If I had a catchy title, I'd buy your CCNA certification...
February 28, 2010 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Asking for my partner: What's the best way (most bang for your buck) to prep for a CCNA test? What other certifications or trainings should he go for to move up in the voice/networking area of IT?

Yes, I've seen this nearly-identical question, which is 4.5 years old and relies heavily on the fact that the poster went through a big expensive course paid for by the employer. This question (which is also a bit old) asks about other certifications, but for someone with no IT background.

He's been working in voice services/networking for about 8 years with nothing but on-the-job training, doing things like an escalation team and working in the NOC. He does pretty well with self-study, and he has about three or four hours of study time a day.

Currently, he's finishing his bachelor's online just for the degree, knowing that most IT places only care about your experience. He's doing a network architecture course right now and will do some more stuff on security. He's doing it through Capella and isn't thrilled about them, but he didn't see many other options for a distance ed bachelor's in IT stuff.

So which of the books/CDs/practice exam sequences worked for you? For those of you who didn't pass on your first go-round, how did you improve? How long did you wait before doing the next level of certifications? And for those of you who went on for the more specific versions, should he do Voice, Wireless or Security after that? (I imagine he'd do Voice, but is Wireless or Security more useful?)

Any other tips for moving up in this area of IT? He currently works for a large national ISP/voice/cable company, but we're hoping to get him into a position on campus (major public university).

posted by Madamina to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I passed the CCNA on my first try, about seven years ago, with zero professional network experience and close to zero experience configuring routers of any kind (and most of what I had done was simulated). My two degrees are in English Lit. and screenwriting.

I used one major source book: the official Cisco CCNA study guide. That, together with a few chapters of Perlman's Interconnections, and a lot of conversations with patient friends who actually knew what they were talking about, was enough. I think I studied for about six months before I took the test.

I have never had a networking job. The test did me very little good in terms of finding work at the time. However, as a technical business analyst type, the fact that I have my CCNA has helped out on a few occasions just to demonstrate that I really do understand how the Internet works.

Here's the review of the Cisco book that I wrote for Slashdot after I passed the test. As you can see, I trashed it. The book, as far as passing the test went, was overkill. It did the job, though.
posted by bingo at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2010

A CCNA cert may be a helpful qualification for jobs in the medium sized corporate or university campus environment, but isn't worth much in, say, Alcatel-Lucent carrier class product support roles. Voice technology continues to grow, outside the VOIP world, particularly in large, emerging market opportunity areas like the Far East, India, and Africa.

And frankly, because the CCNA cert is both approachable and pretty vanilla, there are a bajillion folks with a CCNA for every job that lists it as a qualification/requirement. So, it doesn't go too far in distinguishing one mid-level, mid-size network support candidate from the next. One of those things that is fine to have, but won't, generally, be a big differentiator in getting or keeping a particular position, because of the commonality of it as a credential.

OTOH, if your fella is still trying to figure out what he wants to do in the field, after 8 years of experience with a single company, in an IP based mixed product environment, perhaps it would help him figure out what he might want to do. Or not. Configuring and supporting Cisco routers is not everyone's life calling, but it is a necessary skill set in the American ISP/cable system business, and will be, for the foreseeable future. But if he wants to manage people who do that, it's not so necessary, and if he wants to move into bigger communications network roles, it's even less relevant.
posted by paulsc at 12:06 PM on February 28, 2010

The [Something]+ certs are good basic ones to get, if only for the knowledge contained in them. You have to get the CCNA because it is the first of many steps. Move on to the next ones as soon as he can. Probably the Microsoft ones are good to have too.

But approach certifications as learning and training, not passing a test. Any cert isn't worth the paper it is printed on if you don't retain the knowledge.

It is also really, really easy to pass almost any test, if you actually know the material contained on the test.
posted by gjc at 3:10 PM on February 28, 2010

Totally disregard the A+ cert but the other plus certs are good. Hot cert right now is anything to do with virtualization (VMWare). I passed the CCNA cert 1st time, just make sure you have a good understanding of subnetting and the rest is pretty much memorization. The old Transcender tests were great practice and lots of books/guides/router simulators can be found on certain file sharing sites. I kept practicing until I was scoring 95% plus on practice tests and scored above 90% when I took the test.

The M$ certs help for entry in many markets, the MCSA and Sharepoint certs are hot in my market because there are a bunch of DOD IT support contractors in my area. Security certs are also good especially CISM, CISSP, and CEH. Also if he plans to move up into management the ITIL cert is quickly passing the PMP for IT related jobs. If I were him I'd do a search for jobs in your local area from the major jobs sites and see what certs show up the most often and what level type of jobs they tie to. The cert will usually get you past the HR screen but once you make it to the hiring manager it's more about knowledge, experience, and fit with the team.
posted by white_devil at 7:23 PM on February 28, 2010

A friend of mine recently recommended http://www.howtonetwork.net/.

He said that he bought a membership for a couple months an was able to d/l cut and paste most of it and is considering getting rid of the membership.

Something to look into.
posted by TheAnswer at 9:24 AM on March 3, 2010

Linkified howtonetwork.net
posted by TheAnswer at 9:25 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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