Someone asked me for advice on getting started in IT, and I thought I’d post it up here as well. He’s just getting started and doesn’t really have any experience at all yet, so this is geared towards finding out if you really even want to do this for a living.

I’m going to preface this with two caveats: I am a college dropout, and I have no certifications whatsoever. I attended a University for 5 years before deciding to drop out; it got to the point where I’d taken all of the Computer Science classes I cared to and all that was left was a bunch of general education stuff that I didn’t want to spend any more time and money on. I’m not really sure whether the lack of that degree has hurt me. I still manage to get in to job interviews, and of the 6 or 7 positions I’ve interviewed for in the last 5 years, I’ve gotten offers at all but 2 of them.

If you don’t have any experience at all in IT, the most important thing I can suggest is getting that experience. Ever set up a website before? That’s a good place to start:

  • Register a domain name (e.g. or something)
  • Find hosting
  • Make a basic, static website. (HTML + images only)
  • Got the hang of that? Now go further: set up a dynamic website; Wordpress is an excellent starting point
  • Find out what a database is, what PHP is, what Javascript is, etc.

That all sounds more like web developer stuff than straight IT, but a good IT person ends up needing to be able to handle a little bit of everything, and you need to know if you enjoy this stuff at all. If you hate it, you want a different career.

Learn Unix. Windows is ubiquitous on desktop computers, but Unix provides the backbone of the Internet. Not knowing it will hurt an IT person. It’s easy to get started in: download Ubuntu, install it alongside Windows (assuming you have a Windows computer), and start playing.

Before you do that, back up everything. Backups are not something you want to learn about the hard way.

Have a Mac? Congrats, you’re already using a Unix machine. Launch Terminal and start playing.

Really, the single most important skill you can have going into the IT field is the ability to learn. Constantly. Things never stop changing, new things pop up every day, and you’ll never get to the point where you can stop learning new things. You have to be ok with that, and even enjoy it if you’re going to make it in IT.