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A 4 year bachelor's degree program from a university covers a lot of fundamentals that provide you with the necessary understanding of the way computers and the science of computers work. It provides you the necessary depth in a broad spectrum of subjects to excel in the field.
A mentor working in the field, such as me, specializes eventually, and can provide help, but mostly in the vertical segment where they specialize in.
Luckily, with the online education which is freely available through coursera, edx and udacity to name a few, you can get access to education that is available at universities in your own home and at your own time. I recommend you check these courses out.
At the end, if knowledge is what you seek a program designed to teach is a lot more valuable in teaching you the skills than any 1 person.
Hi, I would advise to look for internships and volunteer positions where you can immediately have a mentor in the business to learn from. Recruiters can help and also if you do to a company's website for positions, if they don't, contact them to ask around. You don't really necessarily need a college education to learn software systems because the field is more hands on and learning from the job. Build credibility in the volunteer position and you can learn a lot from the free opportunities.
I can only speak from personal experience. I did two years in college in Math and Computer Science, and know in retrospect that I would have climbed the professional ladder much faster and easier if I had persisted and finished my four years. But if you have already decided that's not an option, the best way to get your foot in the door is to earn industry certifications, depending on what specific field you want to land in. If you want to be Systems Administrator, I would advise aiming for an MCSA, most organizations still use Microsoft Technologies. Government, Financial sector, SMEs. Network Administrator, go for the Cisco CCNP at the very least. The point is to become an expert at something, while knowing enough of everything else to be flexible.
If you are a fast learner, start working with Managed Services Providers. I guess you could say it's Survivor for techs, and job security depends solely on your ability to adapt quickly to new technologies, changing politics, and people of all temperaments. Since most MSPs are small to mid-sized, it means your contributions will be always be noticed. You would likely have to wear many hats, deal with different technologies, different business requirements, different people at different levels on the corporate ladders, and it allows you to build lasting relationship with customers in various industries. That latter part matters a lot! Especially when you are applying for a new position. Anybody can pull-off a decent resume, but you want to be the person that has stellar recommendations from high-level executives, and owners of different industries.
If you decide to get out of that business and transition into a more traditional IT role in a bigger company, or the financial sector, it will require an adjustment from a "troubleshoot and fix it quickly" mindset, to a more "walk on eggs, always plan, and observe policies and procedures" one.
All a mentor can show you is the path, you're the one that has to walk it.
Please take a look at this new IT course that will help you: http://online.stanford.edu/course/intro-to-databases-winter-2014?utm_source=email-broadcast&utm_medium=email-click&utm_campaign=december-mailer-2013