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Getting started in the IT field, coming from a hardware background

I come from a hardware background and would like to enter the IT field because it offers a more diverse future both, from an opportunity and financial point of view. My dilenma seems to be how to get started. By that I mean what area would be prudent to get into and take an educational course? I realize that there isn't a finite answer to my question, but anything that would help to get started in any certain direction would be appreciated.

You're correct in assuming that there are a wealth of opportunities in IT. But, to leverage these opportunities, you need to possess the skills that are most in demand by today's IT managers. In a bi-annual survey we conduct -- RHI Consulting's Hot Jobs Report -- CIOs list Internet development, networking and technical support as the job categories most in demand.

Technical support makes for a great starting point for an IT career -- especially with your hardware experience. It offers you an introduction to many of the technologies being used by today's companies. From this experience you'll be able to choose a more specific direction to focus on. At that point you'll want to consider the appropriate advanced training or certification.

Once you've started to develop some hands-on experience, teamed with the appropriate mix of technical expertise, it would be worth your while to consider project work. Consulting, through a firm like RHIC, allows you to gain experience at an accelerated rate by working on one project at a time, then moving on to the next. As your skills grow, you're able to take on more advanced projects. You'll also be able to select the kind of work you're interested in -- specific technologies, platforms, etc. Most of these firms also offer free training to their consultants.

If you do choose to go the technical support route, Help Desk 2000 and the Help Desk Institute are good starting points. They both offer certifications, access to training and additional information on careers in the industry.

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