I have been in the telecommunications business for nearly seven years. I used to work on telecom equipment and in the IT department, was responsible for network connectivity and desktop support. However, I changed jobs and went strictly telecom. I want to get into networking totally now, but I am not sure where to start. I have thought about starting with A+ then going onto the MCSE and maybe some Cisco certifications. I am not sure if I want to go the network administrator route or the network security route.

Also, I am not sure where to look for the training. My company won't help pay since it is "not job related." I don't really care for self-studying, and I don't want to go to a college where it will take me five to six years to get a degree going to night classes. Your help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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You will want to pursue A+ only if you want to demonstrate base-level PC hardware and software skills. Given your current level of experience that may not be necessary. You should, however, take the CompTIA Network+ exam, as it relates directly to your professed area of interest.

As for Microsoft certs in general, and MCSE in particular, I'd recommend jumping into those programs only if you want or plan to work in environments where you'll be substantially involved in managing and planning for Windows-based servers and networks. The same is also true for Cisco certs, except they apply to network infrastructures based on Cisco equipment and tools. On the MS side, start with MCSA and work your way up to MCSE; on the Cisco side, start with CCNA, then go for CCNP and other professional-level certs that might interest you like CCDP (design) or CCSP (security).

If you don't want to self-study and you have a limited budget, Web-based training would be a good place for you to start your learning adventures. If that works for you, stick with it; if you really need instructor-led training, investigate offerings at local community colleges, most of which have adult learning/continuing education programs that are both reasonably priced and conveniently scheduled on evenings and weekends to accommodate the needs of those who are working but who also want to take classes.

HTH, and good luck with your upcoming certification efforts.
--Ed--

This was first published in April 2003

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