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40 Year-old entering IT, Degree suggestions and a few possible hinderances

By Bill_77094 ·
I could use some input on which direction to take for securing a position in the IT field, particularly in networking.

I have enrolled in a community college to obtain a certificate in Cisco Router Networking. But I am having second thoughts and considering obtaining an associate degree in Network Administration.

I realize that it seems obvious to pursue the AAS degree, but I have a few concerns which I would appreciate being addressed.

The first concern is my age. At 40 years of age, the clock is ticking and I worry that an associate degree would take a little over 2 years to get into the IT workforce. A certificate is only 9 months of college. I need college experience because I don't have any hands-on experience in enterprise networking. I am willing and able to obtain several CompTIA certifications in the future, once I have some hands-on experience in IT. In my opinion, any amount of college is worth the hands-on experience.

My second concern is my lack of a work history. I was fortunate enough to become a capital gains investor in my 20's, and lived off of the returns for nearly 20 years. I acquired an inheritance in my 20's and was under the delusion that the market would sustain my financial needs indefinitely. Well, we can all see what the stock market is doing right now. So I am motivated to enter the IT field. I do not have any educational experience beyond high school. So this is my first time enrolling in college.

I do have a fair amount of experience in computers and home networking, whcih I continue to enjoy learning. So I am interested and enthusiastic about the entire IT industry. I fully understand the the hard work and continuing education involved in staying in the IT industry.

Finally, the hardest part to discuss.
I have 2 felony convictions from 21 years ago. One was for sale of marijuana and the other was for auto burglary (man, was I stupid). I have done a background search on myself (through U.S. Search) and those convictions still come up.

Are those criminal convictions a complete deal breaker in becoming employed in the IT industry?

I would appreciate some feedback on the above issues, especially from Tech Republic members that may have overcome some of the issues I've written about. Also, if there are members that hire networking professionals, would you consider hiring a person with a limited work history and criminal convictions, provided that their college transcript indicated a high aptitude toward IT?

Hopefully, with a certificate in Cisco Router Networking or an associate degree in network administration, the issues I've listed above could be discussed in an interview with a positive outcome, but not a bar to entering the IT field entirely.

I look forward to your responses.
Sincerely, Bill J.

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Just being honest here

by Ben "Iron" Damper In reply to 40 Year-old entering IT, ...

My last two companies and my current one won't hire anyone with any type of felony conviction.
I think if you add that in and a lack of work experience in a really tight I.T. market it pretty much shuts you down.
AGain I am just being honest and I hope that I am wrong but it's just what I observe.

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Thanks for your reply

by Bill_77094 In reply to Just being honest here

Thanks for your reply, and honesty. I will wait for a few more responses and do some more contemplating. Thanks again, Bill J.

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And good luck

by Ben "Iron" Damper In reply to Thanks for your reply

Sorry I forgot to add good luck!
I honestly hope something does work out for you. I am a firm believer that everyone deserves a 2nd chance and can learn from past mistakes.

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I fear my company also would be unlikely to hire

by mdhealy In reply to Just being honest here

My company is in a heavily-regulated industry (pharmaceuticals) which means we'd be extremely leery of hiring a person with a felony record. I fear this would be the case with most heavily-regulated industries (think banking, medicine, insurance, etc.), so the original poster should look outside of such industries.

Here's an off-the-wall thought: if the OP is an active participant in any faith community, then one place to look for employment might be agencies connected to that faith -- these would pay less than for-profit businesses, but also might be more welcoming to a person with a record. I myself am an active participant in a Christian prison ministry program (in fact just this morning I was in a Connecticut State Prison with a group of other volunteers), and part of our standard advice to guys who are getting out is to seek out a local church.

Edited to add: I notice another poster also suggested looking at nonprofits because they tend to be less picky.

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Start your own

by kassych In reply to Just being honest here

Don't let the market dictate who you want to become..i say..get your certifications and start your own support business. You may check out the upcoming businesses in your area and propose to them what you can do for them at a lower market rate and before long you will get recommendations and in that way you will be independent.. the past is the past and it should stay there !

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A few thoughts

by DMambo In reply to 40 Year-old entering IT, ...

1) Be honest about your record. If you try to lie about it and they find out about it, you're sunk.

2) Think about the AAS degree. You're 40 now and by the time you get your AAS in 2 years, you'll be 42. On the other hand, if you don't get your AAS, in 2 years you'll still be 42. (Props to Dear Abby for that line.) If you can stay afloat, go for the degree. There are kids coming out of high schools with Cisco Adademies with CCNA's.

3) Based on my late entry to IT and my experience, I think you should look for a position with a smaller company. Even if it's not exactly IT, get your foot in and then pound home your interest in IT. In my case, I worked for a local mfg company which had no IT dept, just a guy who "knew" computers. He left and I informally filled that role. We got bought out by a big co., and I became the formal IT dept. You can even do this while in school.

Good luck, man. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Edit - Even if IT doesn't work out in the long run, employers will see the AAS and know you're serious. Get the degree!!!

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A stacked deck.....

by JamesRL In reply to 40 Year-old entering IT, ...

With a criminal record, I wouldn't even bother applying to a Fortune 500 company. Sorry to say, they have risk management policies and do background checks and it just wouldn't be worth the effort.

Secondly, you don't have a work history, and people will be expecting you to be younger. I know it may be ageism, but it will be out there for sure. It would be one thing to have changed from one career path to another, its a totally different affair to have essentially no work experience. That is a problem - no record of showing up on time and getting a paycheck.

Home experience is one thing, work experience is another. There is no boss yelling at you if something goes wrong with the home network, no pressure to perform. And most home networks are far simpler that what a certified Cisco tech would be expected to handle. Many people going into a Cisco course have a few years of IT work experience under their belt.

So if I were in your shoes, what would I do?

I would explore the non-profit field. They can't afford to be picky. They can't compete on pay with the Fortune 500. They won't be as up to date with the latest gear. But they need people and you need experience.

Edited to add: Good luck, seriously.


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Criminal Record can hurt you...

by jmgarvin In reply to 40 Year-old entering IT, ...

Two things:
A) You can never work in IT security
B) You shouldn't bother with government or big corp jobs.

So where does that leave you? First, finish that degree. If you have the gumption and fundage, go for the full BS degree. You should also look for a job NOW...Look at the mom and pop places, not for profit or non profit places, and the sorta IT, but not really jobs.

You also may need to take the crap IT job to prove yourself. I mean, CRAP IT job. You know the job where you dust computers and get your boss coffee? BUT, as long as you have that IT title, it doesn't gotta get your foot in the door.

On the other part, as far as I know felony convictions NEVER go away. In theory you could seal your records IF they happened in your teens (even if you were 18 or so), but that's a lot of work to do....So be honest and explain what happened.

Also, if your college has it, use the employment office! See if they can help you get the interviews, brush up the resume, and get in the door....

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I agree about full BS

by Dr Dij In reply to Criminal Record can hurt ...

Vast # of jobs I'm looking at ask for one.

Some only mention 7 years history tho.

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Some major hurdles there.

by dixon In reply to 40 Year-old entering IT, ...

Not to sound overly negative, but I'm having trouble imagining a potential employer or client for whom that felony history wouldn't be a problem.

Never having held a job of any sort doesn't exactly help either.

One of the inescapable core issues in this field is trust. No matter what kind of IT job you do, even if you're simply repairing people's home PCs, you're constantly exposed to, and responsible for, other people's sensitive information. If they see any reason for viewing you as less than 100% trustworthy, that's a major obstacle to success.

Frankly, if my accountant or doctor or lawyer hired a convicted felon to manage their networks, I'd be more than a little concerned.

Sorry to sound so blunt, but I find that clients consider trustworthiness at least as important as technical competence. I'm not sure how you'll overcome that, but good luck anyway.

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