Education for Networking Professionals

By Peter H. Gregory, Bill Hughes

Long-term success in a networking career requires a formal education and a lifestyle of continuous learning, which you can obtain through a steady diet of vendor demos, webinars, short courses, and training for certifications. To stay current on tools, products, breaches, vulnerabilities, and laws, you also need to establish a daily habit of reading technology and networking-related news and events.

Keeping up with the rapidly changing networking field entails a discipline of ongoing learning and reading.

Maximize your formal education in networking

The single biggest long-term success factor in a networking career is the amount of formal education. Although you could be successful without a degree (Bill Gates of Microsoft is a notable example), advancing into senior positions will be more difficult.

In a competitive job market, candidates with a Bachelor’s degree are usually held in much higher standing than candidates with a two-year degree or without a degree. Between candidates with degrees, the topic of the degree and the school where it was earned is important, but far less so than whether or not a candidate has a degree.

Early in your working career, your degree and major are highly important. As you get five to ten years into your career, your work experience begins to be more important than your area of study. However, even twenty years into your career, a lack of an undergraduate degree may keep you back.

Next to your formal education, a record of continuous learning is important. You need to demonstrate to prospective employers that you have a track record of learning new skills. This tells prospective employers that you’ll be willing to do whatever learning they’ll require of you in your new job. An absence of periodic training might tell a prospective employer that you aren’t interested in learning new things — a kiss of death in almost any technology job or tech company.

Engage in continuous learning while working as a networking professional

In the networking profession, things will be coming at you so fast that it can feel overwhelming sometimes. To be effective in your networking job, you need to read and learn almost continuously.

Expanding your knowledge through self-study and training is the networking professional’s air supply. Take away the training, and you quickly atrophy and lose your effectiveness, and before long you are no longer employable. Continuous learning is the only way to stay sharp and employable and to advance in your career.

Fortunately, you can find countless opportunities to keep learning. For example:

  • Conferences and user groups: Attend speaking sessions, vendor demos, literature, and networking with others.

  • Vendor demos: Vendors periodically invite networking professionals to seminars that include demonstrations of new or improved products.

  • Vendor webinars: Get yourself on some vendor mailing lists, and you’ll begin to receive invitations to online webinars and demos of networking products.

  • Periodicals: Many print and online periodicals have articles on networking technology, case studies, testimonials, and other content.

  • Books: In print or online, you can find books on virtually every aspect of networking.

Often there will be a lot of overlap between the learning you need for your job and the learning you need to move into new domains or advance to positions of greater responsibility. This is by design: The day you stop learning is the day you stop being an effective networking professional.