Are network certification courses worth the money?

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Certifications
IT careers
Network administration
Networking
Networking certifications
Hello. I am 39 years old. I have no degree and am currently considering a change of career. I am looking at IT as I have had some limited experience in the field of Web page maintenance (html) and flash development (action script) for an online holiday bookings company. However, this experience was nearly 10 years ago now and I'm sure that the technologies have moved on considerably since then. I have been looking into what training is available and have seen that there seems to be hundreds of companies offering training and certification in with promises of job placements at the end of the course. I know that I should take the promises of these companies with a pinch of salt. I don't expect to walk into a network administration role and earn 30k a year on the basis of a single MCSA certificate and I am quite prepared to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up (in fact I would prefer to). But I do want to make sure that the money I pay is pushing my career forward rather than just buying the right to study for a piece of paper that's about as much use as a diploma in media studies. So I guess the actual question I'm trying to ask is, are any of these courses worth the money? Thanks in advance.

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When I have been recruiting, the certifications are a giude, not the reason I would hire anyone, or even interview them. What they do show is that this person should have a certain level of understanding and technical knowledge, not that they can do the job. Experience is the main thing I was looking for most of the time.

In the most junior roles, then the fact that they had gone out and got a cert on their own, I always took to show that this person was serious, and actually wanted to learn. So for someone starting out, it is a bit of an edge over those who don’t have them.

My feeling is that you need to decide what area of IT is interesting to you, and read up on that area, so you can answer basic questions at an interview. If you have some money available, go on one of the basic courses, such as CCNA if looking at networking, and get the exam. This should be about £1200/$1500 which is probably money well spent. Most decent companies will pay for additional training when you have started. Also you will learn much more on the job, through getting things to work by yourself, and working with more experienced colleagues, than you will on a structured course. Courses are good for learning new technologies, or new equipment, but not for gaining experience.

The courses that ‘guarantee’ work at the end of the course, are mostly raising expectations too high, and, I think, are just trying to take your money. Personally I would steer clear of these.

Good-Luck with finding a job.

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I will add it really depends on where you are applying for a job. At my job location certifications are required to get an interview. Of course once the interview is granted then they are also going to evaluate competency and experience. But no interview without a cert. So make sure you know what is required. If the job you are looking for requires you have one then go get one first!

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  • Ed Tittel
    Dear Sir or Madam: Given your background and interests, and your mention of network administration, I'm a little confused. It's not clear to me whether you want to get back into Web page design and programming work (what you did before) or whether you want to change gears completely and go into out-and-out network adminsitration. That's why I offer two sets of alternatives. 1. Web stuff If you already know HTML and the rudiments of Flash, plus hopefully the basics of JavaSript as well, and want to return to this kind of work, you could probably just bone up and practice on your own time and on your own equipment. I'm not sure taking classes is essential, though if you can find low-cost local providers at a community college or technical school nearby, why not? My guess is that with 6-months to a year of serious, heads-down effort you could be ready to re-enter that part of the workforce. 2. Network administration I get the sense that this is something that interests you but where you have no hands-on or on-the-job experience. In this case, you'll want to start with something like the CompTIA Network+ to get your feet wet, and then to go after the Cisco CCNA (perhaps by breaking it into the two-piece exam sequence 640-822 (ICND1) and 830-821 (INTRO) which also earns you the CCENT along the way). After that you'll have a good idea about whether or not this path is for you or if you might wish to investigate other alternatives. Here again, you'll want to seek out low-cost quality training with labratory access--which makes local community colleges and technical schools and excellent source for such exposure. Good luck with your career planning activities. --Ed--
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  • Wldu
    Hi, There: I was on the same boat a month ago deciding whether I should switch my career to project management. In order to do that, I was thinking to spend a thousand to register the class and spend another few hundreds to pass the entry project management exam. But I decide to wait on it for a while being that I do need that cash for the time being. Instead, I joined "LinkedLn" project management group to see what kind of issues they are discussing or free webinar they are offering to get a sense of what "project management" looks like and feels like before committing myself to the serious work. Going to web programming/design or networking is tough. I am not the expert on the subject but based on my personal experience, no matter what you choose to do, committment and consistency are important. Job itself seems quite competitive, presenting few samples of projects and networking are useful when you are in a roll for a fresh start. Good luck! AG
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  • Kevin Beaver
    Sure, they're worth the money if you hit them with full force and get every bit out of them you can. Just know that certifications are not everything. I've written about this a lot here and here. Don't let certifications dictate what you do though. Rather, find out what it is that you like doing and what it is that you're good at and then get certifications to supplement things.
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