Entry level software developers average $63,000 to start. Entry level network administrators start at an average of $45,800. Pay for desktop support techs averages $42,000.

With starting salaries above the national average of $40,200 (according to Indeed) and strong employer demand, what’s surprising is there aren’t more candidates clamoring for a job.

What holds back many otherwise skilled individuals is the lack of work experience and the computer degree so many hiring managers demand. Although employers are loosening the degree requirement, they still want to see evidence the candidate can do the job. And the usual way is to review past work experience.

That’s a conundrum for entry-level job seekers. If you have to have experience to get a job, how do you get it without having a job?

Computerworld says there’s a way around that. “In IT, hands-on experience can often be acquired using tools on your own computer or accessible through your current job before you try to get the new job.”

Working in tech support may be a rung or two removed from developer or admin, yet it can be a gateway job. You get hands-on work experience and plenty of opportunities to demonstrate the skills to move up. And the requirements are looser.

Computerworld has a series of projects it says provide “real hands-on experience.” Mastering them will give you experience you can point to when a hiring manager asks. And since most businesses run on Windows, these projects, at the beginner, intermediate and advance levels, are perfect for tech support positions.

At the beginner level, the Computerworld article demonstrates two essential Windows tools and provides an introduction to text commands.

Current tech support professionals will find these three projects a good reminder, if rudimentary. It’s at the intermediate level that the projects get more interesting. Here, Computerworld shows how to manage remote computers and mobile devices including Android, iOS and Mac. Another project goes into some detail about administering a Windows server.

The two advanced projects are even more challenging. They build on the intermediate server project to set up a domain network adding Active Directory Domain Services. The 8th project involves cloud services and managing user access via Azure Active Directory Domain Services.

None of these projects directly involves writing code (or at least not much), nor administering a live network. Instead, they offer the opportunity to learn and to demonstrate new and improved skills. It’s a chance for existing workers and prospective ones to show initiative and willingness, even eagerness, to learn. That, and having the basic skills to do the job, is the key to opening the door to a tech career.

Photo by Annie Spratt


Tech Pros with Certifications Earn More

If you’re an IT professional and want to double that raise you got (who doesn’t?) learn a new skill or earn a certification.

That’s what Global Knowledge discovered when it surveyed tech workers around the world. The training firm won’t release its 2020 IT Skills and Salary Report until later this summer, but it gave everyone a preview of some of the key findings. Among them is the financial impact of training.

Global Knowledge found the average raise for tech professionals this year is right around 6%, which translates to a bump of just about $5,000. But those who learned a new skill earned nearly $12,000 more and those who obtained a new certification got almost $13,000 more.

“The reason for a raise impacts the amount of the raise,” says Global Knowledge. “Twelve percent of individuals who received a raise attribute it to developing new skills that were of added value. Those same individuals earned nearly $12,000 more this year compared to 2019.

“IT professionals who attribute their raise to obtaining a new certification experienced a salary bump of nearly $13,000.”

This isn’t just a one-survey wonder. Global Knowledge has surveyed tech workers since 2008 finding that those with new certifications nearly always are rewarded with a bigger than average raise. In North America tech pros with at least one certification typically earns 8% more than those with no certifications. Those with 6 or more certifications get an even bigger pay bump, earning $13,000 more than those with just one.

The reason for the difference is simple: The more skills a person has, the more productive they can be and thus more valuable. This is especially significant in tech where, as Global Knowledge says, two-thirds of IT decision-makers believe the lack of necessary skills – the skills gap – is costing between 3 and 9 hours of productivity a week.

That explains why this year Global Knowledge found a 36% jump in managers approving IT training. When training is available, 80% of managers are now giving workers the OK. On the other hand, 20% are still saying “No” to training.

According to Global Knowledge those 1-in-5 managers worry that taking time to train will negatively impact work and cause a loss of productivity. But, as the company’s report preview points out, that dip will be short-term, while not having people with all the right skills is a long-term impact.

Trying to fill the skills gap by hiring talent is so difficult that 69% of IT managers have multiple open positions. Nearly all have at least one opening.

Photo by Wes Hicks