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Network security career without experience?

I am an engineer (majored in Electronics & communication) from Asia. I'm working for an ISP (in the operations side of satellite communication services, at a ground station). Due to interest & working in WAN atmosphere (even though just maintaining traffic), I developed an interest in the network security domain. I equipped myself with an advanced software programming course (network protocols, TCP/IP, operating system design & algorithm development). I'd like to switch my job to the network/security area but due to the current economy situation (I am 30 years old) & fear of being a beginner in this too specialized area, I am in a dilemma... Kindly advise me if it is possible to enter the networking arena only with certification & with a PG degree (distance education) as my previous & current experiences are not related to this domain. What shall I do now?

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Anyone can of course try to obtain a job in any field. The trick is to convince the hiring manager(s) that you not only have the interest, but also the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job. Given your current background, were you to obtain the PG degree and also to get a networking certification, the only possible weakness in your background would be a lack of relevant, hands-on experience in the workplace. I suggest that you try to find ways to improve your networking skills in the ground station where you work (surely there is at least a small LAN there, is there not?) and that you do everything you can to improve your level of experience and hands-on knowledge of your chosen subject matter. Given that you have already worked around networks for years (WANs are a kind of network after all, and your knowledge of TCP/IP and other related protocols and services will remain relevant on the LAN side), you should be able to learn faster than most. I'd be surprised if you didn't realize that you probably already know more than you think you do. Also, given your background, I'd suggest going after Cisco certifications (especially if your ISP uses Cisco equipment). Their certifications are in high demand (CCNP and higher, that is) and will dovetail with what you know to some extent as well.

This was first published in March 2002

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