Have you considered working for a defense contractor? Some of the largest defense contractors in the world are located in the United States! There are a lot of benefits to working in this industry, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. Below, we take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of private defense contractor jobs so that you can make a decision with all of the information you need.
1. Great Pay
Because of Directive 8570 (and 8140), those who work with secure information need certain baseline certifications such as Security+ to even start working. That means that defense contractors need these certified individuals to meet the requirements of their contracts, and they’re willing to pay top dollar for this kind of talent. It pays to get certified!
2. Put Your Security Clearance to Work
If you have an active security clearance, or have had one recently, you’ll be able to command higher pay from defense contractors. In fact, contractors with a security clearance earned $15,000 more than their government coworkers on average. And demand for these workers is only increasing as the US comes to terms with the dangers of cyber warfare and a crippling cyber security talent shortage. Your defense contractor salary could easily be as much as $83,000 for a Network Security Administrator, but even entry level defense contractor jobs can pay handsomely.
3. Good Education Benefits
Many defense contractors provide ample education benefits to keep their workers certified and compliant. Taking advantage of these benefits can help you build your career at an impressive pace as you continue to add new certifications to your resume.
While this is a common practice, be sure to examine your company’s policies, as many require that the employee continue to work for the company for a number of months after completing their class. You’ll want to plan ahead to make sure your timeline matches up perfectly.
4. Doing Work That Matters
By working in the defense industry, you could be protecting American cyberspace or creating the next generation of defense technology. The defense industry supports our military and the important work it does all over the world.
In recent years, it’s become clear how vulnerable companies and governments are to cyber attacks that can cripple infrastructure or steal valuable data. The defenses that we build today will safeguard us against cyber terror for years to come.
5. Working with Cutting-Edge Technology
The defense industry uses brand new technology that you can’t get access to anywhere else. While you may not want to live the life of a contractor forever, your time spent working with DoD contractors will give you irreplaceable experience.
Did you know that the internet was created by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency? This is just one example of how defense technology eventually gets adopted for civilian uses. By working with the defense industry, you can use these technologies before they go mainstream!
6. Equal Pay for Everybody
The US Government mandates that all workers with a given position receive the same pay. This means that you can’t get paid less for being too old or too young, or for being a minority or a woman. If you get the job, you’ll get paid the same amount as everybody else in that job.
7. Work with Interesting People
Those who work for defense contractors come from diverse backgrounds. Many of them have had experience working in the armed forces and could tell you a story or two. Others have been studying and working with cutting-edge technology for years. If you want to surround yourself with people who are capable and smart, look no further.
8. Your Job Depends on Government Funding
The US Government is no slouch when it comes to defense spending, but that doesn’t mean your job has perfect security. As administrations change or national priorities shift, you could find that what you’re working on has been defunded. The company you work for may switch you to a different project, or all of your positions might be liquidated.
On the other hand, no industry offers 100% job security, and the skills and experience you gain will still hold their value.
9. Projects May Change at the Whim of the Administration
Similar to the point above, you may find that the project you’ve devoted all of your blood, sweat, and tears to is no longer a priority for the administration. This could be caused by political differences, changing national priorities, or external factors such as cost or economic shifts.
While your project might not be outright defunded, its focus could be altered to suit the changing winds. Work that had been completed might be scrapped or repurposed. For most, this kind of change might be stressful but would still be better than losing your job.
10. Your Contract May Be Purchased by Another Company
Even if your project continues to receive funding and support, it may be purchased by another company. When this happens, you might stay with your current company and be reassigned to another project, or you could get hired by the company that’s taking over the contract and be asked to stay on that project. New employees of the company taking over the project essentially have to start over and may have to negotiate pay rate and benefits.
11. You May Face More Criticism
If you work with employees of the government, you’ll find that you’re vulnerable to a lot more criticism. Government employees are protected from losing their jobs unless they really make huge mistakes. Contractors, on the other hand, are easy to fire and don’t have the same kind of security. It can be frustrating to see coworkers who’re just “going through the motions” with no problem while you get criticized for every little thing. Of course, this depends on the kind of position you have and the company you work for.
12. You’ll Need to Pass a Background Check
For many people this isn’t a big deal, but for others it may be an issue. Just know that any defense contractor will want a background check as a condition of employment. A background check may include employment, education, criminal records, credit history, motor vehicle and license record checks. You’ll probably also need to take a drug test, so keep that in mind.
Interested in Working for a Defense Contractor?
LeaderQuest can help! We offer IT certification courses to help you get your Security+, CEH, CISSP, and other certifications that can be your foot in the door to get hired by a defense contractor. Our courses take 5-10 days, are taught by instructors with real industry experience, and LeaderQuest covers the cost of one certification attempt per class. After you’re certified, our Career Services team will make it their #1 goal to get you hired!
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When you’re standing on the precipice of a new career, taking the plunge can be scary. No one likes being stuck in a job they hate, but getting out takes hard work, grit, and a little luck. You might know that IT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, but deciding to make it your new career isn’t easy.
Never fear! If you’re thinking about going into information technology, we’ve prepared a list of pros and cons so you can decide for yourself if the world of tech is right for you. This list builds on research from our 2016 article but includes more stats and more considerations for IT professional jobs.
Stress & Constant Complaints vs. Great Salary & Benefits Package
Let’s not beat around the bush about the hardest part of IT. You’re interacting with people whose patience has been ground down until they’re ready to throw their computers out the window. This is especially true for the Help Desk.
What’s more, for people employed in positions such as Systems Administrators, Network Engineers, or anything cyber security related, even a small screw up can mean big problems for a company and its data. With cyber security horror stories floating around, it’s bound to be high pressure.
Fortunately, with big risk comes big rewards in terms of IT professional salary. Even for entry-level Help Desk positions, the salary midpoint is around $38,000 and can go as high as $54,000, according to the Robert Half 2018 Technology & IT Salary Guide. Again, that’s just entry-level. Systems Administrators are in huge demand with starting salaries at $67,000 that can go as high as $113,000 while Network Engineers make anywhere from $90,000 to $150,000.
The real money is in cyber security which has an unprecedented need for new professionals. More and more, companies are prioritizing people who are willing to learn quickly. Many positions garner over $100,000 with the salary for a seasoned, specialized professional such as Data Security Analyst between $100,000 and $170,000.
As you can see, the pay scale for IT professionals is a huge draw. Employers use a number of other incentives and benefits to snag the top talent like signing bonuses, health insurance, generous vacation time, and professional development opportunities. Perks are also a big draw and can include flexible work schedules, social events, telecommuting, onsite/offsite gym access, a compressed schedule, and even free/subsidized meals.
Long Hours vs. Flexible Hours
Unfortunately, tech problems don’t work on a 9 am – 5 pm schedule. They can strike at 6 am or five minutes before you were planning to leave. This is definitely a job that asks much of its employees and that’s no different when it comes to their time.
Fortunately, companies understand that and deeply appreciate and value the time of their IT pros. They want you to be rested, de-stressed, and ready to deal with whatever the servers throw at you.
This sometimes means you can pick your own schedule, work on a compressed schedule, or even telecommute (work from home). This is great for anyone who hates getting stuck in traffic at the end of the 9-5 slog.
No One Understands Your Job vs. Unparalleled Job Security
IT comes with an almost endless number of specializations. Do you want to work on securing networks? Fighting cyber attacks? Or maybe you’re just interested in updating and maintaining systems? No matter what, there’s a field for you.
Unfortunately, that means that people at your company won’t always understand what your duties include. You could be a Systems Administrator, but still get asked to fix someone’s home computer. You’ll be the go-to tech expert, even about stuff that’s definitely not in your job description. What’s next? Fix their iPhone? Debug their Fitbit? Talk about scope creep.
On the flip side, being an IT pro comes with unparalleled job security. Of Business Insider’s list of 26 careers with the best job security, two were IT positions. This is especially true for cyber security. According to the nonprofit group ISACA, there will be a shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit group Cyberseek reports that 40,000 jobs for information security analysts go unfilled every year while employers are struggling to fill 200,000 other cyber-security related roles. You will be valued. You will be needed. Most importantly, you will be hard to replace and that’s a good feeling.
People Lie and Lie vs. Challenging and Exciting Work
How did your computer get a virus? Why do all these pop-up ads have the name of a website you shouldn’t be browsing at work? Why is there peanut butter and mustard smeared all over the keyboard? (And why are you eating peanut butter and mustard? That’s just weird.)
Personal snafus with the computer are embarrassing. No one wants to own up to that dumb thing they did. However, figuring out what’s wrong can be frustrating when people aren’t honest about how the computer got messed up.
What’s worse than your coworkers lying to you? Vendors lying to you. In this article from Tech Republic, they discuss the difficulty of debugging software from a third party when their support won’t admit that something’s wrong. (Our software? Buggy? Never!)
You can also expect to be lied to by vendors’ technical support departments. I have lost count of the number of support technicians over the years who have told me that a problem is not related to their software, but rather to the computer’s hardware or to the operating system. And of course I won’t even begin to talk about the number of vendors who have lied to me in an effort to make a sale.
On the bright side, what makes this job difficult also makes it challenging and even fun. IT is all about solving problems and that’s reflected in job satisfaction. A whopping 61% of IT professionals in one poll said they feel appreciated by their bosses and coworkers. And, if you ever don’t feel appreciated, you know you can find somewhere that does appreciate you.
Overwhelming Amount of Choices vs. Mobility and Options
Whether you’re interested in working on hardware, software, networks, databases, cloud security, or more, there’s a niche for you. Picking your career path can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. You can get bogged down in a specialization before you realize that it’s not where you want to be. No one wants to be extra-qualified in something they hate.
Fortunately, that also means qualified professionals have many options and career mobility. Since there’s such a tremendous need, especially for cyber security, more employers are embracing nontraditional paths for employment. IT certifications, which qualify and verify your skills, are one of the best ways to show employers you’ve got the right stuff.
With the ever-widening cyber gap, employers are more likely to invest in someone who shows they’re willing to keep on top of the updates on their own time, even if they don’t have picture perfect experience on their resume. Quick learning and the passion for improvement are invaluable commodities.
And this specialization pays off. Again, the Robert Half Salary guide found that employers may increase salaries between five to ten percent for professionals with sought-after skills and certifications. If you’re interested in getting started quickly, especially with cyber security, IT is a no-brainer.
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Is an IT Career Right For Me?
Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some people can’t handle the long hours, difficult work, and stress of interacting with people at their most frantic. However, if you’re interested in challenging and exciting work where you get to solve problems, you could have a long, well-paying IT career ahead of you with salary and benefits.
If you’re interested in becoming an IT pro, but don’t have the time or money for a four-year degree, IT certifications can be a great way to get into the field. At LeaderQuest, we offer 5-15 day courses that get you ready to pass the exam, get certified, and put those skills to use in the working world in no time. We focus on the It professional certifications that employers want the most, like Security+, CCNA and Certified Ethical Hacker.
We know that you have responsibilities. That’s why we offer classes during the day and at night. Whether you prefer to take classes on campus or online, you’ll be getting access to our expert instructors who will prepare you to kick butt on the exam and teach you to excel in your new IT professional career.
Ready to start your IT career? If you’d like to learn more about careers in IT, check out our 2019 IT Career Finder! Choosing an IT career can be a daunting task. You must balance personal experience and aptitude against the likely future of the role, both in terms of earnings and the number of IT job positions that will be available in coming years. We created this guide to help connect the dots between your skills and IT job descriptions and duties to help you find your path to becoming an IT professional!
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“Techies,” or people who are enthusiastic about and/or specialize in computer related technology is a group that is growing by the day as almost every aspect of human life becomes automated and IoT evolves. There are IT specialists, computer technologists, programmers, software developers, etc. as well as other less formal techies such as gamers and “YouTubers” among many others.
Being an IT professional comes with its share of good and bad moments. Before technology became widespread, techies were simply nerds with socialization issues. Now the tables have turned, techies are still considered nerds, but all of a sudden, these nerds are cool! Once lonely techies are turning their phones off and locking their doors to get away from the incessant requests to “help” with their friend’s, family’s, and neighbor’s computers, phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, cars, and more! All of a sudden, old acquaintances and grade school classmates are jockeying for a “friend” title.
With all of this new fame and glamour associated with technology, you may be considering whether being a “techie” is for you! Whether you are just starting your professional career or considering changing your career, here are some pros and cons to ponder.
1. Good Pay
There is no standard payment for all tech jobs. As much as IT employees of a company such as UBER probably earn decent salaries, they still do not make Mark Zuckerberg money. However, with increasing demand for technology, the biggest advantage by far of having a job in IT is that technical services attract relatively high payments in corporate, government and freelance positions. According to the Dice Salary Survey, 2015 saw the largest overall salary increase ever for IT pros! View some of the highest-paying IT certifications.
2. Spoiled for Choice
People in the technology industry are definitely spoiled for choice when it comes to identifying which type of business they want to work in. In today’s world, every industry consumes IT services from healthcare to automotive, beauty to travel, the possibilities are endless. Literally, every industry you can think of needs tech workers! IT professionals get the chance to have upwards career mobility at very early ages or they can choose IT consulting or teaching.
Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other. ~Bill Gates
3. Career Growth
Techies never have to worry about becoming obsolete. We have not yet even scratched the surface of the magnitude of technology. Every day there are new advancements in the IT field that require skilled professional IT workers. If you are looking for a career change, you need to take a long hard look at the tech world. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average growth of the industry at 18% through 2020. Everyone has the potential to grow in technical careers and earn more money with that growth.
4. A Feeling of Self Worth
Working in a career of your choice AND being appreciated is the most fulfilling ever. Employers recognize techs at every level of employment. They handle delicate parts of an organization. If they slacked on their tech jobs they would affect all operations. It is these same techs who train other employees on resolving every day issues on their own or improve processes making productivity soar. Keeping up with the technological trends is a daily job for a tech. They learn new software and about new applications. The continuous process of learning earns them many accolades, which increase their value.
But of course, you have to take the bitter with the sweet! Technology careers aren’t for everyone. Examining some of the cons that are part of an IT job description will help you decide if this career is for you.
5. Constant Complaints and Requests
Technology is not one of those skills that everyone in a company has. People can be very oblivious to and sometimes ignorant of technology. Tech employees are not lonely! There will always be many complaints and requests from your colleagues, probably for things that are not even covered in your job description. By the time you troubleshoot one computer, the other one switched off and the owner is convinced the machine has crashed when actually they unplugged the power cord when they stepped on it! The job can be very complicated and frustrating and requires patience. In a freelance scenario, people may undermine your work to try to get away without paying.
Ordinary people do not understand the entire technological mumble jumble. They assume a techie can solve any technical problem. They do not know the many tech specialties. There are application programmers, web developers, cyber security specialists, network administrators, desktop support specialists, system administrators and more! They may assume you are not qualified if they don’t understand your specialization, experience, and qualifications.
7. Long Hours, Odd Hours
Technologists are always busy. In general, IT workers can have long working hours at least some of the time. Systems are not likely to break or cause problems when it is convenient for everyone which can cause long and odd work hours. Being in IT can affect your social and family life, sleep routines, activities, etc. depending on the job and responsibilities.
8. Tech Dependency
Techies are technology dependent. Their problem-solving skills revolve around gadgets and they like it that way! Some IT pros may not be the greatest at customer and co-worker relations. Long hours of facing a computer screen and problem solving can cut into rest or sleep time and make them irritable.
In the tech field, regardless of your specialization, you will work under a lot of pressure. Take a situation where a bank system goes down. All tech staff who works for that bank cannot and will not rest until they have fixed the issue. Many industries such as banking and healthcare have vital systems and techs can count on working extra hours under intense pressure. Everyone else will pack up and leave on time, but the tech will have to stay and look for all possible solutions to the problem to make sure everything is working properly. But doesn’t it feel nice to be the solution and not the problem??
Despite the cons, technology careers remain the course of the future. There is much more to learn and discover in this field and it will continue to grow for many years. Being an IT professional is a good path for talented and creative youths and career changers alike. If you know you have what it takes to handle the cons, why not start a career in IT today?
Click the link below to grab our 2019 IT Career Finder guide!
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