Next move: Coding or network security?

I have recently acquired my A+ certification (PC technician) and I would like to go on to the next level. Some people advise me...

I have recently acquired my A+ certification (PC technician) and I would like to go on to the next level. Some people advise me to take a networking course such as an MCSE (including network security). However, others tell me to study languages such as XML or UML. What will be a must-have in the near future?

MCSE offers broader options
The first thing to remember is that while qualifications are a distinct advantage, experience still counts for more within the IT market.

The MCSE (Microsoft certified systems engineer) is a universally recognised and highly valued certificate, which provides students with a firm grounding in implementing, managing and troubleshooting existing network and system environments - all of which are invaluable skills to help you reach the next level. Network security is currently very much in demand, and as Web technologies continue to evolve, security looks set to remain a hot area.

Studying languages such as XML (Extensible Markup Language) or UML (Unified Modelling Language)can also be advantageous, as rates are generally higher for staff with these skills.

However, unless these skills are frequently updated, many IT professionals find that their skills quickly grow outdated. It is also worth bearing in mind that there has been a slowdown in new developments within the programming field, creating a dip in the number of opportunities available.

Your experience as a PC engineer can be harnessed to develop into network security skills, particularly if this is complemented with a security-focused MCSE. There is also a greater level of stability within this field, as companies need to maintain their current systems even during quiet periods. An MCSE also gives you a broader range of options.

This aside, it is important to you do what you enjoy. Which aspects of your current role do you get the most satisfaction from? Whichever direction you choose to take, it is important to consider how much you are determined to succeed. Well-qualified candidates are often easy to find, but it is those with genuine enthusiasm combined with relevant experience that usually land the best roles.

Solution by Howard D'Silva, Elan

The panel: MSB International, Best International, BCS, Computer Futures, Computer People, Elan, Reed Computing, Netheads Consulting, Zarak Technology, E-Skills UK

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