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Advice on becoming a consultant

Your article Comparing Microsoft to other IT certifications was very enlightening. I have successfully administered a Windows NT LAN for five years. The LAN clients are mostly computerized laboratory systems with Win9x, WinNT workstations plus Unix. It had grown quite a bit to include Win2k Pro clients and Win2k servers.

My company had sent me to Microsoft classes from Networking Essentials to Enterprise Technologies. I have also taken some classes for Win2k and had a class for Solaris Administration Essentials (when it was v2.5). I have also taken some classes in project management, as my job needed the skills. My company is FDA-regulated and more and more, we are being governed by the requirements of electronic records/electronic signatures. I did gain a lot from this experience, as it dealt with validated servers/clients/networks.

Because of the demands of the job, I repeatedly postponed taking an exam to be MCP or to be MCSE. I had gained a lot of experience in LAN administration, networking and on the client side.

I hold a chemistry/biology degree and currently hit 50. I feel I am getting too old for the technician job. Could I use my background to become a consultant?

I want to start gaining some certifications to reinforce my "hands on" experience. I was thinking of re-taking my A+ (as I had certification before the A+ was formalized). Shall I pursue MCSE or MCSA? Currently, my job places me as a system administrator for the NT 4 LAN. I was also thinking of taking some Cisco or security classes. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
You certainly have a lot of aspirations, and I congratulate you for them, as one 50-year-old techie to another. Given your goals and what you describe in your e-mail, if you want to consult in the Microsoft space, obtaining an MCSA on the way to an MCSE appears to make sense. I'd also urge you to update your Solaris certification, and to think about something Linux-related, either Red Hat (RHCE) or the Linux Professional Institute (LPI Level one and LPI Level two) certs. If you're interested in Cisco infrastructures, it sounds like you could benefit from CCNA and CCNP, and perhaps also CCSP if you plan to take the security road. I'd also recommend Security+ to get your security stuff started, and that you look over the CISSP requirements to begin laying the groundwork for that more senior certification when you're able to meet its on-the-job (OTJ) experience requirements (4 years OTJ if you lack a college degree; 3 years if you have a college degree -- see Web site for details).

On the other hand, I'm not sure that somebody with your background and experience will benefit much from a current A+, unless you feel like you need a refresher on current PC technology and desktop operating systems. It's really an entry-level kind of requirement and having or not having an A+, given MCSA/MCSE, Cisco and security certs, won't make much difference to your employability.

Good luck with your planning and certification activities.

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