors you, the government will begin the process of determining whether you qualify for a clearance or not.
    2019 Certification/Degree Goals: AWS CSA Renewal (In Progress), M.S. Cybersecurity (In Progress), CCNA R&S Renewal (Not Started)
  • N7ValiantN7Valiant Senior Member Posts: 360Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Sounds good. I am curious if there are any industry certifications for the programming side?

    I mean, it does sound like even though it will take longer to assess, the actual test of ability should be quite simple in theory:
    Write a program that does this in 1 hour, then check for errors, input validation, etc.

    It does seem like you could cut through a lot of crap if you can demonstrate competence and fluency in certain programming languages without going through entire Bachelor's Degrees. My particular vice with public education is forcing me to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars per class to learn stupid stuff like Hawaiian Studies which I have not used in my internship nor do I ever expect to use in the workplace.
    MCSE: Core Infrastructure
    MCSA: Windows Server 2016
    CompTIA A+ | Network+ | Security+ CE
  • aderonaderon CISSP, CCNA:S, CCNA:R&S, AWS:CSA Assoc, Sec+, Lin+, A+, Net+, Proj+ Posts: 404Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    N7Valiant wrote: »
    Sounds good. I am curious if there are any industry certifications for the programming side?


    Not really. Programming positions are more interested in things you've made and done, rather than credentials that you have. They'll also likely do a lot of whiteboard exercises in the interview to test your skills and thought processes.

    School seems stupid now, but you'll likely hit a point in your career where not having a bachelors immediately disqualifies you from certain positions. And it'll happen enough that it starts getting highly annoying and you'll probably wind up getting one anyway :P

    I'm not saying you HAVE to have one to get a programming gig, but it's going to help your career immensely.
    2019 Certification/Degree Goals: AWS CSA Renewal (In Progress), M.S. Cybersecurity (In Progress), CCNA R&S Renewal (Not Started)
  • Moon ChildMoon Child Posts: 182Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    I also would like to add where you get your degree from and what type of degree you get does make a big difference. In my Area the Purdue grads got much better job offers and internships than any other college in my area. Purdue has a Technology Accreditation they are apart of which helps. Also from what I observed at my first IT job when I was working as PHP developer/ apprentice was the Purdue Computer Science grads who had made it through 8 semesters of Calculus and two semesters of Calculus based physics got the best internships and job offers right out of School. The company I was with then the partners all got their Engineering degrees from Purdue and seemed to prefer hiring Purdue grads and giving them internships.


    I did not go to Purdue and I noticed did not get the job offers that the Purdue grads did. One hospital in my area would prefer to hire Purdue grads over all the over colleges. My aunt worked at a hospital as a nurse all her life and said the hospital would hire Purdue grads and didn't really consider grads from other colleges in my area like Devry and Ivy Tech for example.

    I also would like to say that from what I have seen Entry level IT jobs even at $10/hr at least in my area seem very cut throat, maybe because they are the only IT jobs in town. At a company I worked for 10 years ago they would hire/fire techs like a revolving door. Some kid with an associates or bachelors in IT, CIS, MIS and A+ cert would get hired in 2 weeks later they would fire the guy for making a mistake. I saw about a dozen tech's fired at that company. I was doing PHP then and they needed programmers more then computer tech's so at least at that company there was more job stability and security if you were doing web development.

    The company I am at now is not that way but I think because it is a combination of a warehouse and IT job and a lot of people don't want to work in a warehouse. I enjoy the warehouse don't mind getting dirty, don't mind the cold, enjoy the job stability.
    ... the world seems full of good men--even if there are monsters in it. - Bram Stoker, Dracula
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