Comparing to a programming or systems and networks is very difficult task. As I’m a networks and system professional I would like to share my experience on these fields. In the beginning of job, I’m noticing that networking appears to be almost an unusual thing when it comes to breaking in, or the resistance you face. After my CISCO and Microsoft certifications when I got hired as a network engineer, the only thing my Manager will allow me to do is labeling in the patch panels, servers, switches, routers and making RJ45 connectors unfortunately this is not some rite of passage type of thing (If it was I’d do it with a Drunken SMILE!) because I am a system and network engineer. But the fact about is no one really likes to give information on new minted Network’s any real responsibility to the person how is really new in organization. So you are not feeling comfortable and put yourself always on job search unless you could climb up to next level by showing interest in learning things about organization and their IT structure.
Comparing to a programmer, he/she can work alone as freelancer by bidding projects and work from home where networks and system engineer can’t. Also programmers are well paid as well in any organization. So somehow programmers have more demand in IT field. Although it’s systems and networks engineers who create and secure organizational IT infrastructure Besides, next generation networking is changing more based on software defined according to my knowledge.
The thing I noticed about programming or systems and networks is that they don’t seem to have as much holding them back. They don’t have to jump through all the hoops. If they can program then you can look at the code and tell that they know what they’re doing, and they are allowed to do it, at least in some capacity. Whereas when you are Networking, you have to work, but after only someone allow you to have a chance to touch anything, or be mentored on you. This is only based on my observations some other organization may be have different environment. In some organizations none of the system and network engineers do any networking, they bring in Cisco Consultants for everything, yet everyone is not expected to have a CCNA. It’s quite weird. This may also be the same for Programmers, I really don’t know, but I don’t really hear about them complaining about how hard it is to be allowed to program. I do hear about having to work Help Desk for a few years, and damn near bribing yourself on to a network team to get into networking, regardless of your knowledge. I am sure it’s different for some people as well. But I would do programming if I could start over from scratch… at least then I could benefit from all my hard work by creating stuff for myself, or make games, versus waiting years for someone to get over their uncomfortable phase so I can log into a router and do stuff I was doing training for ICND2 3 years prior! And I know that obviously CCNA level CLI isn’t where it is but again… a little taste goes a long way to keeping people motivated to go up in that tree. I almost feel that unless you get a CCNP, CCIE and MCSE, MCSA before you attempt the move to networks and systems you are handicapping yourself in that field.
If you talking about comparison of networks system engineer and programmer. Network and system engineer needs to be always work, study at the same time and sit the expensive exams to stabilize the job where programmer can learn and grow by just working. For me at this age if my certifications are expired, imagine how embarrassing to re-sit for your certifications? I cannot be student for life time. Self-progress of learning in these two fields not worthy. If you are interested in more useful knowledge follow the below links.