Hey all, thought i would get some opinions on this matter. I'm currently working towards a degree in Computer and Information Science, and studying for A+/CCNA certs. I'm determined to get into networking, though i have to admit thus far my knowledge base is still fairly limited. I was wanting to hear from other networkers out there what kind of steps they took to get where they are today; what sort of certs they went after, what kind of hands on learning they got, what they would reccomend for jumping on into the field.

it's not about certs, what you need is experience. find a job, and learn as you go

Definitely agree with DimaYasny, but it's a catch-22. You can't get "formal" experience without a job in that field and you often can't get the job without the experience. I had been trying for a long time to get into the networking field. I had A+ and had taken the CCNA Cisco Academy courses (didn't take the exam until after I found a job that would pay for it), but wasn't considered for any networking jobs with the book knowledge and limited formal experience I had.

I had done PC repair/support for almost 10 years before I landed the job I'm in now (Waco ISD's Network Administrator). I lived in Dallas, TX for all my life until I moved here and with that kind of competition you have to have a specialized edge or at least a couple of years exp. to get an interview for a lead network role.

I was fortunate to be able show the people that I work with what I know; and when an opening came up, I was promoted even with limited experience. This is one way but it takes too much time and patience.

Definitely, spring for the CCNA cert. I wish I did. I was poor and otherwise lazy. That is the entry level cert for network personnel IMO. Much like the A+ is for PC support. If you pass that, might as well go ahead and take the Net+ (if you've got the green) since a lot of the same info is on it and it doesn't expire. Nice to have more than two items in the certifications section of your resume.

I would learn a *nix OS. Fedora is my preference. Ubuntu (Debian) and CentOS are also good flavors of linux. Fedora and CentOS are based on Redhat Ent. which IMO is used in production environments more often. A lot of network admins use linux for a number of reasons. Security audits, NIDS/Firewalls/etc w/triggers, log manipulation for easy parsing and viewing, wireless intrusion testing, just to name a few. I personally like to sit at my desk when I have a little down-time and do a tail on the web proxy log and watch internet traffic for a particular campus. Text flying by at a CLI makes it seem like your busy and people leave you alone, not to mention it makes an adequate screen saver too. :)

You'll probably want to look for a Network Engineer position first. There are more jobs and more lax requirements. That way you can work under a Network Admin first and learn as much as you can. Learning from someone else's mistakes can be very beneficial.

If you want to work for a large company, try to specialize yourself into a particular part of network administration. Go crazy with Cisco and go for a CCNA Security, Voice, or Wireless, or heck go for a CCNP or CCSP. Those big companies are paranoid of network threats (as they should be) so Network Security Professionals are always in demand. Or, since smaller companies and non-profits often have their Network Admin wear many hats, try to be a smörgåsbord of knowledge and be able to run some networking services too (i.e. email, web, etc.) Sort of a "jack of all trades, master of one."

Once you get in to a network job... document, document, document. Keep records of what you do and your accomplishments. 'Cause once you get in, DimaYasny is completely right. Experience speaks more than certs. Talking the talk and knowing what your talking about will land you that Network Admin job more reliably than pieces of paper.

Long, I know. I hope you find the path that leads you to your goal.

Good luck,
dan

commented: I agree with the `tail' part.. ;-) +25

Wow, thank you for the very helpful and informative response. Sometimes it feels overwhelming looking into the IT field, specifically networking. Yeah im hoping to pick up the A+ to get into some computer repair part-time while i finish up school, then jump into a network tech position. Thanks for the advice, a little direction is always appreciated.

Definitely agree with DimaYasny, but it's a catch-22. You can't get "formal" experience without a job in that field and you often can't get the job without the experience. I had been trying for a long time to get into the networking field. I had A+ and had taken the CCNA Cisco Academy courses (didn't take the exam until after I found a job that would pay for it), but wasn't considered for any networking jobs with the book knowledge and limited formal experience I had.

I had done PC repair/support for almost 10 years before I landed the job I'm in now (Waco ISD's Network Administrator). I lived in Dallas, TX for all my life until I moved here and with that kind of competition you have to have a specialized edge or at least a couple of years exp. to get an interview for a lead network role.

I was fortunate to be able show the people that I work with what I know; and when an opening came up, I was promoted even with limited experience. This is one way but it takes too much time and patience.

Definitely, spring for the CCNA cert. I wish I did. I was poor and otherwise lazy. That is the entry level cert for network personnel IMO. Much like the A+ is for PC support. If you pass that, might as well go ahead and take the Net+ (if you've got the green) since a lot of the same info is on it and it doesn't expire. Nice to have more than two items in the certifications section of your resume.

I would learn a *nix OS. Fedora is my preference. Ubuntu (Debian) and CentOS are also good flavors of linux. Fedora and CentOS are based on Redhat Ent. which IMO is used in production environments more often. A lot of network admins use linux for a number of reasons. Security audits, NIDS/Firewalls/etc w/triggers, log manipulation for easy parsing and viewing, wireless intrusion testing, just to name a few. I personally like to sit at my desk when I have a little down-time and do a tail on the web proxy log and watch internet traffic for a particular campus. Text flying by at a CLI makes it seem like your busy and people leave you alone, not to mention it makes an adequate screen saver too. :)

You'll probably want to look for a Network Engineer position first. There are more jobs and more lax requirements. That way you can work under a Network Admin first and learn as much as you can. Learning from someone else's mistakes can be very beneficial.

If you want to work for a large company, try to specialize yourself into a particular part of network administration. Go crazy with Cisco and go for a CCNA Security, Voice, or Wireless, or heck go for a CCNP or CCSP. Those big companies are paranoid of network threats (as they should be) so Network Security Professionals are always in demand. Or, since smaller companies and non-profits often have their Network Admin wear many hats, try to be a smörgåsbord of knowledge and be able to run some networking services too (i.e. email, web, etc.) Sort of a "jack of all trades, master of one."

Once you get in to a network job... document, document, document. Keep records of what you do and your accomplishments. 'Cause once you get in, DimaYasny is completely right. Experience speaks more than certs. Talking the talk and knowing what your talking about will land you that Network Admin job more reliably than pieces of paper.

Long, I know. I hope you find the path that leads you to your goal.

Good luck,
dan

Just a quick thank you for having taken your time to elaborate extensively. It can only take an honest guy to do that. I am starting the course in three months and i am looking forward to it. I will be studying with Open University and I hope it will be fun. Once more thanks for your time and thanks also the primer of the topic

Yeah, dsc61180 I do appreciate the in-depth post. I am very interested in Networking, i love learning programming but i don't really want that to be my main focus lol.

well as said experience matters most. you dont have to get a job for that as long as u know what to do do u will get it simply and fast...

aim for training your self by your self go for the trail and error technique..

learn from your mistakes, that way you will never forget you work...after that everything will be a piece of cake for you.. doing everything fast and smoothly.

i am an IT Admin right now....
went through network administration till i reached my position now so try to put some effort in training :)