OK, let’s just admit it. The pay is good, even at entry level. I understand some people in the industry feel they don’t make a lot, but if you have the skills, you can find another job that does pay well. I live in Podunk, Montana, but I still have a stable job with good pay and basically the best benefits package available to anyone in our small town. My wife, son, and I are able to live fairly comfortably off of my income. But one thing needs to be clear.
You have to be ready to work your tail off. You can’t except to waltz in with a couple of entry-level (or higher) certifications thinking you deserve 85K a year (or a job at all, for that matter). In general (and of course with some exceptions), your pay rate is directly proportional to your work ethic. This tends to be true in any field, and I wish my generation understood this. There are no free rides, and the quality of the ride you get depends largely on your determination, not on the cosmic lottery (see installment one regarding passion for work and number four regarding respectability).
Get some entry-level experience and move from there. Some of the most successful IT pros I know got there by climbing the stairs from the ground floor. In fact, probably pretty much all of them did. I started just over a year ago with no degree and a very basic certification (CIW Foundations) but lots of drive and a foot in the door. Now, I hold several more certifications and am in school pursuing my degree, but that means nothing if I had a reputation as a “loafer.”
The “cosmic lottery” people are few and far between. Yes, network – and use those connections. Yes, go to school and get your degree, even if you’re past typical college age (hey, I am…). Yes, call your cousin and ask him about that Unix guy he knows that needs a junior admin. But more than anything else, learn to enjoy work and you will succeed.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” (Edison)