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Should I study information technology in college?

Hello, my name is James. I'm someone who is interested in pursing a career in information technology because I love computers and I'm fascinated by how they work. Computer is like air that I just can't live without them. I'm going to study IT at Kapiolani Community College and get a 2-year degree then go straight to workforce. But If I do this, will I be able to land at least an entry level job? It seems that most employers prefer a 4-year degree and the 2 year one is becoming useless due to this recession. And is there lots of IT jobs in Hawaii? I live in Oahu right now. I need some advice and guidance. Thank you.

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'Depends on what kind of "IT work" you hope to get into once you're out of college.

College education is the bare minimum to get you considered for a position (it's a check-box for Human Resources going over applicants' resumes), but without some extra experience, you're going to find it tough to shine above the competition when it comes to Interview Time.

Employers want someone who can hit the ground running; and in this tough economy, there are plenty of experienced candidates who you could be competing with. The advantage you have is you'll be going for "Entry Level", and (probably) are seeking less of a Salary than more experienced competition.

If you want to be an onsite Field Technician who repairs PCs and fixes customer issues for a living, I'd suggest volunteering time at Hawaiian Hope (look up Curtis Kropar) -- they fix up old PCs for homeless shelters. IMHO, a few solid weekends of building up working PCs from salvaged/donated parts is the best experience to gain in these islands, as it really exercises your PC troubleshooting skills.

If you want to get into the Server Rooms maintaining racks, get yourself a Linux PC and/or a Windows Server PC, and learn how to install a Web Server, configure it for PHP (Google "LAMP stacks", for Linux; or "WAMP stacks" and "WIMP stacks" for Windows), and get it to run a common platform like WordPress or Drupal. Expand your self-learning from there.

The job market for Entry Level is decent (not spectacular) in Hawaii, and likely to get better as the recession improves -- belt-tightening companies today have "hired the best" to keep their body counts low; and as their budgets grow, those Jedis will want to delegate busy-work to train up newly-hired Padawans.

If you've got the 'stones to relocate to the Mainland, your prospects will likely be better... but not by much. I don't recommend relocating "for a job" (unless you can live out of a suitcase in a cheap rental for 6 months or so), as I've seen lots of guys get screwed when the gig doesn't work out. At 6 months, you can usually tell whether or not the vibe in the company is working out or not.

Good luck.

Thanks for the reply. The IT program at KCC focus on three areas: computer programming, database administration, and techinical support. And it also offers certification in these three areas as well.

Hi James. I agree with Laurence's advice, in particular the part about employers wanting to hire people who can hit the ground running. If you want to be a programmer consider finishing a four year degree at UH Manoa after your two years at KCC. There are some inspiring ICS professors at UH.

re: getting a job

Its really up to you. If you work hard and develop real expertise in an in-demand area such as network security, mobile development or big data you will have no trouble finding a good job in Hawaii or the mainland. Don't coast through school. Work hard to be the best and you will have no trouble finding a job.

First, which specific area of IT do you want to get into: networking, security, tech support, database administration, software development?  Second, what are your career growth and salary expectations?

Degrees are only qualifiers to get your resume read.  Once you get past that stage, it is up to your passion and experience to land you the job.  If you are really good at what you do, a 2-year degree will get you in the door.  Heck, if you are an expert at anything you do not even need a degree.

Tech support is probably the easiest to get into and also the most abundant in Hawaii.  An associate's degree would most likely suffice.  Based on what I have seen, jobs that fall outside of tech support ask for at least a bachelor's degree.

If you enjoy programming, then I would highly recommend transferring into the ICS department at UH Manoa.  Software engineering was rated the best job of 2011 http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/10-best-jobs-2011.  Employer demand for software developers has gone off the richter scale nationwide.  If you are a Computer Science student and you have an extensive online presence, employers will scout you and come to you before you even graduate.

Whatever you do, do not rely solely on your degree.  Get some work experience before you graduate and document everything you do in an online portfolio.

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