4 Replies Latest reply: Jan 19, 2018 1:18 PM by Andrei RSS

    Getting CCNA without prior IT experience- how to start / transition into career

    Andrei

      So I'm in kind of a weird place right now since I'm going for a CCNA (got the CCENT just now) without any prior IT experience... from what I hear a lot of people start at a lower level like CompTIA A+ or Network+. I'm transitioning to a career in IT from a rather unrelated field of international relations (which I even got a Master's in) and ultimately probably want to get into cyber-security or eventually international cyber policy, but I enjoy networking for now and want to get into the nitty-gritty of the more technical stuff for a while and thought it would be a good introduction to the world of IT.

       

      I came across a small school or business that provided courses and they recommended the CCNA one for me. I went through the month and a half long course and recently passed the ICND1 on my first attempt with a 932 out of 1000. I didn't know much about this before I got into it, other than just the idea of it, but I like it now.

       

      The thing is, unlike everyone else in that class I was taking, I had zero actual IT experience. I did get a security and risk analysis/information science tech minor back in undergrad six years ago but haven't done much with that since (and I did a little bit of coding in C++/Visual Basic back in high school and college, and messed around with some really basic Python and HTML recently, not that that's super applicable to networking necessarily). I feel like the course I took for the cert would be a good addition to someone who already has some experience, but by itself isn't enough (that's what my friend who's an actual network engineer in the field told me).

       

      So the question is now... should I immediately continue studying for the ICND2 to get the full CCNA, or should I instead focus on getting some basic-level real world experience? I was told to consider help desk jobs as a start for work in the field. But as I said before I don't have any CompTIA's or other basic certs, nor experience. The guys who "sold" the course to me were probably more concerned about getting my money than providing me a solid career foundation track, and seemed to brush over my questions about how feasible my approach was. They kept saying, "no you don't need those basic certs if you get the CCNA man, those are for people who don't know what a computer is". And I kinda bought into it. For the record, I wouldn't say I'm computer-illiterate, and am fairly comfortable with them, understanding a good amount of the tech behind them. I've taken apart and reput together an old computer, helped my parents with setting up their basic home network, partitioned my hard drive and installed Ubuntu, backed up my data to the cloud and on an external drive, effectively configured good anti-virus systems, used various advanced apps on different OS's, VPNs, added RAM and a new fan to a gaming computer, and done some occasional low-level coding, but these were all occasional scattered experiences over a long time, not intensive sustained efforts, and I'm a bit rusty on what I learned from them. Not to mention using advanced features in Office programs, like macros, and a bit of basic database management back in college. In addition to this recent (thus far purely theoretical/book knowledge) about Routing/Switching. But I've never fully built my own computer or system from scratch, nor overclocked my cpu or set up a more complex LAN; compared to most people in this field, I'm not as well-versed overall. I was thinking of eventually buying some routers and switches and messing around with them....

       

      But should I focus on maybe looking over some more basic IT stuff before actually pursuing work in networking? What kinds of things do you need for your average entry-level help desk job, cause as of now I'm not sure this rather specific networking knowledge is going to be as useful or applicable to that more general kind of job? Should I consider an online course for the CompTIA stuff? After the CCNA, I want to do the CCNA Security, but that seems a far way off now. It feels weird since I now have all this theoretical knowledge about some more advanced topics, yet don't have the solid IT foundation many of my peers do...

       

      Sorry for the long post but I just wanted to share as much on my situation as I could since I was hoping to get some clarity on what I can do to get started. I do need a real job pretty soon since I've been temping lately, so how I move forward is pretty time-sensitive.

         
        • 1. Re: Getting CCNA without prior IT experience- how to start / transition into career
          Luke Savage

          Hi Andrei,

           

          Congratulations on getting your CCENT certification!

           

          Andrei wrote:

           

          So the question is now... should I immediately continue studying for the ICND2 to get the full CCNA, or should I instead focus on getting some basic-level real world experience?

          All of the above! Okay, so not at the same time, but you can certainly start applying for jobs while continuing your studies.

           

          Andrei wrote:

           

          But should I focus on maybe looking over some more basic IT stuff before actually pursuing work in networking? What kinds of things do you need for your average entry-level help desk job, cause as of now I'm not sure this rather specific networking knowledge is going to be as useful or applicable to that more general kind of job? Should I consider an online course for the CompTIA stuff? After the CCNA, I want to do the CCNA Security, but that seems a far way off now. It feels weird since I now have all this theoretical knowledge about some more advanced topics, yet don't have the solid IT foundation many of my peers do...

          Your CCENT certification is valid for three years, so you don't have to take any CCNA level exam for a little while if you don't want to.
          If you're looking at helpdesk work, I would strongly recommend looking at the Microsoft certifications, specifically the MCSA Windows 10. That with the CCENT will look good when applying for helpdesk jobs, obviously CCNA R&S looks even better

           

           

          Clearly from your past experience with coding you have a mind suited for IT, make sure you include you previous experience, however little, on your CV as well.

           

          You'll be surprised how quickly you can progress through the certification path if you have the time and willing to do so.

           

          Good luck with your studies, and don't forget to post back here if you ever need help with anything.

           

          Luke

          • 2. Re: Getting CCNA without prior IT experience- how to start / transition into career
            Andrei

            Thanks Luke. I wasn't too familiar with the MCSA Windows 10... Seems pretty doable. The CCNA work was fairly intensive since it was my first exposure to it, but I feel like these other ones shouldn't be too bad. I'm doing some courses on Cybrary for free as prep for some of them... do you think that's a good place to start?

             

            I will say that I don't want to focus excessively on hardware itself... however I realize having a solid foundational understanding of that is still pretty essential, and messing with it can be fun. I imagine help desk jobs generally don't deal too much with that aspect of it though.

             

            One of the jobs that seemed appealing to me in the medium term was working at a data center, and the people at the course I attended mentioned that was a good kind of place to look after getting the CCNA.

             

            I hear volunteering to get some basic experience is one option, although that's pretty vague and open-ended. I'm not sure I have enough know-how to just offer to start messing around with an org's network or computers. But I guess it's true that I still have some kinds of experiences in this field. I just feel like a lot of people in it have been passionate about it since they were kids and been tinkering around with things for a long time, and I'm coming to the game late, in my mid 20s. But I truly do enjoy this stuff more than what I was doing before, so that's good.

             

            Hm, I think I may find an old computer somewhere and make it into a server as a start.

             

            All of the above! Okay, so not at the same time, but you can certainly start applying for jobs while continuing your studies.

            I get that, but I'm not sure I'm hirable as it is yet.. especially since I'm in a big city; maybe in a small town where there is less supply of qualified people and greater demand. But I imagine having college and graduate degrees, even if mostly in other unrelated fields, still counts for something right? Shows you're capable of higher-level work, organization, critical thinking, dealing with people, etc.

             

            I guess my main question is, what other paths can you take to get to a networking job, if not some help desk type roles beforehand? Is it possible to just jump right into one with just certs?

            • 3. Re: Getting CCNA without prior IT experience- how to start / transition into career
              Elango G

              Your Question: So the question is now... should I immediately continue studying for the ICND2 to get the full CCNA, or should I instead focus on getting some basic-level real world experience?

                 As Luke Savage said, you can start applying for jobs while continuing your studies.

               

              Your Question: What kinds of things do you need for your average entry-level help desk job, cause as of now I'm not sure this rather specific networking knowledge is going to be as useful or applicable to that more general kind of job?

                  If  you are looking for helpdesk work before dive deep into networking, an MCSA certification or equivalent knowledge will be helpful. Your networking knowledge will be helpful since its related but not all inclusive

               

              Your Question: But should I focus on maybe looking over some more basic IT stuff before actually pursuing work in networking?

                  Not really needed, . Networking field itself has its own helpdesk work where you will mainly deal with networking issues instead of OS/Server stuff.

               

              Your Question: I guess my main question is, what other paths can you take to get to a networking job, if not some help desk type roles beforehand? Is it possible to just jump right into one with just certs?

                  1. A job in technical call center that provides remote support for SOHO customers maybe a good start. Myself started like that.

                  2. An entry-level job in a data-center is even more good , if it is available.

                  3. Field engineer work is a good start in networking industry, where you may have exposure right from the scratch.

                  4. CCNA certification will be helpful to get straight into networking job, provided, you have adequate practice in associated Lab training.

                  5. Join study groups and participate in its discussion to ingrain the knowledge gained in your studies.

              • 4. Re: Getting CCNA without prior IT experience- how to start / transition into career
                Andrei

                Interesting, thanks for the information. If that's the case, I may start applying to relevant jobs sooner than I thought. But I may as well finish the whole CCNA while the information is still fresh in my mind. I have good theoretical knowledge but I haven't done anything with real equipment. The labs I've done were in Packet Tracer, and now I'm getting GNS3 since it's a bit more realistic and seems to be more robust as a program, as far as what you can do with it. But I can't honestly say I feel confident enough to just jump right into a networking job now, without more lab experience.

                 

                I'll definitely look for a study group of some kind too while I'm at.

                 

                Nonetheless I'm still going to look over some of the more basic content in things like the A+ to smooth over any rough patches or holes I have in my essential IT knowledge. Even if I don't necessarily go for the test and cert, it may still be good to have. If for nothing else other than just confidence in myself. Shouldn't take long either.

                 

                I'll be honest I'm not too keen on a job that deals with calls from random customers (mostly because I've always been highly annoyed at customer service and at the same time felt bad for what they had to go through all the time haha). If anything I'd prefer one where it's mostly the other coworkers in your organization that may have problems. But anyway, I'll figure out what kinds of options are available around me.