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I've decided to invest in some additional training or education to boost my employability in VoIP.

Dear Ed:

I'm seriously considering a career change, having been stuck in a network administrator job for over four years now, with virtually no prospects for promotion or advancement in my current position. I know I need to add to my resume and boost my credentials to move into the VoIP arena. I have a little experience and knowledge in this subject matter, but I spend only about 20-25% of my working hours actively engaged in VoIP — enough to have learned the basics, and to know I want to learn more.

I've decided to invest in some additional training or education to boost my employability in VoIP. I earned a Bachelor's in MIS at a large state university in 1995, and have also earned MCSA and MCSE certifications in Windows Server 2003 since then. Do you think I should go back to school for a Master's in Computer Science, MIS, or Computer Engineering, with an emphasis on VoIP technologies, or would I be better off digging into a substantial certification like the CCVP or the high-end Nortel credentials instead?

Please let me know what you think. I'm not afraid to spend as long as four years pursuing this goal, which is how long I figure it will take me to earn a Master's working full-time and going to school part-time.

Thanks,
Celia R.
San Mateo, CA

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Dear Celia:

A wise man once told me that the answer to any good question begins with the same two words: "That depends…" In your case, the determining factor should be what kind of work you want to do next, and how much you're really willing to invest in pursuing your goals. If you want to work as an IT professional who uses VoIP technology, certification will be faster, cheaper, and involve less overall work on your part. OTOH, if you want to work as a technical professional who designs, builds, or develops applications for VoIP systems, then the academic route definitely makes more sense. And while you're pondering those distinctions, remember that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has conducted reams of analysis that pretty much prove that the more education you acquire, the higher your overall lifetime earnings will be.

If you really can take the time to pursue the degree, and it fits your future employment goals, that may be the best choice in the long run. But if you're just looking to boost your income and move into a different technical area, certification may be a more appropriate pathway to meeting those goals.

HTH, and best of luck with your career planning and pending education. Whatever you decide, enjoy the learning along the way, and you'll be sure to enjoy the work that follows afterward.Dear Celia: A wise man once told me that the answer to any good question begins with the same two words: "That depends…" In your case, the determining factor should be what kind of work you want to do next, and how much you're really willing to invest in pursuing your goals. If you want to work as an IT professional who uses VoIP technology, certification will be faster, cheaper, and involve less overall work on your part. OTOH, if you want to work as a technical professional who designs, builds, or develops applications for VoIP systems, then the academic route definitely makes more sense. And while you're pondering those distinctions, remember that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has conducted reams of analysis that pretty much prove that the more education you acquire, the higher your overall lifetime earnings will be. If you really can take the time to pursue the degree, and it fits your future employment goals, that may be the best choice in the long run. But if you're just looking to boost your income and move into a different technical area, certification may be a more appropriate pathway to meeting those goals. HTH, and best of luck with your career planning and pending education. Whatever you decide, enjoy the learning along the way, and you'll be sure to enjoy the work that follows afterward.

--Ed--

This was first published in October 2007

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