How to become a network engineer

RhodesRhodes Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
Hi all,

I'm 26 and starting out with N+, is it advisable that I get helpdesk, IT support, network, systems admin experience then go for the CCNA?

Or should I proceed to the CCNA and get as much work experience as possible? I might also build my own lab and I'm not sure if employers will count this as experience.

I'm also studying a Computer Science degree part time, running a university society in computing, as well as doing other things that will help my resume and running my own tutoring business, so I've done things outside the box and have work experience which may help me put my foot in the door.

I love networking, I find this interesting, installation, security, troubleshooting and the income potential is also another reason I would like to go into this field.

So all in all I'm looking to do the CCNA, get network support, admin, relevant experience, even volunteering work or something then go for the well paid CCNA job?

Comments very much appreciated!

Comments

  • Fulcrum45Fulcrum45 Member Posts: 613 ■■■■■□□□□□
    I know many may not feel this way, but I would complete the Network+ first. It's a mile wide and an inch deep but it discusses several things the CCNA does not.

    I love networking because it was the first thing in I.T. that I could get to make sense. I love designing networks and making sense of current ones- it truly is an art form- an art form with "best practices" to be sure, but still an art form.

    Some places will take a chance on a network newbie, especially if they can get you at the right price. I wouldn't count on it however. I would seek out junior network admin roles, volunteer for projects (paid or unpaid), and continue your Network+. CCNA is great but you're not always going to run into their equipment in the wild. Just my 2 cents.
  • markulousmarkulous Member Posts: 2,394 ■■■■■■■■□□
    N+ has good information. If you need a quick cert under your built then go that route. If you can wait or don't want to drop the money on the N+, just study the concepts of N+ and move onto CCENT/CCNA. Those certs will trump that as far as employers go.
  • RhodesRhodes Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for the advice and suggestions, much appreciated.

    I'm wondering, completing a CCNA and then getting 12 months home lab experience installing, configuring, having experience on real live routers as well as doing volunteering work, will this be sufficient to apply for graduate level starting salary jobs or will 2 years experience after CCNA is required?

    I've looked into job adverts and they normally state must have knowedge of TCP/IP, DNS, DHCP, LAN/WAN. VLAN, VMWare, Voip, firewalls as well the CCNA, the pay is equivalent to graduate starting salary jobs, these adverts don't normally state how many years experience, or from what I've seen only 2 years of experience is required.

    So CCNA and then two years of junior admin/voluntary, home lab experience is required to start becoming a proper network engineer.
  • DeathmageDeathmage Banned Posts: 2,496
    As someone that did the CompTIA Trifecta 1st before VCP, CCNA, MCSA, etc to name a few, the Network + really helps to understand networking. As many have said Cisco is vendor specific but a ton of the things Cisco teaches you, probably leaning on 65% of the content can be reverse engineered to other vendors.

    Network + allows you to see everything and allows you to tinker, most people in IT learn more by tinkering than they do with certifications but knowing how things work and connect is a very valuable troubleshooting skill. Many sell CompTIA's down the creek on the level of importance but I'm a firm believer that a strong foundation of skillsets, from CompTIA, builds you up for the rest of your IT career.

    So as a conclusion, get Network + but also get A+ and Security +, cause with those certifications you can pretty much manage or at-least figure out things more easily. Like I pretty much got my A+, and Network+ then was thrown into a MCSE role of 2003/2008R2 and I went with it and figured it out, having the basic down cold really helped allot......
  • RhodesRhodes Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thank you for the advice.

    I'll do the N+ first then the CCNA.

    I've been browsing a lot of threads and around Google, which I've come to the conclusion that after the CCNA, get into a helpdesk, admin, support job and from their it will take around 2 years to get into a network engineer jobs or be eligible to apply for those jobs.
  • verbhertzverbhertz Member Posts: 54 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Your home lab experience will help you understand how protocols and live networks behave, at a level that books can explain but can't hit home. However, your home lab is not a substitute for real experience and I would never sell it that way, it may look dishonest. Working on a production network in the middle of a business day with thousands of users on it is a very different experience than being at home with no penalty for failure.

    Edit: I would try to land something like a help desk or technician job in a company with room to grow. Show initiative, try to get on projects in the field you want, and hope to get real experience that could translate into a job internally or apply somewhere else when you think you've got the chops.
  • CodyyCodyy Senior Member Member Posts: 223 ■■■□□□□□□□
    A+/N+/S+, then find a NOC position, then lab lab lab every chance you get. Once ready take CCNA, should be enough to get you into a Jr network admin role or even mid-level network admin if the market is decent in your area. Spend that time working on CCNP and it wouldn't hurt to dabble a little more in security. From there you can probably move onto a mid-level engineer role. End goal should be reachable within 3-5 years if you're dedicated.
  • Christian.Christian. Member Posts: 88 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Rhodes wrote: »
    Thank you for the advice.

    I'll do the N+ first then the CCNA.

    I've been browsing a lot of threads and around Google, which I've come to the conclusion that after the CCNA, get into a helpdesk, admin, support job and from their it will take around 2 years to get into a network engineer jobs or be eligible to apply for those jobs.

    A network engineer position is one held by someone who is an expert in their field, one who will be the last escalation point for the rest of the teams in the company and will become THE guy that knows all about the network at the company and the technologies they have in place. This requires at least +7 years of real-solid network experience, plus all the experience they had before getting into full time network jobs. This means, you will need experience dealing with huge environments, production equipment and dealt with a lot of network problems, weird setups, critical migrations and a bunch of other stuff.

    The network+ and ccna are a step towards that, but it won't take you two years to be there. I don't know where you read that. No company will leave their network, a critical piece of the company to operate, in the hands of someone who only has 2 years of experience. With that profile you could get lower positions in networking like dealing in a noc, in network operations, networking admin or similar positions (titles vary so don't pay too much attention into that) where you are below the network engineering group.

    In regards to certifications, the knowledge of ccnp is more suitable for that position, maybe even stuff from the ccie depending on the curricula. So, overall, there is no shortcut to become an expert and get network engineering positions. It takes time to be in the right positions to advance in your career and have exposure to what you need, and when you have that, a lot of time to gain the experience working on it. My two cents.
    CISSP | CCSM | CCSE | CCSA | CCNA Sec | CCNA | CCENT | Security+ | Linux+ | Project+ | A+ | LPIC1
  • RhodesRhodes Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for the advice all.

    I've looked at linkden profiles, expecially this one out of a few: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/alec-medearis/55/602/ba?trk=pub-pbmap 5 months after his netowrk support engineer role he proceeded to become a network engineer, most likely a junior position. I'm inexperienced when it comes to knowing how much experience is required to get into a job.

    I didn't know to get into a network engineer position it requires several years of experience. Thanks for all the advice and I won't take titles seriously.

    I wanted to know is it worth doing a CCNA in just 5 days? How would employers look at this?
  • verbhertzverbhertz Member Posts: 54 ■■□□□□□□□□
    If you can go into the CCNA knowing nothing, and pass the exams in 5 days, I would say that you either dumped it or will retain none of that. Either that or you are some sort of crazy genius, in which case you would already have the job and not be asking these questions. Your aim seems to be to get a high paying job with minimal effort. That's not how this works.
  • RhodesRhodes Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    verbhertz wrote: »
    If you can go into the CCNA knowing nothing, and pass the exams in 5 days, I would say that you either dumped it or will retain none of that. Either that or you are some sort of crazy genius, in which case you would already have the job and not be asking these questions. Your aim seems to be to get a high paying job with minimal effort. That's not how this works.

    I listen to the advice here, I'll take the N+, then take the CCNA course, study this over 6-7 months 3 hours a day and then find network admin, technition, support jobs. The only way is the proper way and the advice here is very solid.

    I would like to have decent pay of around $36000 in 3 years into admin, support, helpdesk experience, is this realistic? I'm just looking at my salary expectations. I appreciate and understand this will take a long time to get the experience necessary to get into network engineering, as well as a high paying job and I'll stay in admin, support roles for several years.
  • verbhertzverbhertz Member Posts: 54 ■■□□□□□□□□
    What general location are you in? I started above that range at a technical support position (more hands on, almost no calls). I'm two years in and now I'm a strictly networking role and its all due to my hard work and discipline, with a little right place right time. I make significantly more than your target and I'm in a fairly low COL area.
  • fredrikjjfredrikjj Member Posts: 879
    Focus on doing well in the CS degree and try to get internships (ideally networking related, but take anything you can get), and keep doing the computer society thing at your school. Then get an entry level job. It really makes no sense for you to focus specifically on becoming a networking engineer unless you have free time after getting Bs and As in your classes. There's a bunch of stuff about network engineering that's not really relevant unless you're actually doing it, like command syntax, the capabilities of certain products, etc. Focus on things like TCP/IP fundamentals (don't underestimate this, it's complicated), coding, unix/linux, which will carry over to anything IT related. Then if you don't actually end up in networking, you haven't wasted a bunch of time on Cisco IOS related bullshit or whatever.
  • RhodesRhodes Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    verbhertz wrote: »
    What general location are you in? I started above that range at a technical support position (more hands on, almost no calls). I'm two years in and now I'm a strictly networking role and its all due to my hard work and discipline, with a little right place right time. I make significantly more than your target and I'm in a fairly low COL area.

    I live in the UK, so £24k is equivalent to $36k, which is the salary I'm targeting into my 3rd of year of admin, support position when I get their. however, I believe UK salaries may vary.

    I could do that, however, I really have a burning passion for networking and I feel the only way to go is through the certs and experience, if I focused on the CS degree, which is not a bad idea, I have no time to study N+ and CCNA, which I could start the certs and get experience now, were as if I completed my degree in two years time, I would have no certs, no network related exp.

    So in the end, I'll have experience, certs and the CS degree. I've studied a networking module, which I had to go through the windows networking essentials book. My ambition is to become a network engineer and the most relevant path I see is through the certs and work experience.

    However, I still have the option to do my degree full time.
  • fredrikjjfredrikjj Member Posts: 879
    Rhodes wrote: »
    I live in the UK, so £24k is equivalent to $36k, which is the salary I'm targeting into my 3rd of year of admin, support position when I get their. however, I believe UK salaries may vary.

    I could do that, however, I really have a burning passion for networking and I feel the only way to go is through the certs and experience, if I focused on the CS degree, which is not a bad idea, I have no time to study N+ and CCNA, which I could start the certs and get experience now, were as if I completed my degree in two years time, I would have no certs, no network related exp.

    Sorry for reiterating this point, but N+ and CCNA carry no weight compared to a CS degree. Focusing on those certs over course work for your degree shouldn't be something that you consider, ever. If you're passionate about networking, put this book on your nightstand http://www.amazon.com/Internetworking-TCP-IP-One-6th/dp/013608530X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443295700&sr=8-1&keywords=internetworking+with+tcp+ip+volume+on and read it every night before bed. That's the kind of stuff employers want to see an entry level guy understanding, not what commands you use to configure STP on a cisco switch.
  • RhodesRhodes Member Posts: 9 ■□□□□□□□□□
    fredrikjj wrote: »
    Sorry for reiterating this point, but N+ and CCNA carry no weight compared to a CS degree. Focusing on those certs over course work for your degree shouldn't be something that you consider, ever. If you're passionate about networking, put this book on your nightstand Internetworking with TCP/IP Volume One (6th Edition): Douglas E. Comer: 9780136085300: Amazon.com: Books and read it every night before bed. That's the kind of stuff employers want to see an entry level guy understanding, not what commands you use to configure STP on a cisco switch.

    Thanks for that.

    I have the option to study my 2nd year full time or part time, I do my degree online. Their are networking graduate schemes in the UK, however, these are reserved only for the ivy-league equivalent graduates.
  • hurricane1091hurricane1091 Member Posts: 918 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I can tell you from experience. I'm a couple years younger than you and have been at my position as a Network Engineer for 5 months.

    Real simple, I finished my 2nd AS degree (not going into a ton of detail on how that happened) and was on my 2nd IT job (desktop role, some server stuff). I had some basic certs out there from CompTIA and Microsoft. I passed the CCNA R+S and was close to passing the CCNA Security. I enrolled back in school, updated my resume and applied for jobs. I ultimately only got one hit and got the job. I only had a year of IT experience at this point. The interview included a white board and my eventual boss drawing out a lot of CCNA level diagrams and asking questions, which I was able to answer. I feel fortunate because there's a Sr. guy, another engineer, and my boss - so it does not all come down to me. Starting with the Network+ is essential, and go slow and lab for the CCNA so you actually learn it. If you got an interview like mine, you would need to have a good understanding to get through it.

    I don't think it's typical to get into my role as fast as I did though without some luck. I wouldn't even recommend it as a first job if it was possible because of the added pressure (you break a laptop - who cares...you take down the network in a company of 3000? Big problem...same thing goes for server guys dealing with exchange, VoIP engineers, etc). I credit going back for my BS for getting me an interview as well.

    Just my 2 cents. Good luck.

    Also, I am indeed an engineer and not a NOC (we have our own NOC) guy or an admin. But as mentioned, there are 3 others here. I currently do a lot of the primary/backup ciruits, IOS changes, updating diagrams, etc. A lot of the stuff we are doing is CCNP level and above though, so I really need to get that to move on to bigger projects here.

    I'd like to hit home that a lot of things won't make sense when you first get into this type of role as mentioned above. The books teach a lot, but there's just a lot to soak in once you see it for real. The plus side is that you learn a lot but you ask a lot of questions, so there's just no way you could be "the guy" somewhere (zero chance I could and I'm not afraid to admit that).
  • CSCOnoobCSCOnoob Member Posts: 120
    What is NOC, Network Engineer, Network Technician, Network Administrator, Network Specialist, Network Analyst, etc? Different organizations define these roles differently. There NOC positions out there that only monitor devices and escalate to proper department. There are/were NOC positions out there that do more than monitor devices. They actually do troubleshoot, configure, etc before it gets escalated to a different team. Some of these NOC positions are even better gig than a Network Engineer for a smaller organization. To me, it somewhat pointless to compare positions using job titles. But that's just me and I am sure a lot of people would disagree.
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    I agree with CSCOnoob. Titles mean very little in this field. Almost everyone is "engineer" whether they just open tickets, work the NOC, etc at most places I've worked. The duties are what are important when looking for roles.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • KrekenKreken Member Posts: 284
    fredrikjj wrote: »
    Focus on doing well in the CS degree and try to get internships (ideally networking related, but take anything you can get), and keep doing the computer society thing at your school. Then get an entry level job. It really makes no sense for you to focus specifically on becoming a networking engineer unless you have free time after getting Bs and As in your classes. There's a bunch of stuff about network engineering that's not really relevant unless you're actually doing it, like command syntax, the capabilities of certain products, etc. Focus on things like TCP/IP fundamentals (don't underestimate this, it's complicated), coding, unix/linux, which will carry over to anything IT related. Then if you don't actually end up in networking, you haven't wasted a bunch of time on Cisco IOS related bullshit or whatever.

    I completely agree with this. Just would like to add - knowing TCP/IP fundamentals and having ability to read packet captures will go a long way of making your life easier no matter which IT specialization you end up pursuing.
  • Justin-Justin- Member Posts: 300
    I agree with networker.. I don't understand how some people have the title of network engineer or IT engineer. An engineer is a person who has their Iron Ring. Can someone explain?
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    The ring thing is nothing official. At least not here in the states.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
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