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I just completed a B.S. in Computer Science from a less-than-reputable college, and I am having trouble finding a job.

Looking around for ways to find a job, I came across an institute that teaches system administration.

Their claim is that, after finishing the course, I will be in a much better position than "normal" Java programmers and my salary will grow "exponentially". I don't buy that claim, but additionally, he kept saying that this course will help me choose jobs in country of my choice as there are very less people available in this particular domain.

When asked why the salary grows "exponentially", he drew an analogy where he said it was "for the same reasons heart specialists are paid more than orthodontists". This is because the job profile will be maintaining important data and make sure that availability of the systems which is very critical in fields like health care and Banking (I am not sure about this claim).

My whole point is, I am very interested in programming. Will taking a course in systems administration help me at all? Are any of the claims he's made reflective of reality?

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I don't understand the comparison with Java programmers here. It's a system admin course. If you're interested in programming, I would advise you to skip this. –  talonx Jul 20 '11 at 5:31
I am trying to understand, what sysadmin job is from real people, is it a "programming" type of job? –  user2434 Jul 20 '11 at 5:40
This sounds like you are being taken for a ride, and you are aware of it, but you are still asking for confirmation. Well, that's hard to give, but I think you should enquire about the salary of sysadmins from impartial sources, since you seem to be quite concerned about that area. Chances are you will find that recouping the $3k investment in a year or two of doing sysadmin work, will be tough. –  Vineet Reynolds Jul 20 '11 at 6:19
@user2434: Here's what a sysadmin does - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_administrator –  talonx Jul 20 '11 at 9:07
@user2434 - The reputability of your college is not to blame for troubles finding a job. Your resume and your job hunting/interviewing skills are far more important. –  Kevin Vermeer Jul 20 '11 at 18:37

8 Answers 8

I hope you don't mind me speaking plainly, but this is complete and utter B.S.

I have a foot in both camps (sysadmin and programming) and I can tell you that sysadmins get paid pretty much the same in any industry. Don't think that because you work for a bank you'll get paid more. You might get more working for a loan shark company, simply because they have trouble finding any staff at all.

Another thing: System Administration is something you have to love to do it. It is probably one of the most unrewarding careers you can choose, because the better you get at it, the more everybody else will think that you are actually not needed (because "everything works all the time anyway"). Plus, there are not many career paths in that area.

As a software developer ("programmer") things are quite different. You may have to start on a slightly lower salary (but even that depends on your skills and the job market in your area), but there are career possibilities, and your achievements usually will result in recognition.

Plus: pretty much all good sysadmins I know have learned their trade by doing it. Pretty much all bad sysadmins I know have learned their trade at college, without any hands-on practice.

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+1 for the last point. It applies to programmers too, I'm afraid. –  Billy ONeal Jul 20 '11 at 18:33
-1: There's some wrong information in your post. In fact, statistics show that financial sector has the highest salaries. The same thing applies to sysadmins vs. developers. Sysadmins earn statistically less than developers by a two figure percentage. I take my numbers from two highly reputated magazines in Germany, called iX and c't and I'd be surprised if it was different in the USA or elsewhere in Europe. –  Falcon Jul 20 '11 at 20:46
+1 for Falcon. I am in the USA, and I can confirm that sysadmins typically make less than developers, and financial services firms typically pay more than other industries. –  dbyrne Jul 20 '11 at 23:11
+1 to @Falcon. I know a sysadmin that works at a bank in Japan and gets paid a lot. –  Rei Miyasaka Jul 28 '11 at 22:16

Let me rephrase this question and it might make the illogical nature of the question more apparent.

I have a degree from a Cooking School will getting a degree in Cattle Herding help me make more money and get better jobs at 5 start restaurants?

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Applicable and snarky. I like it. –  mortalapeman Jan 24 '13 at 23:36

It's good information to know, and will make you more well-rounded, but it won't directly help you get a programming job.

Now if there is a shortage where you are on Sys Admins, it might get you into the door someplace that you'll be able to move into a programming job later, and make you some money for now, but it's all about your market.

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To tie in to my answer, that's the approach that I used to take but it always ended poorly. More often than not you get pigeonholed whether it be intentionally or not. Sometimes it's just a matter of everyone coming to you for your sysadmin knowledge which leads you to having to do that sort of work more than actual programming - and that weakens your experience for future work. IMO it's best just to keep that sort of knowledge to yourself unless one is okay with eventually ending up in an admin-forward role. –  geoffjentry Jul 20 '11 at 22:04
@geoffjentry, I agree with the pitfalls, it's easy to get stuck in the role you take. –  user1842 Jul 20 '11 at 22:54

Don't waste your money. While you are looking for a job, do programming on the side in open source projects or possibly for a non-profit to get some experience. This will help you far more than any other education at this point.

Also look at your resume and interviewing skills.

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Just a bit from my own experience - in most situations you're probably better off never even mentioning skills, experience, etc involving sysadmin when trying to land a programming job. The reasons vary, but it often leads to bad situations, such as constantly having to avoid behind pushed in the sysadmin direction (which will give you more sysadmin skills/experience/etc) and also discounting your programming experience as you're "just a sysadmin" (which is further hindered by the previous sidebar I just gave)

Sure it's stupid - just the fact that you've spent some time learning other skills should be a plus, not to mention I can't tell you how many times I've provided value on the job by being able to quickly resolve something due to having a smattering of sysadmin type knowledge instead of dealing w/ the experts. At the end of the day though, every time I've brought up that experience in an interview, on a resume, etc it always seems to be a negative.

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Will taking a course in systems administration help me at all?

Does the institute have any job placement programs? That would be where I'd look if you are wanting to take the course merely to get a job. Something else to consider is what is the piece of paper you'd get at the end of the course and how well is that known and respected?

Are any of the claims he's made reflective of reality?

Since the base isn't claimed as part of the exponential growth perhaps one could argue for a base that is close to 1 so the growth isn't quite as steep as one would think in looking at an exponential curve,e.g. compare graphs of f(x)= 10^x versus g(x)=2^x versus h(x)=1^x and see how flat that last one is. Course I'm not sure how many people would look at the claim this deeply.

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I think that it will help you to land better job same as learning eg. fishing... Take into account that fishing is for sure more interesting than sysadmin and sitting on the computer all day isn't healthy at all so i'd really "learn" fishing instead.

The other thing i'd recommend is sunbatching the big plus is that when you're tan you look nicer in general so you definitely will give better first-impression.

Really i mean are you serious? You think that companies look for people that knows everything and are good at nothing?

You think that you'll be good sysadmin after some "course"? OMFG? This is a scam, you maybe can learn how to write a letter in word to your mom on some course. Course for sysadmin / java dev... don't be ridiculous.

To be a sysadmin you need to be interested in this field, have 5-6 years experience (not commercial, just doing ANYTHING). You think that you finish some 'sysadmin in 3 weeks' BS and anyone will hire you when you show them some worthless 'certificate' that I could, myself print from my A**? If you have any doubts... better go for a brain surgeon course :) The job definitely pays more.

Name the company or maybe send us their URL please... so we could have a laugh :)

When i got first job no-one asked me where from i graduated. Just get serious and get better in what you're good at. You need something that you like / hobby, get better in this field.

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Steer clear of this. it sounds like a career college which are unfortunately basically scams. If you want to program the only thing that's going to get you started is to catch a break and get some experience under your belt. I know how it is.... I was unemployed for 11 months before I caught my break. If you can, volunteer somewhere for some web programming or something. Also, from everything I've ever read, the bar is even higher for sys admins. I have NEVER seen an ad for a sys admin that didn't want 3-5 years experience at least.

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