Should I be a programmer or a network administrator?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by jc0481, Nov 2, 2006.

  1. jc0481 macrumors regular

    Mar 16, 2005
    My counselor was not very helpful. So I turn to you guys. I want a job that is fulfilling and has good job security. I want a career that is still in hot demand years from now. Should I go for the networking which the full name is Information Systems security or Software Applications & Programming?? I wish I can pick one so easy that will just fit you know. I see in the paper a lot more programming jobs than networking jobs. Hope you guys can help. Thank you
  2. macman2790 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 4, 2006
    programmer is the way to go. well just my preference but IMO it sounds like a more interesting job. Go with the networking one if you don't want to go through a bunch of math though, but it's worth it.
  3. Cybix macrumors 6502a


    Feb 10, 2006
    Western Australia
    I've done almost everything in IT, from many years ago doing desktop support, through helpdesk, through network administration, then system administration, then analyst work (which is where I am now), with some form of programming along the way.

    my advice is this.

    System administrators are disposable. Unless you specialise in something like old skool UNIX, or your a database administrator... most sys admin's can be replaced within a week if need be. (especially the case for windows admins)

    Programmers become very valuable, especially when applications are developed that are absolutely required for the running of a business (business critical apps).

    I work for a large fast food company in Australia and we have truck loads of very custom stuff here... mainly all Linux based. There's loads of perl, java, and what not.... some of the guys that do dev work here can ask for almost any salary they want, as the company could never let them go :)
  4. Markleshark macrumors 603


    Aug 15, 2006
    Carlisle, Up Norf!
    Where are you from? The UK? Forget computers... Become a plumber or an electrician...
  5. bgd macrumors regular

    Aug 30, 2005
    In my world (Investment Banking) there is job security and programmers are expendible. Most development is moving off shore to places like India, Singapore, China, etc. The people that are in demand are the analysts that can prepare good specs and bridge the gap between business and IT.

    So depending on the industry you move into you may need more than one string to your bow.
  6. KingYaba macrumors 68040


    Aug 7, 2005
    Up the irons
    Work as the IT guy, refine your programming skills on the side, then go with it.
  7. beatsme macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2005
    Be an IT administrator.

    Programming is kind of like manufacturing, in that it can be done pretty much anywhere. A programmer in India makes around $8.00/hr., whereas a programmer in the US makes around $45.00/hr. Easy to see where that job market is headed...

    Being an IT administrator is kind of like being a mechanic, or a plumber, or an electrician, in that those jobs require you physically to be there in order to do them. There have always been those kinds of jobs, and there always will be...can't really ship those overseas.

    EDIT: also, you should note that being a programmer means, with very few exceptions, you work in Silicon Valley. That's where the industry is, so that's where you have to go. IT Admins are in demand in just about every city and certainly in every state in the country.
  8. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    The savings with offshore outsourcing are generally overestimated. Many companies that outsource a significant chunk of coding to e.g. India end up either going bust or bringing it back onshore. The last company I worked for spent a large amount of cash hiring workers (and in some cases rehiring workers they'd laid off) in the US after a failed outsourcing experiment.

    This is not because the offshore engineers lack skill, but the management and quality control costs are magnified. Not to mention that, without exception that I could see, non-employees have less of a stake in the company (this goes for hiring contractors to work inhouse too - I've spent the last two months bringing some code that a contractor developed up to decent quality and I'm still not happy with it. It would have been better to start from scratch, but we would have missed our launch date).
  9. mleary macrumors regular

    Sep 13, 2006
    Programmers only work in SV, what are you smoking?
  10. beatsme macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2005
    I'm overstating it

    what I mean to say is that you go where the programming jobs are. They're not nearly so ubiquitous as IT jobs
  11. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    Just a tad. :p

    I guess there are no programmers in or around Redmond, WA.

    As others have suggested IT administrators are expendable/outsourceable. Generic programmers are too. You should consider an angle like getting a EE or business degree and still take lots of programming/IT classes.

    The IT jobs the remain less expendable are the problem oriented jobs where the programming or system administration are central, but not sufficient, to solving a particular problem.

  12. pilotError macrumors 68020


    Apr 12, 2006
    Long Island
    I would say forget IT and go into something else completely. Get a good degree in Business and get an MBA. It used to be fun, but it mostly just sucks these days...

    Like others have said, you can't compete salary wise to a generic off-shore programmer.

    Going into the Security side of it is an up and coming (actually already big) part of the IT world that isn't easily outsourced. It pays pretty well too.

    Things like Network Engineering (designing the networks) are pretty decent too.

    Any major city has programmers, different parts of the country specialize in different technologies and obviously different business lines. I don't think Silicon Valley has a stranglehold on any market unless you want to work for a large vendor.

    Any large corporation needs good networking folks, programmers, DBA's and management.

    Mid-Sized companies are more at risk with outsourcing, since it needs a strong management and QA team to deal with off-shore work (depending on the type of work). The good thing is if your willing to do the time, you can move up the ranks quickly.

    Small companies don't like to pay anything.

    At some point it becomes a quality of life issue. Do you really want to be doing this when you hit 50? Can you offer your employer any benefit over some kid graduating school that can do the same job $75K cheaper?

    If I had to do it over again, I think I might take the MBA approach.
  13. lmalave macrumors 68000


    Nov 8, 2002
    Chinatown NYC
    I see many things wrong with this post:

    1) I have 10 years experience in the IT industry. I've been working extensively with Indian outsourcing providers for the last 4 years. There is *still* a shortage of good IT people, folks!!! At my company we *cannot* hire people fast enough. The Indian hiring is *in addition* to the U.S. programmers. The thing is the Indian universities, with few exceptions, just cannot compare with U.S. ones. For the foreseeable future there will still be a place for U.S. programmers from good universities (esp. ones with good communication and business skills).

    2) Not true!!!! In programming you need a *lot* more communication than you do for IT maintenance. In the project I've been working on for the past year and a half, at least the same percentage of IT sysadmins are outsourced as programmers. Furthermore, the IT admins are primarily working offsite (all you need is a VPN connection after all). In my opinion IT sysadmins are definitely more expendable. Yes, there will always be some percentage of IT admin jobs where the person needs to physically install the computers or physically go to a user's desk to troubleshoot something. But that is a small percentage of overall IT expenditures compared to maintaning servers, etc. that could easily be done remotely.

    3) Majority of jobs in Silicon Valley??? Mmm...okaaaaaaaaay. Just because Silicon Valley is the *largest* market doesn't mean it comes anywhere close to being the majority. The vast majority of programming jobs are *not* in Silicon Valley!!! Major metropolises, yes, but that could just as easily be Austin, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, Boston, Phoenix, etc. You could work almost anywhere including a lot of small towns.
  14. adroit macrumors 6502


    Sep 28, 2005
    Victoria, BC

    IT can go offshore too if they really want it to. They can remote desktop into everything you do so really, that is a mute point.

    Anyhow, either job is good. Just pick the one you like better and can be the best at it. If you are just a generic programmer or IT administrator, then the company obiously can replace you with in a day. But if you really good at something and know their system really well then any job is pretty secure. Even if they can find somebody else to replace you it would take years of training to be as good as you then obviously you are not really replaceable.

    It doesn't matter what you do. Just pick one that you can be the best at it.

    EDIT: Excellent post lmalave.
  15. lmalave macrumors 68000


    Nov 8, 2002
    Chinatown NYC
    Heh, I have an MBA, and while I'm definitely making more money and have slightly more job security, it's NOT a cure-all!!! The exception would be if you plan to go to Wall St. In which case, you can decide if you really need the MBA later: the first step is just to head to Wall St. immediately after undergrad. And I *do* definitely recommend this route. I wish I woulda just gone straight for the money and gone to Wall St., but at 33 it's a bit late to change course. Everybody I know who went that route is doing *really* well. I always wondered who could actually afford to live in Manhattan and buy a place. Well, it's those folks!!!

    The only other career that can compare is being a lawyer. It's tough, but if you think you have what it takes to: 1) do very well in college, 2) go to an elite law school, and 3) get hired by a big law firm - then you're pretty much set for life. You start out making at least $125,000 at the age of 26 or 27, and from there you can be making upwards of $400,000 by your early 30's. It's just sick. That's really the route I wish I woulda taken. I mean, I have an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from NYU, but the thing is that being in Tech, the only way you're gonna make that kind of money is by being an entrepreneur and striking it rich, or getting lucky with a startup that gave you a lot of stock options. Despite all the stories of dot-com riches, believe me, a *lot* more people were getting rich being lawyers or investment bankers than ever have gotten rich being techies....
  16. lmalave macrumors 68000


    Nov 8, 2002
    Chinatown NYC
    Thanks! :)

    ...I forgot to include Vancouver, BC in my list of cities with thriving software engineering opportunities. If anything would get me to leave my beloved NYC it would be work for Electronic Arts in Vancouver, and go snowboarding in Whistler every winter weekend :)
  17. beatsme macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2005
    I didn't expect it to be parsed to death. And you certainly made some excellent points. But:

    what I'm saying is that there will always be a need for a guy who can come into your office, install and set up the servers/routers/permissions/hosts, test the entire network, and then present you with the bill. You can't do that over the phone.

    And in terms of support, good service up front generally equals a callback for required maintenance, since in my experience people would rather do business face-to-face with someone they already know. You can trust your network to a call center in India (or some other remote location), very true. But personally, I'm not comfortable with the idea of granting administrative access to a VPN client. That's my own hangup, though...

    And the Silicon Valley thing? I freely admit that I overstated it. My point (attempted before caffeine) was that programming jobs are not so widespread as IT jobs.

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