Career Change



  • Hi everyone, wanted to hear your opinion on my situation. I finished college with a chemistry degree , and worked in the industry now for several years. Got really tired due to no job stability, low pay, and no honest chemical companies. I have been thinking of transitioning to IT for several months but honestly I am scared to make the move due to my education not being in IT, or computer science. I am thinking that by pursuing certification I would be able to prove to an employer that I have some technical knowledge. But I am just not sure. What are your thoughts? Can I make it in IT with a chemistry background? Will this path be much tougher then having a relevant background?



  • Hey @Denis-d welcome to the community!



  • Thanks!



  • We covered some of this in other conversations, but since it isn't here...

    Having a degree in chemistry is really on the ideal side of things. Many of us that do hiring would rather see an unrelated degree that shows a good university experience than an IT or CS one. CS is literally the degree I want to see least for an IT job (I could go into detail on why this specific degree is bad for IT - but let's just say it implies a life failure, or someone "slumming it." It's too close and too often confused.) IT degrees are horrible things, mostly worthless. A chemistry degree shows that you did the real university experience, your career shows you used it, and now you are making a change. No negatives there.

    Degrees do very little good in IT. There is a theory that there is an HR filter that says without a degree, you can't get hired. This is broadly a myth, and provably so, but you HAVE a degree, so even that doesn't affect you regardless.

    There will be SOME awful low end jobs that will absolutely demand that your degree be in IT. Don't worry, you didn't want those jobs. Count your blessings.



  • My wife made the identical jump. She was a forensic biochemist. Moved up to manager. Then moved to pharma research. She then moved to IT (just helpdesk, she had no certs or background) and made more money and liked her job better immediately. Even with huge success and no gaps and a top market for chemistry, IT was better. Even with her degree being science, and no IT background.

    She did a stint in general helpdesk with Fujifilm then, when we moved somewhere with pharma, she got into pharma IT and did even better. That really helped her take off. Her biochem background made her a perfect candidate for IT in big pharma, which was a great place to work.



  • @denis-d said in Career Change:

    Will this path be much tougher then having a relevant background?

    The toughest thing that you are going to face is the lack of being "on the path." It's not that your background is chemistry, it's that your IT experience is just beginning. A lot of people in IT start their careers either in high school (middles school for me, actually) or immediately thereafter. So even the time in college that many careers have, you'll often find IT people already working in their careers in IT while their counterparts are in school giving them an easy five year jump on their careers by comparison.

    This is where you will find the biggest challenge. Not that you have the wrong background, that's not an issue. But that you are getting started late. I don't know how old you are, but it had to take some time to go to college, graduate and work in the field.

    So you are starting late, that's the only issue. But you have the benefit of having a degree and professional work experience. So that gives you a leg up compared to a high school student. Now you just have to deal with filling the skill and experience gap.



  • Now the first things that you need to do are really to define some things... what attracts you to IT? What makes IT what you are wanting to try out? What areas of IT interest you? And what IT skills and experience do you have today?



  • IT is a huge field, full of massive diversity. Helpdesk is one area, systems administration another, all kinds of database careers out there, then there is networking, business intelligence, application support, many management roles, desktop support, deskside support, and on and on.

    http://www.smbitjournal.com/2017/01/standard-areas-discipline-within/



  • So things to think about.... do you like working with people, do you hate working with people? Do you like being on call and having a predictable schedule (mostly?) Do you like being given a flexible schedule but expected to be really productive? Do you like a broad variety of tasks, or do you like to get to really focus and go deep on a single thing? What tech do you like, what is fun, what is boring?



  • I have a degree in classical guitar. Now I’m definitely not anything to compare to but you don’t need a degree to make it. The only things degrees like CS do is possibly get you a job at places you don’t want to work.

    We have a co-op that’s studying “computer engineering” (whatever that is) and they have no idea what’s going on. A lab and experience will get you much much further.



  • When thinking about going into IT, think about ways that you can outpace and outperform the run of the mill rabble. This is what will really give you the leg up, so to speak. While there are loads of IT folks out there with degrees or years of experience, the truth is is that the majority of people in the field (or claiming to be in the field) aren't very good at it and only manage to scrape by with work because they are employed by shops that have no idea what good IT should look like and/or a lack of good options to turn to should they be eliminated. If you learn your stuff and do a good job, you are set.

    Some ways to really set your self apart...

    • Write, a lot. Start a blog or something documenting your educational journey. Make something for a potential employer to see.
    • Get social. Obviously you figured this out, here you are. But don't just post once in a while, make it a lifestyle. Post first thing when you get up, last thing before bed, keep it open all day. Ask questions about anything and everything. Get involved in discussions about anything and everything. Interact with your peers non-stop all of the time. Post about your projects, your successes, your challenges. Get feedback not just on the big questions, but the little ones, too. Run everything by us, and don't just ask "what button do I press to do X", ask "what do you think about this product, technology, or idea?" Have the big discussions like a business or philosophy class.
    • Lab it. Make a home lab, make it so awesome that any job you ever get will be ashamed of how much more and better you do things at home than they do at work.
    • Volunteer. Know a non-profit that needs help? Volunteer. Get real world experience and help the community.
    • Read books. Remember those paper things with the glue on one side? Use them. They present ideas and concepts in a beginning to end way that online articles rarely do. They might not be current, but contrary to the popular slogans, IT doesn't actually change very fast. People only think that because they try to memorize simple answers instead of learning how things work. Learn how things work, and there is very little need to keep up from day to day - there might be new names for things, but the actual ideas aren't new.


  • @stacksofplates said in Career Change:

    I have a degree in classical guitar.

    Strangely enough, I was a classical guitar major as well. And orchestral trombone.



  • Even though I've attended six universities, and have multiple degrees, and impressive GPAs, all of that was for me personally and I don't put any of them on my resume. If a potential employer was to be impressed by me having those things, I wouldn't want to work for him. Nothing wrong with having them, of course. But if someone filters me out because I don't pass their "HR filter", good, saves me from wasting my time or worse, accidentally accepting a job working for idiots. I've been to college, I know how easy it can be. The last thing that I want to do is work for someone who thinks it was hard and thinks that it must be hard universally - which implies he wasn't book smart and lacks common sense and failed to just memorize how to hire well. It's an unbelievably embarrassing statement for a company to make about its impressions of itself.



  • The obvious tool that you will need to use to start telling employers that you have bridged the gap between the science world and the business one, is industry certifications. I'm not a huge fan of certs themselves (even though I write them) but I am a pretty big fan of the process that you go through to properly get a cert. Certs are best as a means of guiding you through a learning process.

    I'm a big believer that anyone starting in IT should consider starting with the CompTIA Network+ (and never the A+) as a base level of knowledge that everyone should have. After the Net+, then look at a certification path that makes sense for your desired career path. The Network+ is really the only "general purpose" IT cert and is, in many ways, more of just demonstrating that you are a general purpose power user and ready to start your IT learning.



  • @denis-d said in Career Change:

    Hi everyone, wanted to hear your opinion on my situation. I finished college with a chemistry degree , and worked in the industry now for several years. Got really tired due to no job stability, low pay, and no honest chemical companies. I have been thinking of transitioning to IT for several months but honestly I am scared to make the move due to my education not being in IT, or computer science. I am thinking that by pursuing certification I would be able to prove to an employer that I have some technical knowledge. But I am just not sure. What are your thoughts? Can I make it in IT with a chemistry background? Will this path be much tougher then having a relevant background?

    Yes, you can make it on IT. I have seen many helpdesk coming from Business Degree, Engineering and more become IT Helpdesk. There are many good IT companies but you might find many software and companies in general that are not all honest..

    I have been in IT for 11-12 Years and I only have an Associate Degree in Information Technology. The most important part is to have experience which you will find by doing helpdesk, testing systems on your own and finding opportunities.

    It shouldn't be tougher, since you have critical thinking and have the ability to resolve problems you are just applying to a different career.

    You also should start looking for experience before getting into a certification, that way you are already in the path.



  • I actually have a degree in IT, a Master's in fact, but it looks like I'm more of the exception to the rule than the rule itself.

    You really don't need a degree to start in IT. Helpdesk is not entry into IT. It is another field of IT.

    I'll quote Scott from above on some things. Start a home lab. You don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on hardware and licenses. You can spend $5-10/month on Vultr or Linode, get a vm with Fedora or Debian Linux and begin building stuff.

    If Linux isn't you're thing, then you might want to check out VyOS for networking and switching, or get yourself some Ubiquiti equipment and do a small network at home.



  • @denis-d said in Career Change:

    I have been thinking of transitioning to IT for several months but honestly I am scared to make the move due to my education not being in IT, or computer science.

    Fear is the greatest paralytic of all. If it interests you, jump on in! As far as education and formal training, you will find that participating in communities like this will teach you far more and different things than you will find in a course.

    In my opinion you'll find that your self-training + community of experienced will keep you on the right path of thinking.

    Despite all of that, I can empathize with your fear 100%.



  • @nerdydad said in Career Change:

    I actually have a degree in IT, a Master's in fact, but it looks like I'm more of the exception to the rule than the rule itself.

    You really don't need a degree to start in IT. Helpdesk is not entry into IT. It is another field of IT.

    I'll quote Scott from above on some things. Start a home lab. You don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on hardware and licenses. You can spend $5-10/month on Vultr or Linode, get a vm with Fedora or Debian Linux and begin building stuff.

    If Linux isn't you're thing, then you might want to check out VyOS for networking and switching, or get yourself some Ubiquiti equipment and do a small network at home.

    I too have a Masters in IT (will be paid off in 3 months finally), but I got that later in life when I was at AT&T and looking to move out of the Union and into Development.

    Also IT from that college doens't mean IT. It means anything to do with a fucking computer.



  • Have you thought of Development? I'm sure Chemist + Dev will be a killer combination for some companies. Getting your first Dev job might be harder than getting your first IT job though.



  • Is it IT you like, or programming / software engineering?



  • I completed the majority of a master's program from a respected college in NY... But after looking at the numbers I was surprised to see that, in IT, master's degrees actually earn less, on average, then people with no formal education.



  • I've read articles of people with PhDs who can't buy houses because they have a million dollar education debt... Fine if you are a medical field doctor making a quarter million a year... but those aren't the only PhD holders...

    I can imagine that a Masters degree is very expensive too.

    So you need to make a lot of money to off-set the costs of having to pay back your school loan.



  • I still have 10 months left on my school loan, but I'm not making big payments either... the interest is so low it didn't matter much.



  • @jaredbusch said in Career Change:

    @nerdydad said in Career Change:

    I actually have a degree in IT, a Master's in fact, but it looks like I'm more of the exception to the rule than the rule itself.

    You really don't need a degree to start in IT. Helpdesk is not entry into IT. It is another field of IT.

    I'll quote Scott from above on some things. Start a home lab. You don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on hardware and licenses. You can spend $5-10/month on Vultr or Linode, get a vm with Fedora or Debian Linux and begin building stuff.

    If Linux isn't you're thing, then you might want to check out VyOS for networking and switching, or get yourself some Ubiquiti equipment and do a small network at home.

    I too have a Masters in IT (will be paid off in 3 months finally), but I got that later in life when I was at AT&T and looking to move out of the Union and into Development.

    Also IT from that college doens't mean IT. It means anything to do with a fucking computer.

    What school did you get your degree from?



  • @tim_g said in Career Change:

    I've read articles of people with PhDs who can't buy houses because they have a million dollar education debt... Fine if you are a medical field doctor making a quarter million a year... but those aren't the only PhD holders...

    Quarter million is a terrible income for a PhD. LOL. That's a great example of how doctors could never justify the time and cost of school.



  • Obviously depends on what kind of medical doctor you are:

    0_1515613397564_9e0f27cc-d65d-46d2-8d2b-0a777394f298-image.png



  • Considering the salary range for IT with NO degree... IT can do way better.



  • IT obviously has a ridiculously large range of income that starts around minimum wage. Doctors lack that low end stuff. But when you compare high end IT, the people for whom a PhD or MD is an option, IT gets paid really high. For example, at CitiGroup, entry level system admin, no college, under two years of experience, was $105K to start and got up to $200K. And they were considered one of the lowest in the market. And that was well over a decade ago, so a lot more money by today's standards.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Career Change:

    IT obviously has a ridiculously large range of income that starts around minimum wage. Doctors lack that low end stuff. But when you compare high end IT, the people for whom a PhD or MD is an option, IT gets paid really high. For example, at CitiGroup, entry level system admin, no college, under two years of experience, was $105K to start and got up to $200K. And they were considered one of the lowest in the market. And that was well over a decade ago, so a lot more money by today's standards.

    That's in a large company and is enterprise IT. Most of us here are SMB, and not making anywhere near 300k.

    Just because something is possible, doesn't mean it's like that for everyone.

    Find me an SMB who will pay an IT generalist 300k... you wont. Perhaps as you said, a specialized system admin for an enterprise.



  • @tim_g said in Career Change:

    Find me an SMB who will pay an IT generalist 300k... you wont.

    Find me that, and I'll probably do some depraved shit for that job.