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A high-schooler hopes an associate’s degree and an A+ certification will secure a $50,000 salary. Molly says try for a four-year degree and $35,000. Starting strong A high-schooler with some experience hopes an associate’s degree in electronics and an A+ certification will secure a $50,000 salary. Molly says try for a four-year degree and $35,000.

Dear Molly: For two years I’ve helped keep my high school’s 150+ computers up and running. I am trying to get my A+ certification for the summer in order to get a job and more experience. Then, in the fall I’m going to college to get my associate’s degree in electronics. What kinds of jobs can I expect to get repairing or building computers that pay at least $50,000 when I’m done with college?

Molly says: You’re on the right track for establishing a good foundation for a career in IT. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that your salary expectations aren’t in line with reality. More likely your first job will be working in the computer support department of a small- to medium-sized company, and your salary range will be $25,000 to $35,000. Even experienced network professionals with MCSE certification are finding it difficult to get jobs that pay $50,000.

Focus on finding a job that gives you a broad range of experience–something similar to what you have been doing in high school. If you can find a job where your manager is someone who likes to mentor new hires, even better. Your first job is a stepping stone to a better paying job, but get the most out of it.

A two-year degree is good, but a four-year degree is even better as a foundation stone in your IT career. So, if you can afford it, find a four-year college that offers the same kind of program as the two-year college. You can start at the two-year college and transfer to a four-year for the final two years. You’ll have more training and time to gather experience, and bachelor degrees look better on a resumé.

Here is an example of the kind of college to look for: Central Missouri State University has a two- and four-year program in electronics technology. It also offers various Microsoft and other IT certifications, including Cisco. In four years, you could have the training and experience you need to get an exceptional starting job in IT.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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