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CCNA or something else?

If you don’t have much background in IT, find out from others what day-to-day network support is like before you jump into CCNA certification.

Dear Molly: I am 23 years old and I don’t have a degree in networking or a solid background in the same field. I work with AutoCad as part of my customer service job, and I fix computers on the side. I would like to become a CCNA. Do I have enough background to do it? The local community college doesn’t offer the courses I need, and the IT private schools are expensive; but I’m not sure I can get the certification studying by myself at home rather than going to school. What should I do?

Molly says: I think you would benefit from taking some courses at your community college that relate to computers and networking before you start down the path for the CCNA. Taking and completing a few courses will tell you if you really want to become a network professional before you get a loan or try to raise the money for the CCNA training.

Also, start hanging out on one or more Web site forums for people who have Cisco certifications and who are working in jobs that use the knowledge they gained through certification. Talk to those people about their certification training experiences–specifically, what worked for them and what didn’t. CCstudy is one such site.

I’m suggesting what might look like a slight diversion to you because you haven’t yet got enough background to really understand what people with a CCNA certification do on a day-to-day basis. From what you have told me, I suspect you might enjoy the classroom work, but perhaps not the everyday, on-the-job realities.

By giving yourself a few months to explore computing in general and networking in particular, you may find that your initial interest in networking gives way to something else. Perhaps you will get more involved in your interest in troubleshooting and repairing hardware problems. Maybe you like solving puzzles that involve computers, and that attraction to problem solving could lead you in all sorts of directions. Don’t lock yourself into one path until you’ve had a chance to delve into what you really like about computers.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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