Change of heart, change of career

I’m a college student. I have recently finished my General Education, and now I’m doing an internship within the State Government where I live. My major is Anthropology, yet I’ve been placed in an IT position because of my background. I’ve always loved computers, and I’ve got a lot of experience and knowledge with them. I have been very seriously contemplating a change of major recently. I’m feeling compelled to pursue a career working with computers.

I really enjoy working directly with hardware, although I also like troubleshooting and networking. If I had my choice, I would do nothing but build and repair computers all day. My question is, how would I possibly prepare for any sort of career through college? What sort of education should I be seeking? Anything heavily dependent on Mathematics would be a mistake for me. Can anyone give me some advice on how to approach this? I’d like some input from others with more experience.

The type of position you describe that you feel you would most enjoy would be something in the IT (information technology) field. This has become a pretty broad area covering anything from the technician that puts computers together (this is getting less and less common a practice, by the way. Far less hassle to pre-configure them and just purchase them now) to network administrators. And around here at least, most of the schooling is done through private technical institutes as opposed to regular colleges (state schools). There may be “getting started” types of courses through community colleges, but they tend not to get too deep.

The other aspect is that (and I’m guessing based on my experience) that no two companies’ systems are alike - each has its own peculiar quirks and characteristics. So along with any formal education, a lot of what you will need to know can only be acquired on the job. To this end, I almost think that getting into a company would be your best “educational” move if IT is what you want to get into. That is, maybe take the minimum through some technical institute and get your foot in the door (be careful what you wish for - doing “nothing but build and repair computers all day” may become a curse :wink: And then start to acquire more specialized skills for the particular company (have them send you to training, etc.). Because, again, even if you learned a particular system or aspect prior to being hired, more than likely the company’s “configuration” will be unique.

However, I will caution you that where I am (San Diego), this market is kind of saturated. I think things went from a real high demand for IT people, but then so many people looked into getting into it, there’s now a surplus of people. But being a young, college student works in your favor. Companies are often willing to hire “slave labor”, and so you could at least get your foot in the door. Look into “intern” programs which often lead to full-time positions.

Without pursuing an actual computer science degree (which would require math classes), I would recommend taking some entry-level programming classes at a community college. For one thing, you may find that programming suits you (and is worth pursuing a full-on computer science degree). But also, in doing IT, having a fundamental understanding of software as well as hardware can only benefit you in the long run.

Thanks, I appreciate your input.

I just want to second Cormac’s advice. From my experience, the best way to get into IT is to start as a janitor sweeping the computer room floor and work your way up internally. Good luck, and keep us posted.

Delightfully, there is still a fair demand for IT people where I live, especially within the Government, which is where I’m currently employed for a semester. I suppose in a way I already have my foot in the door, as I’ve made some connections with people who could help me in the future. I’d like to have a more formal education first if at all possible.

Sounds like you’re doing what I did. I loved computers, but didn’t want a CS major telling me what to do…I got a B.S. in Civil Engineering, got my foot in the door at the DOT’s IT department and never used the C.E. degree.

Great idea to be working for the government. I was looking for IT type jobs in the Tampa area and a many of them required some type of security clearance. If you don’t mind working on WMD, there’s plenty of jobs in that area. But that’s not the only area of government that uses computer for sure. Definitely get your degree though, even it it’s in liberal arts.

Maybe try to put in some time with the Air Force?

I have to say, if I were ever going to join a branch of military, it would be the Air Force. It’s not really an option though, I have a badly messed up collar bone from a cycling incident. I’m not “fit” for military service.

You might want to graduate from relatively penny-ante PC type computers to more Big-Iron type stuff.

There are some pretty well-paid guys who physically set up and configure big Sun, HP and IBM hardware, while PC techs are generally the lowest rung on the IT ladder.

You’d probably need to get a BS in Computer Science or something like that to qualify for the good jobs I’m thinking of, along with a load of specialized vendor training.