Offered last fall for the first time at Muskegon Community College, the CISCO computer networking certificate program packs a lot of job marketability punch into a course of study that can be completed in just two semesters.
“It’s probably one of the best entry level IT networking certifications out there,” explains Mark Verhoeven, the MCC faculty member who provides the hands-on, 27-credit hour instruction that prepares students for taking the CCNA (CISCO Certified Network Associate) exam.
The CCNA test covers a broad range of fundamentals for IT careers, based on the latest networking technologies and job roles. The CCNA is a foundational certification for those seeking a high-level networking profession, as well as one of the most highly sought-after certifications in the industry as a whole.
“The CCNA is the golden ticket to an IT job,” says Verhoeven. “If you put that on your resume, it’s going to get you the interview, just like that.”
To prove his point, Verhoeven recently typed “CCNA” into a job search on a reputable online employment search engine and 98 openings appeared in Michigan alone.
MCC added the certificate as part of its 2017-22 Strategic Plan “to provide viable courses and programs that address the changing needs of a diverse community.”
The primary prerequisite for pursuing the certificate, according to Verhoeven, who has taught CISCO certification for 14 years, is a love of computers.
“They may even not understand how to use them,” he explains. “I have taken students who didn’t even know how to configure a screen saver on a computer, to running businesses and IT systems here in Muskegon County and in Grand Rapids.”
The CISCO Networking Labs, located in MCC’s Stevenson Center, are segmented off the college’s computer network which allows students to gain valuable experience while working with virtual machines.
“Everything we do is hands-on learning,” continues Verhoeven. “I am not just going to sit there and lecture for three hours because the students are not going to learn how to do things in the real world if they don’t do them in the classroom. And, yes, we do teach the Security + training.”
“Cybersecurity is this huge buzzword now. Everybody’s computers are coming under attack. In order to get into the cybersecurity field, you have to have an understanding of how computers work and how that information travels across the network. There’s no better way to get that base than through CISCO certification and classes.”
Access to virtual machines allows the students to understand firsthand the principles of hacking, the tools an attacker uses, and how to defend against hacking attempts, says Verhoeven.
MCC has articulation agreements with both Muskegon Career Tech Center and the Newaygo Area Career Tech Center, where students take the first two CISCO classes, to allow them to complete CISCO 3 and CISCO 4 courses at the college. This past year, MCC’s Testing Center became a Pearson VUE computer-based testing site – the only one in Muskegon County – which exclusively conduct the CCNA exams for CISCO nationwide.
Participants in MCC’s CISCO certificate program also receive a nearly 60 percent discount in their certification fees, adds Verhoeven, who sees a sizeable return on investment for someone graduating from MCC’s CISCO certificate program.
“For less than $5,000 total for courses and books, they can get started in a job at $35,000 per year,” he says. “If they earn an associate’s degree here, that can be $45,000. We have an amazing agreement with Ferris State University in which they can take three of their four years of courses right here at MCC at our tuition rates toward a bachelor’s degree in computer information technology. A job with that degree begins at $55,000-60,000 a year.”
Verhoeven views uncertainty as the biggest obstacle to many who do not take the first steps toward a CCNA certificate.
“They worry about getting started and if they’re going to be successful,” he says. “I am open anytime to a student who might be on the fence about the program. Come and meet me. We can tour the Networking Lab and I’ll show them what they’ll be doing. That takes away a lot of that fear.”
For more information, contact Mark Verhoeven at (231) 777-0448 or at email@example.com.