CCNA or COLLEGE? – Become a Network Engineer
Time for a serious question. Should you go to college or should you pursue your CCNA…..or any other certification instead of a degree?
Now, I’m assuming that you want to break into the IT field or accelerate your career. Either way, both of these are options you have to consider. So, which is better? What will get you that job faster and give you the most bang for your buck?
What is Your Goal?
First of all, let’s start with your goal. For me, when I was faced with this decision, my goal was simply more money. (And I would imagine that is everyone’s goal!!) How would I get more money? I needed to accelerate my IT career and move up the ladder.
There are three main areas to consider. Cost, Time, and Worth.
Let’s look at cost. I’ll be focusing on a Bachelors degree, a 4-year university degree in the US.
This, of course, largely depends on what type of college you attend. Time and tuition vary. This can range from $6000/year with an accelerated program like WGU to $9K-40K/year for standard brick and mortar universities. With so many variables coming into play, we’ll just say $6000+ minimum.
To avoid talking about the different types, I’ll be focusing on one college and their tuition costs. WGU. Why WGU? First, it’s the University I attended. Second, it’s degree program and structure are geared toward accelerating your career in a way that self studying for your CCNA would. If you aren’t familiar with WGU, here is a basic rundown. You pay a flat rate tuition cost per term (6 months). During that term you can complete your degree at your own pace, going as fast or as slow as you like. You are only limited by you. Another thing unique about this program (many other universities are starting to catch on and are offering the same thing) is that they use IT certifications as the final exam for many of the courses. For the degree program I was working through, I would have attained my A+, Security+, MCSA and CCNA.
WGU’s tuition is roughly $3000/term which equates to $6000/year. As far as universities go, that’s a heck of a deal, especially when you factor in the acceleration possibilities. So, when factoring in costs, this is one of the cheaper options. Now, if you were starting from scratch with no credits to transfer in or applicable work experience (yes, you can use work experience, certifications, previous college…etc to transfer in credits to WGU) it would take you four years at a standard pace to complete your degree. However, for most people, you may have a few certs under your belt or maybe a few college credits so you will have a bit of a head start. And, since you are watching this video, you are probably a hustler and will do your best to accelerate your degree progress. Let’s go with a general timeline of 2 years to complete your degree. That means you are on the hook for roughly $12000 for a Bachelor’s degree. Other universities…..pricey. We’ll just say pricey. Pay it off in 30 years pricey.
There are a ton of variables that come into play when it comes to the cost of your CCNA. This post will focus on those of us who use Self-Study, but you can easily equate this to a structured classroom cost Let’s start with the study materials. The options are numerous so I’ll just pick my favorite tools.
CBT Nuggets: $1000 (This is for a year. You can also pay monthly at $84/month)
CCNA Official Cert Guide Library: $60
CCNA Lab: $400
Exam Cost: $330
There are a ton of factors at play here. You don’t necessarily have to purchase a lab, opting for GNS3. You also don’t need to purchase the books. And, you could purchase 6 months of CBT or just a few months of CBT, depending on how fast you complete the cert. Whatever the case, CCNA wins the Cost bracket.
Let’s just assume that you have a headstart with WGU because you already had some college credit or maybe you already had your A+ certification. That means it will most likely take you 2 years to complete your degree. That’s also assuming that you are hustling and devoting at least 10 hours a week to school. Other universities, fixed-time. 4 years, fixed.
Obviously, a lot of variables at play here. However, I believe anyone can attain their CCNA, starting from zero knowledge of IT or networking, in 6 months. Some can even get this certification much faster depending on their work schedule or prior knowledge. If you really hustle, I believe you can get your CCNA in 2-3 months. And, let’s be honest, sometimes life gets in the way and it could take you a little longer, so let’s be generous and say even a year to get your CCNA.
It’s obvious that you can get your CCNA much faster than a degree.
Not to mention, in the time it take you to get a standard 4-year degree, you could attain both your CCNA and CCNP if not more certs. Do I have to even mention how valuable you would be at that point?
A lot of variables depending on where you live, so I’ll be focusing on the US. Also, this depends on what your goals are. This post is focusing on people who want to jumpstart their IT career and start making some serious $$$$$.
The Goal: A kickass networking job
Will a 4-year degree get you the job?
Short answer, no. Long answer, it depends. Is it likely you will even get an interview as a network admin with just a 4-year degree? Nope. Why? Because a 4-year degree shows you have general knowledge of IT (assuming you completed an IT-related degree.) but not necessarily specific networking knowledge needed for this role. Universities have always had trouble tailoring their degree programs to match the demands of the IT industry. They just can’t update their curriculum fast enough. IT Certifications are updated much more rapidly and prove that the person can actually work with the technology.
Side note, some degree programs now incorporate IT certs in their curriculum. This, obviously, adds a ton more value to the degree.
4-year degree are valuable, don’t get me wrong. For many positions and industries, they are required. But, from what I can tell (and from my own personal experience) they are not required for MOST positions. But, again, 4-year degrees definitely hold a great deal of value but for the purposes of quickly jumping into a networking career and making some serious money, it’s not the most efficient path.
What job will a 4-year IT related degree land you. Most likely a helpdesk position. What else will do the same? A High School diploma.
Will a CCNA get you the job?
Short answer, maybe. Long answer, it depends.
Can someone land a low-level networking admin role with just their CCNA? Yes, I have seen this happen. Is it difficult without experience, yes!
I make a habit of looking a job board searches daily and their are always a few common statements “CCNA Preferred” or “CCNA Required”. When it comes to a degree, I see “A 4-year degree, or equivalent experience”, or “A 2-year degree, or equivalent experience”
What does this mean? It means that experience is KING and experience with a CCNA is even better. Nothing will guarantee an interview more than having experience in the role you are applying for. So, you may be thinking, “What the junk Chuck? This was supposed to be about landing a job with either a CCNA or a degree. How do I get experience? Chicken before egg anyone?”
So, now the question is, “How do I get experience in an industry that requires experience to get experience?” You start at the bottom. You find a small to medium sized company that is looking for a helpdesk technician. Why small-to-medium sized? These companies will most likely be large enough to have some enterprise Cisco equipment while also having a small admin staff with opportunities for you to jump in and lend a hand.
So, now the question really is, what will help me land a helpdesk technician role and also give me the ability to rise through he ranks quickly? Will a 4-year degree help you get a helpdesk technician role? Yes. Will it help you rise through the ranks? Probably not.
Will a CCNA help you get a helpdesk technician role? Yes. Will it help you rise through the ranks? ABSOLUTELY!
Here is the main thing. Experience is the MOST important factor in landing a networking job. So, what will help you get experience, a 4-year degree or a CCNA? In my experience, the CCNA is the answer. I have seen so many helpdesk technicians with 4-year degrees that don’t move up. Only when they decide to buckle down and get their CCNA or MCSA do they actually get the opportunity to move up.
Time to sum this up.
Can you start an amazing IT career with a 4-year degree? Yes!
Can you start and amazing IT career with a CCNA? YES!
Which one costs less? CCNA
Which one can you get faster? CCNA
Which one will hold the most value when you are trying to land a job or move up in your current role? CCNA
Want to know more? Check out the video: