Nov 11, 2014

How can an adult learner get into IT?

I'm hoping someone can advise me please. I am 35 years old and have a real passion for computers and technology in general. I would love to be able to get into the IT industry but would like some advice as to where to begin. My background is in Sales, Customer Service and Management but with limited opportunities for progression and other reasons I would like to develop a career in IT.

I have spoken to a company who specializes in IT courses and they have advised me to pursue their CompTIA A+ course as an entry level course. Then to perhaps afterwards look at something more specialized like CCNA course etc. I have been quoted £520 for the course which included all training, and exams.

My dilemma is that I don't want to start a course only to realize I took the wrong route completely or to find afterwards that with this qualification alone it would be difficult to get an entry level job with this certificate.

I would really appreciate any advice you could give me.

Based in Northern Ireland.
I noticed that this is a year late, so I hope that you have found a path that meets your passion. If not, it'll come. Besides others might benefit from my experience and knowledge on the subject.

There are two ways to look at any individuals commonly known as a working adult, looking for a career change, etc.

1.) What does your resume say? Based on your post, CompTIA A+ is the basic entry-level certification. It centres around entry to mid-level positions, like help desk, support or other IT networking positions: Tier 1 support much like calling your internet provider and asking for IT help.

Network+ is the entry-level certification for those in entry to mid-level positions who are either in the background doing installation, hardware repairs or being that Tier 2 support when the technical support representative could solve by using simple to experienced user knowledge, or because the problem that you are experiencing isn't user error or changing default settings but something to do with the network (either on your end or theirs.

Security+ is a certification for mid to professional level IT jobs. At the user end, when calling your internet provider for help, and you've talked to at least two to four IT reps at Tier 1 and 2 levels, and your problem isn't your computer, connections or the network, then Tier 3 is where the problem will end and a solution is found, and maybe would you be in communications with this level--most likely someone either at the Tier 1 or 2 level will be Tier 3 liaison for you.

So depending on the job or your desire IT role, A+ or Network+ would be a great start. If you have Security+ you don't need the other two, and if you don't need A+ if you have Network+.

Based on your mini resume (post), customer support IT position, coupled with your management experience, getting your Network+ (or if you can Security+ will put you in a great lateral to promotional move into IT support field.

Most employers worldwide will take someone with a CompTIA certification over someone with a four-year degree, and/or someone with 5-10 years of experience and no degree/some college.

2.) What IT jobs are you wanting to do? Do you like to use your hands, get dirty, deal with the general public? Perhaps, working in teams, business customer support, in-house support? Or, maybe work alone, on projects/programs, do coding/programming/development? Or do you like graphics, marketing, data science, database management, analysts, or another specific field like human resources or law enforcement?

In the U.S., there is an online Occupational Handbook that breaks down to he IT fields into 7-8 specialities areas. Clicking on an area when expand to explain job outlook, education, experience, titles, and description of the field area.

If you wanted to do programming, most companies want you to be certified, have a degree, and/or have experience in one or more software languages (SQL, Java, Python, C#, etc.). Depending on the company and its mission, you might need a CompTIA certification, as well.

Other areas will most likely require a degree like IT project management, Data scientist, etc.

In the U.S. national and international corporations, will require a two to four-year degree and preferably a certification. Well as smaller companies with take one or the other.

For the past four years and projected outlook for the next 20 years, the top paying jobs and most needed are data science industry, software development, database administration, and cybersecurity.

If your strap for cash, need to work full-time, or just want to get started there are plenty of bootstrap programs, certification training offices, and apprenticeships (for specific candidates, disabled, inmates, military veterans, etc., where you take a week's course, night courses for a short period, or on-the-job training to get practical knowledge, experience and/or certification.

If you have he ability, back to school full-time, go for your passion and desire, because most people don't have or get the opportunity.

I'm a human resources professional in the information systems, but I had recruited for IT positions, worked in a help-desk environment, programming, security, training, education, and developmental testing.
Hi connordonnan,

I asked out Eric Bloom, our career expert, and former CIO and developer, to respond to your question. He's on the road today, but he wanted you to get this.

According to Eric:

"Rather than go for these kinds of certifications which would cause you to start over professionally, I would suggest using your prior experience in sales and customer service to help pivot you into an IT related job. This would take advantage of your prior skills and experience, and help you get a better paying job sooner with less initial training. For example, I would suggest working as a Business Analyst or Customer Service Rep on sales-related software, such as Salesforce or other CRM system. You would, of course, need to learn the software, but your knowledge of sales and customer service help you understand its usage and you could more easily relate to the application users."

You can see Eric's answers to other questions here:

If you have any follow-up questions he can be reached here: or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom or @MgrMechanics or at

Good luck!!

Which IT related jobs are you interested in? I suggest checking out Simply Hired, Dice and some other job sites. Poke around and find jobs that interest you, then look and see what is required for those jobs. You can then decide what kind of courses you'll need to go after the job you want in IT.
Let me start by saying that I’m in the US, and I’m not familiar with the job market in Northern Ireland. I did know a guy from London that got his start in IT through an apprenticeship with a company, so that might be worth looking into.

For an entry level IT job in the US (which is often a help desk gig when you are starting out), a compTIA A+ cert is probably going to get your foot in the door. It helps if you have experience that you can point to as well, of course, but that is a very common, basic certification that is required for many positions. I’m not sure whether the price you were quoted is good or bad, but I do think this is a very good certification to start with. I mean, it’s not going to impress the hell out of a potential employer, but it is going to show that you at least have good basic understanding of hardware and operating systems. It will certainly make getting an entry level position easier than it would be without it.

Good luck! I hope it works out for you.
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