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I come from a roughly similar background, I started out fresh out of high school in tech support, though had done some programming on the side.

I enjoyed programming more though, so gravitated towards that, and so glad I did. Most of the people I knew from my time in the support / admin trenches have similar stories to tell, apart from some exceptions doing large-scale work for Google, eBay, and telecoms.

On average I think programmers are compensated better, and generally enjoy a better work environment.

When you're seen as working in a cost center as sysadmin and network admin often is, you'll always have the spectre of downsizing/outsourcing hanging over you.

Just don't work permanently at a consultancy (ugh). If you must work permanently, do so for 2-3 year stints, and at product-focused places or places where software engineering isn't just doing crappy line of business apps.

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