Rookie in IT....

Unanswered Question
Jul 15th, 2009

I am wanting to get into the IT field, in Networking to be specific. What are the typical steps for a rookie getting into the networking field?

Do you need a Computer Science Degree or other college degree first?

I am looking for help and/or suggestions on the correect steps to lead me into a career in the networking field.

Thanks for the help!

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Overall Rating: 5 (1 ratings)
pipemajor Thu, 07/16/2009 - 14:10

Given the current economy, I'd say it will be difficult to gain entry into a profession where many experienced professionals with college degrees (such as myself) are being laid off.

You need to earn your stripes to earn consideration from hiring managers (who will all likely have college degrees).

Get a technical four year degree (Computer Science or Engineering) and get all the work experience (probably non-paid) you can.

You don't mention your age group. If you are young enough, one of the best places to cut in would be our armed forces. It's a great way to get experience AND help for college expenses.

attbis_082 Sat, 07/25/2009 - 17:36

Some people are very negative on here. Look on and tell me there are no good IT jobs right now for certified Cisco people. To try and discourage someone and tell them to join the military is just absurd. A combination of a degree and work experience is more important than your specific degree. I have been very successful thus far without a degree, just getting good job exp is most important. If I were in your shoes I would do computer science, apply for a security clearance from the govt and then stick to the cisco certs. Look at all the positions right now for CCNAs with security clearance its a huge market right now. Security clearance gets you about 20% more in pay also...

avillalva Thu, 07/16/2009 - 17:16


We are about 3 weeks away from the launch of a training video specifically for people in your situation.

Keep an eye out for

I think that you will find it very informative.



michael.xq.zhan... Fri, 07/17/2009 - 07:06

Hi, I kind of disagree with one of the replies in regard to your situation. In my experience, as long as you decided what to do in your life, go for it. Most likely, there is no nicely paved road to your IT career. This might applies to almost anyone who tres to accomplish something hard to obtain. Don't let others to scare you away. We all know that the economy is bad now. In fact, this is the best time to STUDY! By the time you finished your study, the situation might turn around. In my experience, you don't need a computer science degree or engineering degree to get into IT field. Even if you do study computer science and completed in 2 or 4 years. By the time you completed your degree, your knowledge might be barely useful in the current rapidly changed IT industry. College and degrees give you the methodology, the right way of thinking and overall habits of going to the right direction. You might also have a slight chance of being hired by hiring manager who is looking for it. But merely having a college degree does not give you the skills to do the latest technologies that changes on daily basis. The networking and computer industry is so dynamically changed monthly basis, if not on daily basis.That's why certifications come to rescue. Cisco certification, maybe other certifications will teach you or sharpen your skills to the point that you really know the real stuff in the corporate environment and you could excel based on your skill. If you have the will to learn and go after CCNA, CCNP and CCIE, nobody can stop you. Also, no one, ever, will take away your knowledge that you gained from certification. All you need to do is to make some investment and buy some cisco L2 switches and possibly one L3 cisco swith. Don't buy router because you could use the Dynamips along with GNS3. Last but not the least, buy books! If you are new, buy Todd's CCNA book first and concentrate on Chapter 3 which is the critical part to get your feet wet. After that, buy ONLY cisco books. Remember, even with the bad economy when people are laid off, someone guys are on the job doing their daily IT works. And guess who they are? They are the heavy duty gurus like a tree stump. All the tiny branches and leaves will be blowed away by the bad economy wind.You want to be the best, the heavest staff in your company, right. Go study and suffer and start as rookies. One day, you will make it. It won't take long. Trust me. I called this " FROM SLAVE TO MASTER MISSION". I completed my CCNA, and working on my CCNP now. My final goal is CCIE R/S and CCIE Security.

Good Luck!

CiscoTraineeship Fri, 07/17/2009 - 07:43

Bravo ! Well said Michael, I think you hit the point. We all suffer from this terrible, historic economic downturn, some of us are waiting for the ICT job market to come out of this long lethargy since september 2008.

This is the best time to study, Companies will defreeze at some point ICT budgets to invest massively in ICT infrastructure and hire new talents to deploy and maintain their new VMware / Citrix / SAN / Cisco gears.

This is global economy and plenty of opportunities for ICT technicians willing to study hard and passs certifications.


pipemajor Sat, 07/18/2009 - 08:30

Some of you are certainly welcome to disagree with my opinion but... I have over 17 years of IT management experience and have had to make many hiring decisions.

That said, if I see a candidate without the discipline to get some type of formal schooling but has a boatload of technical certifications (and likely a lack of work experience to back them up), that candidate will usually go to the bottom of my "eligible" list.

Example - I had a vendor who had an engineer who did have viable experience and a boatload of technical certifications - CBE (Certified Banyan Engineer), MCSE, CCNA and was even certified on Solaris. He had no college degree. Once his small IT company folded, he had to go out and compete against equally current technical candidates who HAD a degree. Most of his technical certs had expired. A college degree does NOT expire.

Look at just about any job posting and the requirements. What is usually the first requirement on the list? A certification? No, a degree. Or possibly even equivalent work experience.

I had a cousin who started working as a draftsman right out of high school. He was good at his job but was continually passed up for promotions because they all went to candidates who had degrees.

I'm not saying a degree in itself is the end-all qualifier. A seasoned professional is expected to engage in continuing education - technical and otherwise.

Look back after the dot-com bust following the millennium. Prior to that, IT was HOT. Students learning web development found they didn't have to finish school but could get an instant job paying them $70k per year. Many of them jumped out of school. Then came the bust, their jobs (and likely companies) also went bust. Now they have to compete in a down-market against their peers who decided to stay in school. I saw lots of those resumes come across my desk.

There is a child's story about an ant and a grasshopper. The moral of the story is completely valid. Yes, I do realize Bill Gates never finished college so there *are* exceptions. A few, but rare. The odds are heavily stacked in favor of the degree-holders.

Just my 2¢ worth...

Jon Marshall Mon, 07/20/2009 - 14:16


"That said, if I see a candidate without the discipline to get some type of formal schooling but has a boatload of technical certifications (and likely a lack of work experience to back them up), that candidate will usually go to the bottom of my "eligible" list."

Does make you wonder how many great candidates you have missed out on. Personally i have a university degree in Politics/Philosophy and can honestly say it has had no relevance as to how good or bad i am at networking. And if a person hired me beause of that degree more fool them.

Your'e right a college/university degree doesn't expire but just how useful is it if it isn't computer related.

"Look at just about any job posting and the requirements. What is usually the first requirement on the list? A certification? No, a degree"

Again unless it's a computer related degree then using a degree as a requirement is just misleading. It doesn't even prove the "discipline" for formal training. Actually someone who has had the motivation to go and study for certifications shows an interest in the subject and shows more discipline in my opinion.

"I do realize Bill Gates never finished college so there *are* exceptions. A few, but rare"

I guess our experience differs. I started in IT as a Solaris admin and met some of the smartest IT guys i have ever worked with. And they didn't have a college/university degree. They were just very bright, very dedicated and passionate people.

And these are the sort of people who would usually go to the bottom your eligible list ?


michael.xq.zhan... Tue, 07/21/2009 - 05:19

I totally agree with Jon. Making a hiring decision sometimes can be very difficult. Hiring a wrong person simply because he or she has a college degree has caused companies fortunes. College degree is nice to have. But if the hiring manager only hire those who have degrees and skim out all the rest who have certificates but no degree, the chance to make mistakes is huge. I have both BA and master degrees too. But personaly the reason why I study cisco certificate is because I am stuck at IT career. I want it to move on. When I am being interviewed, people ask me " What does FIB do and what is the realationship between Adjacent table and FIB table? " My master degree on MIS and college degree won't help me to answer that question. Hiring manager makes final decisions but if I can not pass those techie interviewers' questions, I won't be even able to see the hiring manager! Period.

The key to the IT field is to have a passion to learn and put your hands on the equipment and practice at home with your labs. Be a nerd and setup VLANS and Active Directory, Exchanges at your home, SQL etc. Play with the new technology; setup Windows 7, Server core, be a geek. You will realize how much you missed and how little you know. If you have laisure time after you get hired and you want to compete with your co-workers and if you and your peers are on the same technical level, maybe a college degree will make you a little bit different and get prompted to become a manager. LOL. All the IT geeks that I know of, have no intention to become a manager. However, lots of them are willing to their own boss. You need to know your stuff to achive that goal.

clone7609 Sun, 07/19/2009 - 19:41

Hi- I'm in the same boat as the original poster in terms of wanting to get into the networking field and wondering what kind of training & certifications to go after and in what general order. I've taken A+ hardware and software classes this summer at a community college and I'm tentatively planning on taking the CCNA1 & 2 classes in the Fall. I say tentatively because I'm not sure if I'm jumping in too quickly without the proper foundational networking knowledge. Is it too big of a leap to go directly to taking CCNA classes from only A+ classes? If so, what, if any, classes/certifications are recommended prior to taking the CCNA classes? Any advice would be appreciated.

sking2009 Fri, 07/17/2009 - 12:32

I'm in your shoes bud, kinda. I have 3 years of desktop support experience but knew little to nothing about networking.

I'm going to school now for networking but to be honest, I've learned more studying for and achieving my Network+ and now studying for CCENT.

Sure degrees give you some knowledge, but it's really just to get your foot in the door. After that, your "real mettle" is tested.

1. Don't let people discourage you. People told me "Oh, the A+ and Network+ certs are garbage, don't bother with them.", they're still working at Geek Squad and I'm working in an IT Dept making over 50k a year... with no degree. Shoot for the stars bud, only "you" can stop you.

2. Set tough, but reachable deadlines. I told myself that I will give myself a month to study for and take the Network+ exam (Because I'm lazy ;p). The reason I did this so it wouldn't let me be lazy and FORCE me to keep my nose in the books so I wouldn't waste the $240 exam fee. The A+ exam I didn't force myself, and it took a year and a half. ;p

3. Practice, practice, practice. Especially when you're working on your CCENT/CCNA. See if you can get some cheap used corporate routers/firewalls/switches off ebay. Setup a computer on one end, another computer on the opposite end, and just the router and switch in the middle. Once you get the two able to talk to eachother, add the firewall. After that, try playing with VLANs, etc.

I used a Dell PowerConnect 3448P switch, Cisco 1841 router, and TZ180 SonicWALL firewall. The Dell's console terminal uses similar commands to Cisco IOS.

Hope this helps encourage you to achieve all your dreams.

Again, degrees are nice but it's a foot in the door. I was going to go Computer Science, way too much math though and I'm not planning on being a scientist. ;p Subnetting involves math but not Calc 2 and above lol.

mark.paquette Tue, 07/21/2009 - 04:11

I'll add an email I put together for my own team (which is now being split up into various engineering & operational roles), in an attempt to help them prepare for what else might arise:

If you are going after certifications, starting from the ground up, the following might be a useful guide unless you're jumping straight into CCIE:

CCENT - Networking (Entry) - Pre-requisites are none, you need to pass 1 (specific, not sure which) of the 2 exams needed for CCNA.

CCNA - Networking (Associate) - Pre-requisites are CCENT certification (sort of … you really just need to pass the two exams), plus the second CCNA exam.

CCDA - Design (Associate) - Pre-requisites are the CCNA certification, plus the CCDA exam.

CCDP - Design (Professional) - CCNA, one exam (not sure which) from the CCNP cert, plus the CCDP exam.

CCNP - Networking (Professional) - CCNA, plus the 4 specific exams.

CCIP - Internetworking (Professional) - CCNA, one exam (not sure which) from the CCNP cert, plus 2 (BGP+MPLS (composite) && QoS) or 3 (BGP, MPLS, && QoS) exams.

CCVP - VoIP (Professional) - CCNA, QoS … which if you achieved your CCIP already is already out of the way, plus about 3 more exams VoIP-specific exams (CallManager being the most boring … and the one I regret studying for the most - wish it were the first and not the last test I took in the track).

CCSP - Security (Professional) - CCNA plus 4 security-specific exams … has no overlap short of the CCNA requirement, so unless you're bored or have all of the others and want to renew your Professional and Associate-level exams, there's no real reason to study this yet unless security is what you're interested in (lots and lots of acronyms - which trip me up).

The above list lays out what I believe to be the most efficient pursual with the maximum certifications and overlapping of study material, exams, etc. For example, some MPLS and BGP stuff is already covered while studying for CCNP and CCDP certs, so there's less you need to learn new for CCIP, etc.

GNS3 is an excellent graphical router (hardware) simulator, but you need actual Cisco IOS images to run on the virtual routers. is where you can get exam vouchers for cheap … order a voucher at least 2 days before your exam because you need to schedule your exam at least a day in advance and you need the voucher # to apply it to the exam reservation cost.

The Cisco Press books are excellent - use sticky-notes to mark pages you want to go back to, etc. The CCDA / CCDP books are highly-recommended reading after your CCNA ... they focus less on the actual commands used and more on the design and theory of why you design as they suggest. Note that I put the CCDA/CCDP certs after the CCNA - I recommend it and wish I had followed the order I outlined above.

The reason I've chosen to pursue to many Professional-level certs is because of the overlap between them, my company reimburses me for the exam (although the vouchers save me some dough if I have to pay myself), and I really can't justify the stress and expense of flying to a Cisco lab exam, especially not in this economy with my personal bottom-line. If they offered the lab in NYC, I'd be taking it as often as I could, for multiple CCIE certs.

I wish I had known about the Knowledgnet CBTs back when their study materials were current - I had the opportunity to go through the QoS one after taking a QoS course and it was identical to the classroom material with the following benefits: replay, color, animation & sound, in addition to the student course material. One of my problems with attending vendor official courses is the flat black-&-white student materials - so much is lost.

mark.paquette Tue, 07/21/2009 - 04:13

Two other things:

1) Any college degree will help, it shows a discipline employers like to see, but it's not the most important - drive, determination, hard-work, integrity ... these are hard to portray in an interview, but highly sought-after by the greatest of employers. I went with Computer Science, and actually enjoyed the math most of all because all you had to learn was formulae and how to apply it, not a series of names & dates and places, but there were classes I disliked, like database structures (bo-ring, not that it wasn't informative ... best I can recall, it was).

2) Do NOT give up - if this is what you want to do, then do it. We all have it easier in that we're not the first ones to be taking these tests, getting these certs, or doing these jobs - many others have come before us and showed us that it is possible. The pioneer had the greatest challenge.

As someone recommended the military - one of my great regrets in life was that I never enlisted, but my father and brother both served in the military and none of us knew anyone in the family that had ever graduated college so ... I took the road less travelled (over 8 years of night school while working full-time) for my family, I guess, and that has made all the difference.

If you do opt for the military, remember that without a college degree, you will never be a commissioned officer (last I understood).


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