Deciding on an IT career track can seem like an overwhelming task, especially for those unfamiliar with the technology profession. As a testament to this, TechRepublic member Pavan54 asked for a little career advice in our Technical Q&A. Pavan is an undergraduate student studying computer engineering and is unsure of which IT field to specialize in: hardware or software. Pavan wants to base the decision on which field will have better openings and opportunities in the future. To help Pavan and everyone else struggling with a career choice, here is a little advice from TechRepublic members.

Hardware wins out but only slightly
“Go for hardware,” writes member GuruOfDos. “Any 14-year-old kid can write software.” GuruOfDos doesn’t believe learning software is a viable option at a university because “whatever they teach you will be out of date/old-fashioned/obsolete by the time you graduate.” As an alternative to either hardware or software, GuruOfDos recommends embedded systems, which combine both hardware and software. “Another great field to get into at this time is robotics and microrobotics, which also combines elements of software and hardware,” writes eBob.

Aqmike also recommends going with hardware. “I find it to be more enjoyable,” writes Aqmike. “But I also hate to program. Hardware changes fast enough that there are always new things coming out to the public. I also think that hardware looks more impressive because others can actually see what you have done and what you have accomplished.”

Lo disagrees that software is a bad field. “It is highly unlikely that any hardware will run or do anything worthwhile without software (and vice versa),” Lo writes. “Take some intro classes to both, as well as robotics and other areas in which you think you may be interested. In the course of doing that, you will find something you enjoy.”

Do what you love
Despite whether our members pitched their tent in the hardware or software camps, the sentiment that you should do what you enjoy was universal. “The most important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing, ” writes eBob. “It will do you absolutely no good if you get into something because you think it would make a good career, if you’re always miserable.” Centaurus echoes this opinion writing, “It’s a question of love, not money.”

Career resources
Whether you’re in college and deciding on a career path or changing professions at 40, having helpful career resources is critical to making the right decision. The following links are a good sampling of the career-focused articles, columns, and downloads that TechRepublic offers.
“IT education choices depend on career paths”
“Changing careers at 40: What salary should I expect?”
“Jump-start your IT career in customer support”
“Career advice for contract IT pros”
“Download these resources to standardize job interview questions”
“Many techs feel the sting of age discrimination”
“Experience and certification important for support success”
“Techs say they work too much”
“Avoid burnout: Ask your boss for a little recognition and reward”
“Succeeding as a ‘career subordinate'”
“Help desk analyst builds career around customers”
“The importance of working an enterprise help desk”
“Beef up your resume by doing volunteer IT work”
“Do language skills enhance IT careers?”
“Best-kept secret? Military tech training”
“First Person: Climbing the IT career ladder”

The right career path

What advice can you give Pavan? Are you in the hardware or software camp? Post a comment to this article and share your opinion. If you have a question that you can’t find an answer to, post it in TechRepublic’s Technical Q&A section. Other TechRepublic members will try to answer your question in return for TechPoints.