What to do first, my CCNP or Part Time Graduate Degree

I have a BS in IT Engineering, my CCNA certification, and am currently studying for my CCNP. I’m also in a post graduate program in network engineering. My graduate classes seem out of date and boring. I don’t have time to do both, should I prepare for the CCNP exam or continue my university studies?

I would like to begin by applauding the level of effort and interest you are putting into learning and enhancing your profession. What I would also like to say before giving you my personal thoughts regarding your question, is that you should only use my advice as one small data point in your decision. That said, my first piece of advice to you is to try to find a local mentor that: • Knows you personally • Knows the local job market in general • Understanding how graduate degrees are viewed vs. CCNP certifications are viewed in the job market • Understands the reputation and respect of your specific university • Knows your professional goals

This type of person will be far better suited and qualified to answer your questions than I.

As for my personal thoughts, I think your first step should be to answer the following questions for yourself. Please note that there are no right or wrong answers, only what is true for yourself.

Question #1: What are your short term professional goals and how much more will a CCNP help you than the CCNA you currently have?

Question #2: If you hold off too long before getting your CCNP, until after your graduate work is completed for example, the underlying networking technologies will change, potentially making it harder for you to attain your CCNP at a future time. If you agree with this statement, consider it when making your final decision on how to proceed.

Question #3: By your email, I’m assuming that your post graduate study in network engineering is being done part time. If that is the case and completing your post graduate degree is many years away, would taking one semester off to finish your CCNP certificate dramatically modify your long range future plans?

Question #4: You also mentioned in your email that your graduate classes seem old fashioned and boring. My assumption by this statement is that you are currently there for the degree, rather than the networking knowledge, particularly since you are a CCNA and will soon potentially be a CCNP level engineer. Therefore, if you finished your CCNP first, to gain the credential and networking knowledge, would it make sense for you to slightly modify your graduate course work to broaden your technical expertise on topics related to networking, for example, virtualization, data security, and data/or center administration? This broadening could help you become a more versatile professional and potentially position you for future data center management positions beyond networking.

In closing, I know that rather than answering your questions directly, I simply gave you more factors to think about. I answered you this way for three main reasons. First, my goal is to do no harm, by suggesting you go in a direction that doesn’t follow your heart. Second, I truly believe that finding a local mentor, such as a trusted previous professor or knowledgeable family friend, could provide you with greater insights. Lastly, the nature of professional coaching is to ask questions that can help you clarify and solidify the plan of action that best fits who you are as a person and a professional.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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