The first thing you need to do is complete a diploma or certificate program in networking. The type of program you want is most likely going to be at a technical college rather than a university. You’ll be looking for a diploma or a certificate program rather than a degree program. The reason is that 1-2 years is all you need to learn what you need to know. A degree program for Networking would likely waste your time and money by forcing you to take electives to fulfill credit requirements. Technical colleges focus on teaching you exactly what you’re going to be doing at work and do their best to cut out anything that isn’t practical.
The program may be named similarly to Network Systems, Network Engineering, or Network Technician. It might even just be called Information Technology with the option to choose Networking as a major. Here is an example:
“Network Systems Major: Graduates of the Network Systems major will have strong technical skills in designing, installing, configuring, maintaining and administering enterprise local area networks and associated servers, security and storage devices. This major focuses on the network infrastructure of an organization, which involves the storage, retrieval, transmission and protection of information, and the hardware and software involved in these processes. In addition to comprehensive technical skills, graduates will acquire and demonstrate the professional communications, general business, problem solving and project management skills required for success in industry. Students receive in depth training on router, switch and server configuration for support of network infrastructure, data transmission media, wireless, Voice over IP and new and emerging technologies. Students also receive the training required for industry recognized certifications.”
I haven’t seen a network program yet that doesn’t teach Cisco, but make sure the program you choose teaches networking with Cisco.
Diploma Or Certificate?
The decision to take a two year diploma program versus a one year certificate program depends on where you are in life. If you’re young, with time, with no crippling payments, and otherwise financially able to go two years without working much, then I highly recommend you take the diploma program. With a two year program, you’ll be learning both fundamental and advanced concepts at a relatively comfortable pace. In comparison, a one year program will be much faster paced and intense.
A one year certificate program is ideal if you’re an experienced learner, have crippling payments, are looking to change careers to get ahead in the long run, but also need to start making money as soon as possible.
Regardless of which route you take, work hard and learn all that you can!
Recommended Learning Resources
I highly recommend watching CBT Nuggets videos as a supplemental learning resource. CBT Nuggets are short training videos that cover various areas of IT. The networking videos by Jeremy Cioara are what you’re looking for. He is an extremely gifted teacher that has a way of presenting topics in the best possible light. I wanted to say that he makes networking sound interesting, but that’s not true. Networking actually is interesting on it’s own, but how it’s taught to you makes a huge difference.
It’s not free though. It is $99 a month to access all their resources. You can try it out for a week for free and see if it’s worth it to you. I’m confident if you can spare the money and are committed to learning, you will see the value.
I recommend watching CBT Nuggets in conjunction with your classes. If you’re learning subnetting in class, then watch the subnetting nugget at home to further cement your understanding.
The CBT Nuggets series you will want to watch in your first year are:
Cisco CCENT/CCNA ICND1 100-101, Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1
Cisco CCNA ICND2 200-101, Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 2
Cisco Packet Tracer
Packet tracer is software that simulates Cisco routers and switches so you can practice configuring devices without having an actual hardware lab in front of you. It is very handy for practicing when you don’t have access to the Networking lab at school.
I am constantly writing new posts to explain CCNA topics, and have a forum section where you may directly ask me any questions relating to your networking studies.
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