Author Topic: Educational options abound for those interested in networking  (Read 2280 times)

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Offline bamalli

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Educational options abound for those interested in networking
« on: November 07, 2007, 02:42:43 PM »
High School and College Education
Those interested in networking careers can benefit greatly from earning a college degree. Most university programs don't offer a degree in Computer Networking per se, and the precise name of the degree varies significantly from institution to institution. Four-year degree programs suitable for the computer networking field usually involve a variation on one of the following:

1.Computer Science
2.Electrical and Computer Engineering
3.Information Systems
4.Communications Science
5.Telecommunications, Telecommunications Management
As an alternative to a general four-year degree (that covers a variety of technical subjects besides computer networking), some institutions offer shorter-term programs focused specifically on networking topics.

Until recently, computer networking courses were only found in post-secondary education. Nowadays, though, high school students have the opportunity to take networking courses too. These classes can be quite substantial, involving among other things configuring routers and switches, installing wire, network diagnostics, monitoring network activity, and working with various network protocols and operating systems.

Which Program Is Best?
Is a college degree worth the investment, or is a shorter, more focused curriculum the way to go? Opinions vary. A four-degree can demonstrate to prospective employers a level of dedication and long-term flexibility that a short program cannot. On the other hand, a more focused program can teach the basic networking skills quickly, and allow more time for on-the-job experience.

Network adminstrators and managers in particular have grown fond of networking-based certifications like Microsoft MCSE and Cisco CCNA. In general, to gain and keep a certification one must pass a lengthy (usually multiple-choice question) paper exam, then pass recertification exams at periodic intervals (usually every two or three years). A person has the choice of preparing for the exam through self-study or by enrolling in a certification course or "program" run by a training organization (sometimes within high-tech companies themselves). Taking any certification exam involves paying a test "sitting" fee (usually in the range of $100 to $300 USD), and employers sometimes reimburse their employees for this cost.

Certifications are designed to accredit someone for a certain amount of industry experience that they've already gained. Some of the programs will even make recommendations to this effect, typically one to two years of prior background for the entry-level certifications. However, experience is not strictly required. Some have criticized the entry-level exams for being too "bookish" in this respect, too easy to pass without prior hands-on experience.

Which certification is best? MCSE? CCNA? Something else? Again, the answer depends on the individual's interests and also the preferences of hiring companies. Some ambitious students of networking avoid this problem by acquiring multiple certifications... sometimes as many as five or more! Be aware, though, that certifications are an incomplete substitute for formal education and industry experience. Ideally, one will acquire a few certifications as part of a balanced overall mix of education and career experience.

Many companies, particularly larger ones, offer their employees ongoing training opportunities. The employer will either build their own courses or will bring in an outside company to hold the training. These courses are typically focused on a specific product technology or tool, or on the specific technical information needed to pass a certification exam. One could argue it is preferable for the beginning networker to focus on general technologies at first rather than certifications, as companies in these case likely prefer to train employees "their own way" anyhow.


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