Question about CCNA

Unanswered Question
Jun 7th, 2008

Hello, my name is Kayla, I'm 21 years old and I am thinking about possible careers with computers. I would like to get my CCNA, but I do not have a degree. (I am a stay at home mom for the time being) So my question is, do I need to have a degree in order to get a job as a CCNA? Or can I start with my CCNA and work up from there? Any information or advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

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celticfc2007 Sat, 06/07/2008 - 23:56

Hi Kayla,

The CCNA is not really a starting point in IT/Computers. If you want to get a start in the IT world, using certifications as a tool to stand out from the crowd, then I'd recommend the Comptia A+. This will get your foot in the door with an entry-level job, after getting some experience, move on to the Comptia Network+ certification.

The A+, is pretty much the defacto standard entry-level computer certification, check it out here:

If you want to get a better understanding of what the CCNA is all about, pick up a CCNA study guide from your library or amazon. From a learning and employment prospective its not realistic to go from no IT backgroud / experience to CCNA--but on the flip side, taking smaller steps, and pursing A+ first will build your experience and career faster.

Good luck

sirdudesly Sun, 06/08/2008 - 05:40

Depends what you want to do, if you're interested in networks then CCNA is a great place to start if you have a basic knowledge of networking (even at CCNA level a bit of stuff is assumed knowledge)

If you're more interested in working in desktop support the microsoft certifications are probably a better route.

Above all a degree isn't required to work in IT (my IT degree is more about management of IT for instance) but there are certainatly plenty of jobs out their for people with the right attitude

Please forgive me for being controversial with all the replies that have all ready been stated but CCNA/CCENT would be the best way to start in the field of networking. The above posters are correct by stating that the usual and common way is to start from ground up and gain experience with desktop support then graduate to server support and then move on to networking support. That is the norm in the world of IT but not always the case.

For example, my company fortune 250 company employs "Level 1" "entry-level" CCNA certified persons. Whether it is in LAN, WAN, Telecom (VOIP) and Security. Larger companies normally do this type of structure versus other smaller companies or contracting agencies.

CCNA is a great start in the field of networking but also understand that you should be aware of the basics. How to ping, nslookup, icmp protocols and such. But I would still personally recommend to still pursue a college degree because that is one thing that can never be taken away from you and the CCNA or any Cisco cert expires in 2-3 years. Either way good luck and start studying!

jim_berlow Thu, 06/19/2008 - 07:44

I can't believe how many people on here think that a degree in IT isn't a requirement to working in the industry. As a hiring manager at my company (and several other companies prior), I take great offense to this lack of respect for education. I can tell you that if you do not have a degree, I will not even call you for an interview.

I don't care how many slips of paper or certifications you have, if you haven't completed a degree you are not qualified to work at my company. Universities are a place for you to prove yourself. When hiring employees, I am able to pull up a candidates school records and see how they manage assignments and timelines. If you do not have a degree, you do not have a track record. I cannot gamble the success of the company I work for because a person doesn't have the initiative to attend school.

Let's be serious - if you want to work in IT, get the degree. Then we can talk about your certifications.

I completely disagree. The only (I repeat ONLY) thing that should matter is experience. Companies use degrees and certifications to narrow their list of candidates, especially candidates with ZERO experience in the field. Simply studying and passing a certification shows nothing but that you are interested in the subject and you can pass a test. Unfortunately the nature of tests is that there are always cheaters (let alone companies that sell the word for word questions and answers).

I would use a degree and certifications to show your interest in becoming a network engineer. It is simply another way to get an interview with a company.

celticfc2007 Thu, 06/19/2008 - 16:09

Everyone sits round in a circle, waiting for their turn to introduce themselves. I stand up, eyes peering around the. "Hi, my name is Jason", the anonymous people in the room respond together "Hi Jason". The Meeting Organizer wrestles with her clip board. "So, umm, yea, I'm Jason, and I don't have a degree"(shamefully). The people G-A-S-P, followed by applause. I sit down..

Sorry Jim, seems like someone hit a nerve, close to the bone. I think its fair to infer, that Kayla would like to have a rewarding career, and likely the CCNA was indicated as a great place to start. I'm not sure about your life circumstances but possibly hers and definitely mine, its not conducive to "get a degree" before I can have a meaningful and rewarding career.

If a degree was as important as you say, basically a prerequisite, then Cisco and every other vendor would make it a prerequisite for their Certifications. Further more, "every" job posting would state "degree required", but at present neither is true.

Time for some war stories: (well, um, not really war)

I remember working for an ISP some years back, brand new MIS grad was hired. I remember my Manager G'ing this guy up to us, "Yea, this Guy knows Win2k, Active Directory, VB, he's worked with some Cisco" you get the picture, so at the end of a single afternoon,--the new guy listening to tech calls and watching how we go about our jobs, calls in the next day, and says, he's going back to school to get his BA, he's not ready for “all this yet”. Wow, so much for his shiny slip of paper (degree) and all the potential he showed.

War Story II:

Another ISP I worked for, another MIS grad, he was an OK tech, but when he applied to work at a backbone provider with his shiny degree and, to be fair, decent work experience, did he get hired, in a word no.

Ok, ok, I know what your thinking, big deal right? I'm citing 2 cases, but the mass majority....blah blah…

Whats my point? Well yea, you hit a nerve too Jim. Not everyone can obtain a degree, and some that can obtain a degree, cannot do so in a feasible amount of time. Are we supposed to flip burgers until Jim says “ok, I grant you permission to work in IT”?

Do I personally want a degree? Of course I do! Did it stop me from getting into IT? Of course not. Maybe the problem you have Jim, is the caliber of people applying at your firm view their degree as an end in itself, similarly they view certification as a sticker that goes on the top. They pass the exam, maybe they cheated, maybe they didn't, maybe used braindumps, maybe they didn't, who knows? They get a pass, and forget any technical ability they may have gained. They likely have no desire to be top-dog in whatever certification they obtained, remember its just a sticker, a trophy.

On the other hand, there are some of us, that really dig technology, because of whatever given circumstance we're not able to obtain a degree, or at least not in a feasible amount of time. Some people, don't need it, or just don't want a degree, maybe too lazy or just can't see the value, who knows? Some of these people are World Class programmers or security researchers, and some are just your above average geek, that want to be a Cisco Ninja. To that end, I guess until the world is less black & white, the rest of us in the gray area, should move into a trailer and flip burgers 'til we finish our degrees…


Richter12x2 Thu, 07/03/2008 - 12:18

Oh goody, my turn to share! I'm Josh, and I don't have a degree either, but I went through a bit of a different path. I actually went to college, started my degree in Computer Science and ended up spending at least 2 hours in the Dean's office every week appealing a grade that I received where the teacher of our Computer Science class didn't understand the material he/she was professing to teach because the correct answer was different than what they chose on their answer key. I've grown up with computers, been programming Basic since I was 7, and at 11 was adding DIPP chips to my Tandy 1000TL to bring the RAM up from 512k to 640k in the days before SIMMs. 90% of the students in my class had never touched a computer before, and they wouldn't let me test out.

Since I was working full-time to put myself through school and living on my own, it was disheartening to work 60+ hours a week so that I could afford to sit in a room for a few hours a day while the professor explained "If you push the up arrow, the flashing line on the screen will move up one line." (I received an incomplete for that class because I did all of the coursework for the year in an hour and a half at the computer lab down the hall and didn't attend class for the rest of the year, proving college isn't about education, it's about forcing you to follow the rules.)

After a year or so of this, I was offered a job making just shy of $40k a year as a helpdesk consultant, without a degree. I was 18 and currently making about $16k a year, and 4k of that went to the school, so I determined that a degree wasn't that necessary.

I'll add a couple of my war stories to that as well.

The job I had during school was internet support at a smaller ISP, back when aDSL was just coming onto the scene. They had just hired a new girl with a shiny new degree and an MCSE and aspirations to move into the networking group. Later that day I was in the breakroom where I heard her talking to a few people from the network team, to whom she explained that she didn't understand why they put her in support, since she knew so much more than we all did, and had a degree and her MSCE.

. . . I also had the good fortune to be sitting adjacent when she had to ask the Tier 2 support Lead Technician how to find a file in Windows 98. This company had a bad habit of promoting based on tenure rather than technical merit, and this guy was no exception, but I still love him for responding "You have your MCSE, and you don't know how to find a file in Windows?"

Incidentally, this ISP from north Louisiana who will remain nameless ALSO believed that the best way to gauge the amount of education about computers a person possessed was through a degree, and if you didn't have a degree then it didn't matter how much experience you had, you weren't getting in.

This resulted in an 'elite' team of 6 Network 'professionals'. Five with a bachelor's degree in fine arts, and One in General Studies. They were nice enough people though, and they were very willing to learn when I spent 30 minutes or so explaining to them that the reason we were getting dozens of calls from this particular area was due to not having enough IP addresses available in their pool.

Richter12x2 Thu, 07/03/2008 - 12:18

Incidentally this still happens. About a month ago, I spent some time with the (degreed) monitoring team of a major US retail chain (as in, you've all seen their stores, no matter where you live) showing them how to confirm proper spanning and application traffic using packet traces.

So no, I'll even go to the other end. Due to the length of time it takes to certify a textbook and the rapidness of change in the industry, 4 years of IS or CS coursework at a school will not even remotely begin to prepare you as much as 4 years of field experience. College is great. College is important. We need engineers, doctors, lawyers, and scientists to go to college and learn all about the immutable truths regarding their profession. Things like anatomy, law, scientific method, and physics that haven't changed in years.

The problem with college today is that, at one point in time, someone said "Oh yeah, a college degree will guarantee you a job making big money". So now every parent pushes little Johnny football hero into a state school to get a Business degree when all he wants to do is be a car salesman or a mechanic. Colleges are businesses like any other, out to make money, so they soften the curriculum to keep the 70% of students wouldn't have even THOUGHT about TRYING to go to college 40 or 50 years ago paying tuition and trying to convince everyone that a thorough grounding in water aerobics and music appreciation is going to make you a better network engineer. But then, it doesn't really matter if you believe it or not, because it's a requirement, and without 3 hours of volleyball, you can kiss that Baccalaureate degree goodbye.

To me, college doesn't prove dedication or determination, committment, and least of all education. To me, it proves complacency, that you're more than happy to sit in a plastic chair because you've got a 4 year (5 year?) goal that you will creep towards at the same rate as the C student who got pushed in next to you, memorizing the dates of the Crimean War and the works of Whitman and Faulkner on your way, and wondering when they're going to teach you something you might use.

If you've got drive and determination and a thirst to understand these things, college will hold you back (in this career) more than it will help you. If you're getting into computers because 'you've heard there's good money in it', college is probably a good fit for you.


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