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[26/F] I have a Bachelors of Science in Biology and about to take my last semester for my MBA but I really want to do something in the tech/cyber security field...would getting a CCNA help me find a job to start getting experience in that industry?

I graduated with a bachelors of science in biology but couldn’t find a job with it. I tried getting into medical school but that plan fell short (I didn’t quite have the passion or just the fact I’ve tried for 2 years and just ended up burning my wallet for naught). My first thought was going back for a different degree but was persuaded to just go for 2 more years for a MBA. Unfortunately, I don’t have experience in any managerial position to make very much use of the MBA (I’ve taken jobs that’s mostly in customer service—I’m currently a customer support rep and dread it every day).

My uncle encouraged me to take the CCNA certification since I didn’t want to plow through more years of college and burn a ton of cash. I need a more reliable job before I can go back for another degree. I understand that experience is king but I have little to no experience working in the cyber security/network area. I was hoping to get my CCNA and find a job while I take online classes from WGU to get a cyber security degree. Is it worth taking this certification if I don’t have experience in the field to find a job that’ll help me develop a better resume? How do I go from biology major with a MBA to cyber security? I’m just not sure where to start or the best way to get to my goal. Please, any advice is much appreciated!

(I copied and pasted this post from the career guidance part of Reddit...I hope that's okay. Still fairly new to all the Reddit things.)

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6 points · 9 days ago

I would dive right in with Net+ or ICND1/INCD2. I say Net+ to just get some of the basic level knowledge down from a vendor neutral POV. During this time I'd look to put a small lab together, (router/switch/cat5 cable...etc) if possible. At the very least get Cisco Packet Tracer and look for labs on forums/websites/videos. The sooner you get your hands during the better, maybe grab a book from on the cheap and help with formal training.

If you can management it, look for anything related to internship with networking. More than likely you'll land a help desk part time job, which is normal as an entry level position. We all had to pay our dues in the industry, but it will open up so many doors.

Look on LinkedIn, Dice, indeed, us department of labor, any community colleges for internship or entry level positions.

Getting your CCNA as a starter cert is great, by the time you get it you'll have a great idea on what flavor of IT you will get into. From healthcare to VoIP, there is a wide range. The CCNA will help build a great foundation to launch into different areas.

Let me know if you need any help.

Original Poster2 points · 9 days ago

That was very informative and way better advice than anything I've read browsing the web. You have been super helpful! My uncle currently works using his CCNA and had offered to take home some equipment for me to practice with if I ever need it. I have a Cybrary account and it seems they also offer some study materials for CCNA. I've been reading the Cisco CCENT/CCNA official Cert Guide on my spare time but I think I'll take everyone's advice and look into the basic certs like Sec+ and Net+ first. I think I can pass the CCNA, I've been taking exams all my life but this could be different. I've taken the MCAT, GMAT, and the DAT which are all gruesome 3+ hour exams--bring it on CCNA (and everything else)!

I am looking for internships but I suppose my university discourage those in a different major (MBA) from getting internships in other majors (in this case, IT/networking). It's a shot in the dark, but I do take any chance I can get. I'm currently working for a pretty good company in customer support but it's not something I plan to do my entire life and I've always loved being around and working with computers. I was just raised in a family where the expectation of success is to be a doctor or lawyer so hadn't been able to experience other fields.

Thank you for offering help if I need it--I will definitely take you up on that offer and send you a message when I need more advice. You've been really helpful and I appreciate the help!

3 points · 9 days ago

If you feel like you know the material , I'd ask your uncle to quiz you on the equipment he has, as well as basic level T/S (Troubleshooting). Leveraging your uncle is a huge/amazing/great asset to have. May even help with job hunting/searching/advice. I wish I had this.

Take your Cisco books and look at the exam layout, you can always go take the CCENT(ICND1) exam. If $150 is too much right now and save up for it. It took me 3 tries to get my CCENT. DONT GET DISCOURAGED ON FAILING !!! Cisco exams can be a bit tricky with wording, but you have a solid understand on exam questions and how to take them.

Always practice any labs you find online to help with the exam. (Ask your uncle questions, ask the Cisco Adcemy forums...etc).Each time I took the exam it was completely different (in regards to labs). If you get your CCNA, and end up hating IT and you have a fall back with your degree. IT isn't for everyone, massive learning curve.

One more tool you need to master, probably the most used tool that any IT professional uses... Google. There isn't one senior IT professional that doesn't leverage Google. Always have an open mind when exposing yourself to IT.

Original Poster2 points · 8 days ago

Once I get more time to read my CCNA study guide and get to the point where I know the basics and needs hands-on, I'll definitely ask my uncle to quiz me on the equipment. He works more with the physical layer than anything else but he could help me job search for sure. I am blessed to have that kind of resource to have.

Thank you for the heads up and encouragement! I'm pretty stubborn and determined when I decide on meeting a certain goal. I do understand it's a massive learning curve but I rather brave that than stay in customer support. Additionally, working in the IT field is something I've always wanted to do but have been discouraged from because my family doesn't see it very becoming of a woman (and it doesn't fall in the category of "doctors" and "lawyers"). I just figured since I've gotten no where in life with my career with the degrees I have, why not just go back for something I have high potential of enjoying.

I agree with you! Google is now one of the best resource to use for almost anything, not just IT. I'll definitely keep your advice in mind. Thank you so much for the taking the time to respond to my post and being so helpful!

4 points · 9 days ago

Short answer is yes, getting a CCNA would help with getting a tech job. Depending on the company, jobs that are explicitly infosec-related are tough to get without more experience in your belt.

That said, my friendly advice is to be wary of the difference between what you've done and what you're looking to do. Most jobs will want you to do some amount of break-fix and demonstrate an amount of hands-on experience. You might have that already, or it might be something you need to develop. But if you enjoy fixing things that are broke by virtue of knowing how they generally work and systematically checking each component to compare expected to observed behaviors, then you'll do great. If that's not your thing then it kinda needs to become your thing.

If you're comfortable delivering presentations and interacting with executives, you might want to consider steering yourself towards a sales engineering or consulting gig. But you're smart to get your hands dirty first.

One other thing, if your job hunting doesn't go well at first you might consider leaving your MBA off of your resume while job-hunting. You might find that your prospective boss is afraid of you taking his/her job. Best of luck!

Original Poster2 points · 9 days ago

This is very helpful advice, thank you!!! I have never brought my computer to get fixed because I've always done the tweaking and fixing myself. I figured I like this field best because I lean towards an introvert and enjoy hands-on things. Honestly, I do not have any hands-on experience in the work environment but I've done little things in my personal life but I didn't think it'd really account for anything on a resume. Strangely enough, I was offered a dual degree option--for 6 more classes, I can have a Masters in Information System. They already enrolled me for python programming this fall but I wasn't sure if I wanted to go for the MIS because I have no experience it feels like another glorified piece of paper :/

Consulting might work out for me but I'm not sure if I'll do too well as a sales engineer. I'm only comfortable giving presentations because that's all we do in the MBA course. Then again, it's a contained, learning environment--not sure if I'm that comfortable presenting in an actual work environment.

Wow, I never knew the MBA could be the bane of my existence! I'll be sure to watch out to see if I need to leave my MBA off my resume while job hunting. You've been very informative, thank you a ton for the advice and I appreciate your time responding to my post!

2 points · 9 days ago

Happy to help and feel free to keep in touch. If I may I'll offer two friendly pieces of advice:

  1. Don't sell yourself short. You have more degrees in your belt than I do and I'm pretty sure you had to have a decent head on your shoulders to get them. Likewise if you're someone who enjoys tinkering on your computer at the house then that's not a thing to hand-wave: you've probably cracked the case on your PC more recently than I have on mine, and I run an engineering team for a voip company. Everyone you compete against for a job is going to take every strength of theirs and try to make it seem like a big deal. While you want to be realistic, job interviews are definitely not the time to be humble.

  2. That MBA will be super helpful... when you're applying for IT job #2. And #3 and #4. It's just that job #1 might look at it and either be intimidated like I mentioned, or come to the conclusion that you'll leave them when you get a better offer. Of course the best companies will offer an upward path for you to climb, but not all do.

Oh one other thing - python is definitely not a bad language to have in your belt. It's probably overkill at this point in your career, but it could definitely come in handy later. If you enjoy the infrastructure piece that you get exposed to with your CCNA and you find that you enjoy scripting and automation, you might want to check out /r/devops. Cheers!

Original Poster2 points · 9 days ago

I am very open to any advice! I'm book smart but certainly sub-par when it comes to street smart so I appreciate all the help I can get. I will work on being less humble during interviews and make everything I do count. And it's a relief to know that my MBA might come in handy later.

Thank you for the subReddit recommendation! I would love to learn some programming on the side. Just subscribed to it for future reference :D Cheers!

8 points · 9 days ago

CCNA Security is a good start, but fairly Cisco specific. Security+ is an entry level generic security cert.

Honestly, if I were you, with the degree in Biology and an MBA, I'd be looking to form a start-up in cyber security that focuses on implementing biological systems methods into cyber security. That is, how nature does defense and how those methods can be applied to a digital realm. If you can find someone with a background in "big data" or "machine learning", you could have venture capitalists throwing money at you in bucketfuls.

Nature is very creative, and if we can adapt various systems to handling cyber security, you could be set for life.

A+, Network+, Security+, CCNA in progress
2 points · 9 days ago

Get the Security+ to start. You really won't learn anything most likely, it's pretty generic, but the DoD 8570 compliance is huge. There are other certs that meet it also, but trust me when I say 99% of the HR departments out there that need the compliance are looking for you to have Security+.

Original Poster1 point · 9 days ago

Thank you for clarifying more about Security+! I wasn't aware of the DoD 8570 compliance or that it existed. Just recently researched into the field because it's much more interesting than anything else I've done. I'm really up for anything at this point, whatever it takes for me to get through the door and enter the tech/cyber security industry. I will definitely start with the basics like you advised and take Security+. At least I got an idea of where my square one is starting!! You are great help!

Original Poster1 point · 9 days ago

If I had the talent to be an entrepreneur with a network of talented individuals, that sounds like a phenomenal plan! I know a lot of the medical systems are (to state it mildly) awful. I've scribed and volunteer for a total of almost a year and all their systems were poorly coordinated. I always thought maybe I could make use of the BS in Biology and MBA but so far I feel like a black sheep more than anything else.

Thank you very much for the advice, every little bit helps! I actually haven't been aware of Security+ as an option. Had considered taking A+ first before CCNA but didn't feel like they were linked with one being software/hardware whereas the other is Cisco specific network. I think I'm going to look into Security+ and mostly start from there!

IIRC, WGU cyber security curriculum includes CCNA. They provide some great resources to work towards it. So unless you're looking to get credit for it ahead of time and skip those courses, it might be more efficient to do the Network+ first to get your feet wet, then dive in to CCNA.

Original Poster1 point · 9 days ago

I did notice their curriculum includes CCNA but I didn't know there were other certifications that I could take (besides A+) that would help me get an entry level position in the industry. Eventually I would like to work towards a cyber security degree but just not any time soon (I think I invested too much into universities at the moment and need some time to build up funds again). Thank you for the advice, I really appreciate it! I'll definitely take a look into Network+ as well as Security+.

Bear in mind that Network+ is entry level. It isn't regarded nearly as well as CCNA. Good luck in your journey

Original Poster1 point · 9 days ago

Ah, I will keep that in mind and definitely weigh my options and see which one is most feasible for me. Thank you for the good wishes!

Just go for Security+ like someone else said. It's the cert for entry level government infosec jobs, and most jobs that want a cert for an entry level security person will take that as equivalent.

Original Poster1 point · 9 days ago

I am convinced! I will look into Security+ and take that before I dive into the deep end for a CCNA. Thank you for advice!

3 points · 9 days ago

I agree with what a lot of other people have said here but it’s not the only way to slice your answer.

Do you really want to be technical? It’s a track that is demanding, constantly changing, and requires you become an expert on multiple fields to really advance within the cyber security industry.

With your MBA, I would recommend you stay away from CCNA, Network+ and other similar entry level tech exams. I would say you need to look at field specific exams within Cyber Security and risk management.

I’d recommend taking a look at COBIT. Anything in the infosec field is pretty much on Linux, so you’ll need to get familiar with it. If you really want entry level certs hit LPIC-1 which also gives you Linux+ and a SUSE certification. Look at doing the ISC(2) SSCP or sitting the CISSP exam. You’ll get neither accreditation without experience but it will go a long way with employers if you’ve passed the exam. Have a look at OCSP, CEH, GIAC.

I would not recommend you sit another degree, WGU or otherwise. If I look at a CV with 3 degrees and no experience it goes in the bin.

Best thing you can do is get into the industry ASAP in any capacity you can (even sales, which you have the qualifications for and is a legitimate career field within the industry that also pays really well).

If you want to switch to technical/consultancy later you can.

Original Poster1 point · 8 days ago

Thank you for advice! That’s what I believe too hence I thought about getting the certifications—so I can get my foot into the field ASAP for work experience. I’ve never been really at sales so that’s why I would rather work a help desk or customer support position. I’ve been told I’m great on the phone with customers but it isn’t something I want to do for the rest of my life.

If I can work mostly with data or internal personnel, it would be highly ideal. I’ll definitely take a look into COBIT and the entry level careers for Linux as well as research more into it. I have very little knowledge in that area so it’ll be worthwhile for me to research that a little more.

Thank you so much for taking your time to respond to my post! It’s really informative and helps me to see other options before I make a final decision. You’ve been so helpful, I appreciate it :)

3 points · 8 days ago

No problem. GIAC Security Essentials, LPIC-1, COBIT, and working towards CEH or one of the more advanced GIAC certs should land you something in infosec.

In the meantime I’d go out there and take a service desk job just to get some baseline experience within IT generally. ITIL Foundation is one of the most valuable yet easy to pass certs if you want to understand how enterprise IT is supposed to work.

Try get employed by a pharma or biotech company and swing off your biology to help land it.

I can’t stress enough that you’ve already got a graduate degree and another one is not really going to do anything apart from land you in a pile more of debt.

Sales is all about understand what your customer needs, and you know how to analyse a business (I’m assuming with your MBA) so you’d probably be a lot better at it than you think, especially if you have a decent telephone manner. Sucks a whole load less than working on the “hell desk” too.

You’re welcome, and good luck!

Original Poster2 points · 8 days ago

I'll definitely try my luck at a service desk job for that baseline experience within IT while I study and take a foundation certification to help me along the way.

Thank you so, so much for the advice. I've had such an awful time looking for jobs in the healthcare industry that I halfway given up. I'll give it another shot with my luck since I do have a degree to at least be considered.

I agree and that is why I'm very hesitant about going back for another degree. My MBA is highly useful if I want to do sales but it just hasn't been my cup of tea. I suppose I could give it a try before dismissing it. My phone manner is great but I don't quite have the poker face and I am a little too honest for my own good lol

It's really been great hearing different options and ways to go about my career from you! It's been extremely helpful and I cannot express how grateful I am to hear different opinions. Thank you for the good wishes, it means a lot!

2 points · 9 days ago

CCNA is solid but remember it's very specific to networking and also very specific to cisco(the principles apply across the board of course).

If you're totally new to IT in general I don't know that CCNA is the best place to start. I personally started with A+ and Net+ and now am moving on to more advanced certs. Another thing I've been looking into lately which might also help you are community colleges. You might be surprised how many IT related courses/short programs community colleges offer. I'm thinking about taking short programs(like 1-2 semesters or less) where the program specifically includes getting certs like the CCNA, or MCSA, etc etc.

Regardless, the nice thing about IT is that it's an incredibly broad field with nearly endless opportunity.

Side note: I went from a customer service position to an entry level IT position with just the A+ certification, and the pay bump was significant. I think I was in the low 30's as a customer service rep and a year or so later I was in the mid 40's. Not enough to get rich, but it makes living and surviving a lot easier.

Original Poster1 point · 9 days ago

It's so nice to know I'm not the only one making such a 180 degree career change! Currently, my company doesn't even have any full time position open...but it's okay for now since I do take classes for my MBA. I'm just lucky my parents haven't kicked me out for being a freeloader! And I agree, as long as it makes living a bit easier, I'll take my chances.

Thank you for the advice! I think you and everyone really gave me a good idea of where to start. I'll take a look into Sec+, Net+, and/or A+ first but take it one at a time. I tend to try to learn everything in one go and it probably won't work out well if I do it for this. I'll take one of those 3 certs first and then maybe attempt the CCNA. Hopefully getting the first cert might get me an internship or PT/FT job in that industry so I can start accumulating experience. It's just that first step and making it happen that's difficult for me.

I might call and ask my community college. I've seen some programs for CCNA but it's like 2 years long. I just want to get experience while I study more into the field. I came from a family of immigrants who believes degrees and good grades are the best way to get a job but turns out experience trumps a lot decisions between job candidates. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post and giving valuable advice!

What kind of job you think you'll be looking for and your previous experience could effect the value you might get out of each of the CompTIA certs. My department has a helpdesk that would value Network+ over A+ or Security+ because we are a networking company and not generic IT support or have government contracts to need meet the security requirements. A more generic helpdesk would want A+, while some places would want Security+ just to meet the DoD requirements. I believe at my community college the classes for the 3 big CompTIA certs were two classes each, much shorter than a 2 year CCNA track.

Original Poster1 point · 8 days ago

Ah, I should really look at companies I would like to work at. Although, honestly, at this point I will take any position that will have me so I can gain the experience (and save me from a customer support position that doesn't seem to contribute to the fields I want to find entry into). I will even pay my due and work a tech help desk if that is what it takes.

I'll definitely look more into the other CompTIA certs. I've been so narrowed minded and have just been looking into CCNA at my community college that I didn't even notice they might have offer other cert classes. Even if I do enroll, I wouldn't be able to do it this fall semester. I have my MBA classes and a part time job that takes up half the day. I've been squeezing in some CCNA reading whenever I have spare time. Thank you for the input and helpful advice, I really appreciate it!

2 points · 9 days ago

Yes, CCNA will help you score a job in IT especially if you already have a BA or masters.

I’d shoot for the healthcare industry. Hospitals have massive enterprise networks that have to be highly available and super secure. Think HIPAA regulations.

Original Poster2 points · 9 days ago

Would it be okay even if my BA/Masters isn't in the IT/cyber security field?

You have a really good point. I've never really tried looking for positions in the healthcare industry relating to IT/cyber security. Thank you so much for that advice, I appreciate you taking your time to respond to my post! Now I have another avenue to do some job hunting...once I get certified.

3 points · 9 days ago

CISSA seems more inline with your educational level (and presumed abilities). Don't sell yourself short. Basic plumbing aka Security+ and CNNA are great to get into the entry level roles but with a BA in Biology and an MBA, it seems like an unecessary detour. Health Infromatics, big data and the security compliance around that would be an target area of I were you. You can learn to run a few python netsec scripts and auditing tools or you can manage a team to do that for you while you concentrate on the big picture.

Original Poster1 point · 8 days ago

That’s a whole different venue that I didn’t know existed. I’ll definitely take a look at that. I guess I’m just more concerned with the fact I don’t have very much experience to get my foot into the door. My experience has been mostly customer support with a background in biology...with some volunteer/scribe experience. I know my whole resume is weak without experience. However, I’ll research this too—sounds pretty awesome to work with big data!! Thank you for the recommendation and advice :)

2 points · 9 days ago · edited 9 days ago

Would it be okay even if my BA/Masters isn't in the IT/cyber security field?

Yes it's fine - any undergrad/grad degree in addition to certs gives you a leg up in IT.

Original Poster1 point · 8 days ago

Oh wow, that’s good to hear—thanks for the confirmation! At least I don’t feel so discourage :)

2 points · 8 days ago

Yes, my BA isn’t in computer science or IT. I do hold several certs and lots of work experience in IT. I work at the engineer level.

I also recommend ITIL certifications, network design certifications, and project manager certifications depending on what path interests you.

CCNA R/S + masters should land you in an IT admin role.

Original Poster2 points · 8 days ago

That's amazing! I feel much more hopeful knowing it's possible.

Thank you for the recommendation! I will make time to research those certs and figure out which path interests me more so that I can weigh my options. This has all been extremely helpful! I cannot express how helpful this has been for me to find out I haven't hit a dead end.

2 points · 9 days ago

sooo i dont have a degree, i have certifications but i wish i had a degree first because that never expires and alot of supervisor/management/director jobs require them.

with that being said, i think the wgu path is a great way to get started down the IT path, you get "another" degree and certs.

Original Poster1 point · 8 days ago

I was thinking of enrolling in WGU after I get some work experience to get an idea which route I like to go within that big, broad field of cyber security. I dove in and got a degree then worked for a MBA but never had a direction of where or what I want to do with it up until now. Thank you for the encouragement! Once I get a better understanding of which specific path within cyber security I want to take, I’ll definitely look to enroll into WGU for a degree that pertains to my field (if it’s necessary). Thank you again for your input, it definitely helps!

2 points · 8 days ago · edited 8 days ago
Original Poster2 points · 8 days ago

Oh, wow!! Thank you so, so much for these informative links! I appreciate your help and time to respond to my post. That road map looks extremely helpful for me to figure out which specialty I would be interested in. Looks like I have a lot more research to do before I dive into the deep end and commit :) Thank you again for the advice!!

No worries. Best of luck

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