9 Ways to Get an MCSE or CNE Without
by Richard Stooker
1. Buy good certification books.
Yes, I know how thick they are - the tests
do cover that much material, so what can you
do? A teacher is not going to talk that much
without wearing out their throat, so in
the final analysis you are going to spend a
lot of time reading and studying those books
I was told by a training school recruiter that
the recommended process was to take a class
for 3 full days, then study for a month, then
take the certification exam.
So, that’s at least ten days of study in front
of a thick book for each day of class anyway.
So you’re going to buy and study thick books
anyway. Do you really need to pay for a live
teacher too? People can and do pass the
certifications simply by studying on their own.
2. Buy computer based CD-ROM training.
This is of course very similar to the above
method, except that computer based training is
more interactive, more fun, probably more
effective for most people and also more
expensive, although still nowhere near $5000.
It’s easier to stay awake. The questions and
interactivity force you to interact with the
material. Using it immediately and getting
immediately feedback does help reinforce
learning and understanding.
This is recommended for people who really dread
the thought of just sitting and reading the
thick books, but who can’t afford the $5000
classes. If you have a question you just
cannot find the answer to, put it out on one of
the many newsgroups or listserves on the
Internet, and let experienced on the job
networking professionals help you out. Live
teachers can do the same, but sometimes not
with the same extensive background in what’s
happening in the real world.
People can and do pass the certification exams
jst by taking computer based training. One
company, Forefront, even gives you a 90
day money back guarantee on all its certification
courses. If you don’t pass after using their CBT
course, you get your money back. Details
available at (877) 872-4646.
3. Take training classes online through
Again, it will take long hours of study, but
it’s an interesting format.
4. Put together your own network study
laboratory by buying several used PCS
hooking them up in your home office.
Look for used computers cheap online, in
your local newspaper For Sale ads or just ask
your friends. Lots of people have old 386/486s
they’d gladly give you for free just so they’ll
have more closet space.
Buy the network parts in a local computer
store or online.
This is a terrific way to get hands on
experience. I saw it mentioned in a letter
in a discussion forum by someone who
actually did it. You’ll learn directly how
to work with the equipment.
It’s not the same as networking 100 stations
in a company, of course. But it’s still a good
idea. You’ll still have to study those thick
books, but you’ll be able to right away put
your hands to work on that chapter, thus
reinforcing your new knowledge and skills
as you go.
5. If you’re currently employed in a networking
job, get your current employer to pay for
You may have to sign an agreement to continue
working for them for two years or so. Many
companies are starting to require such policies
after they paid for certification classes for
employees who then immediately got better jobs
and quit, or who first demanded higher pay and,
when refused, then got better jobs and quit.
In other words, most companies are willing to
pay for your certification only if you are
planning to put your new knowledge and
skills to work for them for a reasonable time
It is certainly fair however to make it clear
to your boss that you want to take on more
responsibility as you are prepared for it and
you expect to be paid a higher salary
commensurate with your higher level of job
duties, as they do expand to a higher level.
If your company refuses that, it wants to keep
you trapped in your current dead end job.
That should be a clue that you need to get
out, whether they pay for your certification
or not. Look for a company that wants to
build itself by building its employees.
A lot of course will depend on your relationship
with the company. How long you’ve worked there
already and whether you act in a way that makes
them believe you see a long-term future with
them - or not.
6. Pass the first several required tests, use
those credentials to get an entry level job
and then get your new employer to pay for the
You’re not going to be hired as a network
administrator after you pass one or two of
the MCSE required exams. However, you may
be able to use those exams to get your foot
in the door with some menial entry-level job.
Even if it’s repairing computers, that’s
Many new IT job seekers are hired to answer
customer technical questions.
Make it clear to your boss however that you
have set your sights on networking and that
you are going to continue your education
whether they pay for it or not. Don’t say so
right out loud in so many words, but do make
it clear that if you wind up paying for
your certification by yourself, you will
feel no loyalty toward the company, and
will therefore feel free to take any position
for which you qualify once you are certified.
Why should you not feel that way, if you did
have to do it all on your own?
That’s not a threat, just you looking out
7. Pass the new CompTIA Network+
cross-platform certification test, use that
to get an entry level job, then get your
new employer to pay for the classes.
This answer is obviously similar to the one
above. You can use the new Network+
certification to get your foot in the door.
Almost everything in these cases depends on
your relationship with the company. If it’s a
good one, and they see you as an evolving
superstar who’s going to have a lot to offer
them down the road, that’s obviously to your
If you are seen as someone out just for
themselves anyway, they’re not going to risk
the money on you. If you leave, good
8. If you are unemployed, the government
may pay for your training.
Check with your local unemployment office to
see what is available in your area. Here in
St. Louis, laid off Boeing workers have a
complete center paid for with a government
grant, and the program is sending some to
9. If you are on Supplemental Security Income
(SSI), apply for a Plan for Achieving
Self Support (PASS Plan).
The basic idea is, you are capable of working
as a networking professional, but you can’t
yet because you don’t know how. So you
want to learn by buying the books etc.
Consult with a good career counselor or
Vocational Rehabilitation. Come up with a
good estimate for the cost of the certification.
(Don’t forget to include the cost of the
examinations too, not just the training.)
Assume you may have to repeat some of the
examinations - that’s normal, most everybody
does. Whatever that amount of money is, you
don’t have it. But if you could only go to work,
maybe at McDonald’s or whatever, you could
save the money up in 6 months or so. But you
can’t now, because if you go to work your
SSI will be cut so much you still won’t be
able to save much. That’s where the PASS
Plan comes into play.
If you agree to put $X out of your paycheck
into a savings account until you have enough
saved up to buy the books you need etc. (Actually,
you could get started right away after it’s
approved. . . Social Security will then agree
not to count the $X you are saving as income
that cuts your SSI check. Therefore, you can
work but still use your SSI to pay your
bills with, while saving $X out of every
paycheck toward your eventual financial
Social Security will also ignore the usual
$2000 resource limit. They will continue to
send you SSI while you have over $2000 as
long as this money you are saving for your
PASS plan is in an account that's separate
from your living expenses money.
Go to your local Social Security office with
all your estimates and how you plan to proceed
and how long it will take - put together all
the details you can. Someone there will help
you fill out their form, and then will submit
it to a PASS expert, who is the person who
decides whether or not you qualify. The
more detail you have in your PASS plan and
the more you make it clear that you are
serious and prepared and capable, the better
It also wouldn’t hurt to include the
standard material in Chapter 3 of the book,
the boom in computer jobs chapter, especially
to show them the high demand there is for
people with the certification you are
shooting for. Use brochures from your
local training company even if you don’t
plan to take their $5000 classes. Your goal
at this stage is just to have SSA approve
your PASS Plan.
You must convince them of three things:
1. You are capable of doing the job you are
shooting for, you’re just not qualified yet.
You need more knowledge, a professional
degree or certification etc.
2. You have a feasible plan for getting
yourself to the point where you qualify for
3. When you finish your plan, there is
a reasonable chance you can get the job
and that doing so will reduce or eliminate
your dependence on SSI.
The MCSE/CNE certifications certainly
meet requirement #3. #2 is not hard if you
just look around for the price of the books
and equipment you need. #1 is up to you.
Not all methods will work for everybody.
The point is, if you’re willing to read, study
and work hard on your own, you don’t have to
spend top dollar. If you can get your employer
or the government to pay for your classes, go
for it. All these methods have been used by
somebody and will be used by many more. Now
I wish you all the greatest success in
your networking careers.
Copyright 2002 by Info Ring Press
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ABOUT THE AUTHORRichard Stooker is the author of Secrets of Changing to
a Computer Career.