Some advice on Cisco Certifications and my 5 year plan

This is a discussion on Some advice on Cisco Certifications and my 5 year plan within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; Hey everybody, So I'm nearing the end of my first semester at college. I've been looking into different majors, and ...

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    Some advice on Cisco Certifications and my 5 year plan

    Hey everybody,

    So I'm nearing the end of my first semester at college. I've been looking into different majors, and have been having a hard time finding definitive answers on the differences between majors and which programs are good. Basically I'd like to get into OS development or Network Security, or something similar to one of those. I don't want to be in school for a long time - I'm a big self-teacher, so I'm really just getting a degree so I can say I went to college and have a degree.

    I've been looking at Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Information Technology, and Information Systems. Of course, even between different schools these majors mean different things. When I've gone to different professors and department advisors, they all give me answers favoring their department. From what I can tell, CE is just a mix of the CS and EE courses. CS focuses on algorithms, data structures, and programming theory. I-Sys is just a business degree with a very heavy focus on computing. IT seems to be a general computer-technology degree that touches on everything a little bit in moderate detail (classes on circuitry, robotics, electronics, wireless communication, networking, OSs and filesystems, software dev...)

    I've heard some not-so-good things about how the IT and CS programs at our school rank nationally. Honestly, the list of classes in the IT program are the ones that interest me most, and have the least number of classes that I consider completely irrelevant to me. Computer Engineering will take me about 6 years to complete - a LOT of classes, and I'm working half-time. The other degrees will take me 4 years.

    CS and I-sys don't interest me that much.

    If I may, let me present my plan to you guys, and if those of you that are in the industry could give me some feedback, considering what I've said above about my preferences and goals, I'd really appreciate it.

    1) I have a programming job that's 20-hours a week during Fall/Winter, and 40-hours a week Spring/Summer. I have a VERY good reputation with the management and I've progressed very quickly. It's Java and ActionScript - a lot of Client/Server communication in various protocols, a few massive batch processing projects, and a healthy dose reverse engineering code. By the time I graduate, I will have been there 5 years.

    2) I'm gonna do the IT major - it's reputedly an easier, shorter major, although lower-quality, but it's also more focussed on things that actually interest me. On the plus-side, it gives me more time for 3 and 4, and I would enjoy it, on the down side - it doesn't get as many recruiters

    3) I'm going to put more effort into getting a CCIE in Security (or at least as far as I can). I'm already working on the material for the CCENT and CCNA.

    4) I'm going to work on some bigger personal projects to use as samples - specifically a small OS and some networking utilities.

    What do you think? Do you think the extra efforts make up for a lower-ranked major? Do you have any suggestions? I'm really trying to avoid taking lots of classes that don't interest me much - I don't have the patience for that, and I'd like to be out of school sooner than later. I'd rather spend more energy on the CC's.

    And if you're wondering - the reason I don't pack up and go to a school that IS ranked higher in the major I'm working on - is that I don't think I can find a school that's ranked this high on average that helps me so much financially (BYU).

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    Does IT have classes in programming theory or computer science? That's what I'd be worried about if you're thinking of going that direction.

    You can't really get the theory from your job, so if it isn't in your major then you'll be missing it when it comes time to check your resume and test your knowledge.

    CE sounds like what you want, except for the fact that it is the longest and most difficult. I-Sys does not sound right.

    As I said IT sounds like it might be missing important theory classes. It also seems like it would gloss over lower level details that you'd need to know in order to program in OS development or network security. For example, does it just explain different types of viruses and malware and how to spot them on a running computer, or does it explain how they work and the latest technologies for identifying and stopping them? IT sounds like the former, but the latter sounds like what you really want for your goals. (In other words, IT sounds like you install and run a firewall, but you sound like you want to write the firewall code.)

    Does the CS major have different paths inside it? My CS major allowed different emphases. Perhaps there is an emphasis that includes the classes you're interested in?

    Your job will be a huge help, but the other thing I'd focus on is making sure you get the theory, as the combination of those two things will make you a strong job candidate.

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    The IT major requires a CS class on algorithms and a class on discrete data structures (and the introductory course - but I've done that already), and 2 additional 400-level classes of my choice. I'll probably have a couple of other elective spots that I could fill up with theoretical classes.

    The only paths in CS are bioinformatics, animation, and education.

    My brother-in-law did IT at the same school - he has more programming experience than I do - but he turned out a pretty decent programmer (got recruited to MicroSoft and recommends the degree)

    I guess my main question here is if you think that my other measures will compensate in the eyes of prospective employer for a lower-ranked major. How important do you think CC's are in the real world?

    I'm also wandering if a CE major would still need some field-specific training before really being a competitive candidate.


    edit: Thanks for the comment on theory. I didn't think it was that important - but I'll make sure I keep it in mind for the electives, at the very least.

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    I like to suggest that people look at majors that are close to but slightly different from what they think their main interests are. I am about to finish up my CE degree and I'm really glad I did it instead of CS or CSE. The addition of hardware opened up a lot of work that I didn't know I would find interesting. In addition having the word "Engineering" in your degree helps by itself. Myself and a CS guy I know are both looking at the same organization and I'm having an easier time because of my degree even though he is a better student.

    Also check out what elective requirements the majors have. For my degree we had to take technical classes outside of the core classes. With those I was able to take a lot of CS classes to tailor my experience to more of a CS degree.

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    I like to suggest that people look at majors that are close to but slightly different from what they think their main interests are
    In addition having the word "Engineering" in your degree helps by itself.
    Ah yes... those are some good points... hmm... *thinking face*

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    It sounds like the IT degree is better than I was thinking.

    Our company doesn't really care about certifications, but our work is not related to the Cisco certifications. I know that if somebody came in with a Microsoft certification in windows programming or something it wouldn't really mean much, especially when hiring someone out of school.

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    So most of the people who I've heard negative things about the IT program from have quoted this guy I used to work with - he's kind of the master on random statistcs - and usually pretty accurate. But I got a hold of him and talked directly to him, as I was having a hard time finding solid statistics - and he actually thinks BYU has a really GOOD IT program! He said IT always loses to I-sys when it's a business job, but that if I actually wanted to work on the tech-side, that IT was good.

    So I guess that's settled! Thanks for all the advice - I really appreciate both ya'lls comments.

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