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How to Become a Network Engineer: 10 frequent questions

become a network engineerOne of the biggest questions we get almost everyday from our readers is asking how to become a network engineer. With so much concern and interest, if this many people are emailing us directly then there is no doubt many more people out there who have the same questions.

Hopefully we can clear up some of this confusion and answer your questions to help you become a network engineer, get you hired for that cool network job, as well as give you some tips and advice on how to best land that network job (or at least point you in the right direction to getting an interview and working full time as a network engineer).

Top 10 Questions on How to Become a Network Engineer

1. Do I Need a degree to Become a Network Engineer?

One myth or preconception of becoming a network engineer is that you have to have a college degree. This is not true. The job title Network Engineer or certification Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) does not necessarily mean that you are a “REAL” engineer. By this I mean a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, or other accredited degreed credential.

As a matter of fact titles such as these undermine the credibility of real engineers. Job titles like Systems Engineer and Network Engineer began popping up shortly after network and computer equipment vendors came out with similar certification names. For example, Novel created the Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) to provide a way to indicate an employee knew and could work on Novell equipment. To get this “certification” you simply had to pass 5 tests created for Novell server systems. Microsoft quickly copied Novell by creating the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). This took off in popularity and soon I.T. departments were flooded with “paper MCSE’s”. Finally Cisco took their certifications to a new level and created their own certification, the CCIE, positioning it at the top of the heap by adding an incredibly difficult hands on lab.

2. Do I Need to Pass the CCNA or CCNP to Take the CCIE?

Many people think that you need to complete the CCNA or CCNP in order to take the CCIE. This is not true. The only prerequisite for taking the CCIE lab is to pass the CCIE qualification exam (also known as the CCIE written).

3. I’m in school now, Should I Finish My Degree or should I Take the CCNA?

From all of the questions we receive, many of of you are in college (or are close to getting your college degree) and are curious if you should finish your degree or just skip ahead and take the CCNA. Our recommendation is of course to FINISH YOUR DEGREE! The CCNA is just one test that can be studied and passed at anytime. Getting your degree takes much more study and dedication and should be completed.

4. Will Passing the CCNA Get Me Hired as a Network Engineer?

No certification test will guarantee you get hired or even get you to an interview for a network engineer job.  But many network jobs do require at least a CCNA to get your foot in the door or to be able to be considered for an interview.  The CCNA is the basic entry level routing and switching exam and show employers you know at least the basics of how to do the job. Will the CCNA get you a job?  No.  But it may help get you talking to the hiring manager so you can sell yourself.

5. I Have No Experience, What Is The Best Way to Get a Job as a Network Engineer?

If you have zero experience in networking and zero experience with computers your first task is to learn computing.  Buy a computer, take it apart and put it back together again.  Learn how computers work first, then move on to learning how networks work.

6. Will Learning UNIX/Linux Help Me with Networking?

Yes!  Most routers and switches are based on a Linux/Unix operating system.  Learning Unix or Linux will go a long way to helping you understand how advanced computer systems operate as well as how network computers communicate.

7. I have little experience but I passed the CCNA and got hired as a desktop admin. Is this job right for me?

Only you can decide if the job is right for you.  If you enjoy the work and love what you do than that is the most important thing to consider. Don’t worry about what the job title is.

If your new boss hired you and stuck you on desktop duty… this may have been done to judge your overall performance and see how well you work with in the company culture.   Also the risk factor for a company with a new hire is much less by having that new hire first work on desktops.  If a new employee makes a on a single desktop. The only impact to the company is that one desktop needs to be rebuilt.   However, if that same new employee is given a task to work on a network switch or router and mistakenly wipes out the entire VLAN database, effecting hundreds if not thousands of workstations, this would cause massive revenue loss for the company.  Both you and your new boss would get fired!

8. Should I Take the CCNP or Just Go for the CCIE?

The statistics for passing the CCIE is only 3%.  Thats a 97% failure rate.  Compare this to the MCAT or the BAR and CCIE is THE hardest exam to pass in the world! Unless you have an employer or someone who will sponsor you to fail the test at least twice as well as pay for you to take the test a third time and pass, I would go for the CCNP.

9. I Passed the CCNA (CCNP) and Got an Interview but Didn’t Get the Job. Why?

Having a certification is great but honestly this piece of paper doesn’t say anything about you as a person or your experience.  When you go to an interview one the biggest things an employers looks for is to see how well you will get along with the team.  You can be the greatest network engineer in the world but be the biggest ass hole too.  Remember you can teach someone to be a good network engineer.  You can’t teach someone NOT to be an ass hole.

10. Whats The Best Way to Study to Become a Network Engineer?

The best way to learn networking is by doing.  The least expensive way, if you have access to an IOS image is to install a Router Simulator and practice working with real routers in a virtual environment right on your desktop

If you don’t have access to an IOS image or don’t feel comfortable working with a freeware router simulator you can install the router simulator from Boson.  It installs very easy but it is  not cheap!

You could also look for Packeteer from Cisco. You may have to buy this also as its usually only available to Cisco Academy folks.

Buy a cheap router from ebay!  Probably the easiest and least expensive routes is to simply buy an old used router off of ebay.  You can find a decent router from under a hundred bucks that will get you everything you need.

One last thing you will need to help prepare you for passing the CCNA or CCNP is some practice questions or testing software.

A company we recommend is Boson.

 

Did this post answer your question?  Leave a comment below and let us know if this will help you become a network engineer.

If you need further information on how to become a network engineer, have a look at this article!

How to Become a Network Engineer: 10 frequent questions
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About Joe

Senior Network Engineer, technology enthusiast, guitar and bass player. Joe Wilson is the creator of RouterFreak.com as well as other niche websites that can be found around on the Internets.

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81 comments

  1. hi sir i am RAM DIXIT

    i have 2 year exp as desktop support engineer..plz tell me i am certified ccna or redhat certification

    i want to know whom one best scope in industries

  2. i did B.sc(computer science and electronics) now i am working in the BPO i tryed to build my carrier in the IT(networking) and hacker which course is good,the CCNA is good for me now i pursuing the Msc(IT) let me

  3. THANKS A LOT !! i use have problems with my father when he keeps telling me to go to the university.But to me its a waist of time i have started my CCNA training this year and am hoping to make it.

  4. i also want to get network engineer job .i love configuring router switch on virtual. i hope to get real network engineer job.i have done BE (electronic ) and CCNA also..i am from Myanmar .i like all about comment. Thanks all Guy

    • Hi Nawaratt, good luck with your career! I’ve been in Myanmar last year, a very upcoming country.
      There was a big Facebook group of network engineers in Myanmar, do you know it?

  5. Guys if you really want it then go for it !

    I’m 48 and until 5 years ago I was in construction but with the economy in such a mess I decided it was time for a change.
    I started looking at IT and eventually decided that Networking was what really interested me, so I got some gear off of Ebay and went for it, starting with CCENT and then CCNA which took about 12 months full on study. I still felt that I didn’t know enough so went for CCNP routing and switching which took another year.
    During this time I got myself a lowly job in a call center supporting at a very basic level a certain vendors hardware, but at least it was something connected to what I wanted to do.
    Maybe I was lucky, but after passing CCNP I managed to get a job as a network engineer with one of the most innovative ecommerce companies on the planet and have never looked back, loving every minute of it 🙂
    If I can do it at my age with no degree or previous experience then there’s no reason any of you can’t do too.
    Good luck !

  6. Had diploma in banking and finance.but i have experiences in system hardware and i want to become an expert in networking.how do i go about it.please assist.i live in nigeria

  7. Conventional normal books, for example, are the most basic
    way to prepare for the exam. Cisco 640-864: Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions
    Certkey IT experts have designed 255 questions and answers of the candidates at the
    same time, 640-864 and 640-864 study guides online pre-test training is
    expected to prepare for this exam, so that does not pass, and 640-864 for the first time Cisco CCDA certification. Test4pass Practice Exams for IBM 000-103 are written to the
    highest standards of technical accuracy, using only certified subject matter experts and
    published authors for development.

  8. Hey, I have realized that if your into I.T. and do not want to go the route of college again. I recommend getting your Comptia certficication which shows that you understand your hardware for computer and nodes. Also, as well try to aquire apprentice programs within the field. Practice is as important as aquiring the certifications.

  9. Hi Joe, great pieces of advice there. Good for a beginner. I just want to point out a few facts.

    1. Engineering is much more than what is usually covered in the cert books(syllabus)

    2.There is ALWAYS a lot of math involved

    3.Engineering is not just about opening stuff up and then putting it together. The idea here is to build systems based on solid fundamentals

    Out of these, CCIE seems to be the most legit cert that comes close to being an engineer. That is what I’ve observed.

    I’m an Electrical Engineer with an interest in embedded systems

    Thank You

  10. Mr.Writer get your fact correct : CCIE stands for Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert not Engineer

  11. I have just finished college with a BA in History and minor and writing. Unfortunately I feel that I should have majored in computer science. Is it to late to jump into IT? If not what can i do instead of redoing college?

  12. Nice . Clean . Clear !

    I’m a bachelor in EEE, but also interested in networking stream. So this was helpful for me.

    Thanks.

  13. Joe,

    Do you think the curriculum for acquiring a CCENT/CCNA is a good one to follow to become a network engineer? That is, in pursuing a CCENT/CCNA by using the training materials, will I cover what needs to be covered to become (and possibly be hired as) a networking engineer?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  14. hey.. i m shobhna… i have passed my 12th with 60% nd now m looking for adm. in college bt m confused abt it … i want to do netwrk eng… so which bachlor degree i shd go for ?… which will also suite my budget ..help me in this. i will be thankful to u

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