I have just recently graduated college with an MIS degree. However, I feel that I can expand my knowledge base about networking. I want to become certified in networking either through Microsoft or Cisco. Where can I find online classes or programs to become certified in networking or with any other prestigious company I may not know about.

Any suggestions on the best way or approach in getting certified?


Personally, I say skip classes: Buy the equipment (TechNet and VM's go a long way, or free router simulation programs), and the books, study hard on your own, and then take the tests. You will not only save money, because you have them at home, you can use them more.

This is not for everyone, but if you have the intestinal fortitude to self-study, you can actually learn more in a shorter period of time.

P.S. I would also add, that when it comes time to look for a job, if you have choices, go with the job that will expose you to the most. Often working for a small IT provider initially can expose you to a wide range of technologies, and then if you go to a larger company, they will also expose you to things the small companies can't afford, and don't really need.

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    That being said, there are SOME concepts there are hard to grasp and having someone explain it can give you that "ah ha" moment. For me it was subnetting, I could not understand why we had to do this and then a classmate says "So the f'ing routers know what to do!" and it just CLICKED. – SpacemanSpiff Jun 14 '11 at 16:14
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    Spaceman, I am not saying that you may not need to ask for help, but most classes just regurgitate the books anyway. You can always come here and ask a question then, no? – KCotreau Jun 14 '11 at 16:21
  • Oh I agree, I've sat through classes listening to someone read a book to me via PowerPoint before. – SpacemanSpiff Jun 14 '11 at 16:28
  • I agree with the try to get onboard with a smaller firm but I disagree with the skip class and buy equipment. He is asking about certification so some certs do require classes. Also if he just got done with his MIS there is a good chance hes in debt so buying a bunch of equipment may not be the route to go. Assuming that he has a PC already you can do some VMs on that for initial testing. – Chadddada Jun 14 '11 at 19:50
  • Very few certs require you take the class. I have 23 certs, and have never taken a class. Usually it is only the very highest level ones, far beyond his level for now. – KCotreau Jun 14 '11 at 23:55

Also worth remembering that different people have different ideas about what defines 'the network'. 'Cisco people' (like myself) view it from the point of view of the switches and routers and other bits of kit that carry data around, whereas 'Microsoft people' think the network is about the servers and domain controllers etc. At a basic level both company's networking courses will teach you about IP and associated protocols but above that level they will rapidly diverge into their own specialist areas.

  • Amen to the first sentence... I've lost count of how many "Windows guys" I've had apply for positions that were really pure networking, only for them to discover they lacked the basic knowledge they'd need for the job. – DictatorBob Jun 14 '11 at 15:18

Ah, networking. Can be a bit of a snake pit, that one. The question is "Do you want to become certified or do you want to become good at networking?"

If you want to become certified, go for a Microsoft course. Most companies will recognise it, it will cost you an arm and a leg (but less than a Cisco course), and chances are at the end you still don't have a clue. I have seen people with all sorts of Microsoft certificates who couldn't even configure a basic home network.

If you want to become good at networking, then I would recommend a few books on basic TCP/IP networking and lots of practice. And I mean shed loads. Get a few second hand computers from ebay and start playing around with them. Imagine a type of network layout, make a drawing and then implement it. If you can't figure out the answer to a particular problem, come back here and we will help.

  • I would not knock certification, but I think that a good solid combination of certification, and hands-on experience produces the best techs. As in my answer, you don't need to take a course though, which actually plays into your "lots of practice" idea, which I totally agree with. – KCotreau Jun 14 '11 at 14:46
  • @KCotreau: there are probably certificates worth their money, I just haven't found them yet for networking. – wolfgangsz Jun 14 '11 at 14:53

Everyone learns in different ways, however, what works for me is hands-on experience. As previously suggested, start messing around with things on your own at home. Read the How Does Subnetting Work guide on here, and understand it.

If at all possibly, find an entry level job that will provide you the ability to learn and grow. Many companies will provide/ pay for training courses (at least to some extent) and reimburse for the cost of exams (provided you pass).


If you have access to a community college with good classes and resources then I would recommend that route. I am fortunate to work at a cc which has a good IT curriculum and a cisco academy. The instructors are good and the classes are hands on with the actual equipment. Personally I learn best when pushed through a outlined curriculum in a class room setting VS buying some books and self-learning - just don't have the time/patience/discipline to do it this way. Community Colleges tend to be cheap VS paying to take some 'boot camp' type training.

Good luck

  • He already has a 4 year bachelors degree. You think it would be better for him to go back to a 2 year school to do this vs just completing certifications? – Chadddada Jun 14 '11 at 19:51

Google knows and will point you to the Microsoft Learning Center or the Cisco Training Center

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