I have just graduated Diploma of Business Computing from Tai Poutini Polytechnic. I have been accepted for a position as help desk consultant on a 1200-PC network. I am trying to decide whether to go MSCE or Cisco.
Protocol Personnel replies: Good question. It really depends on what you hope to achieve by doing either of these qualifications. I am assuming that your job requires you to support a Microsoft Win9x/NT or Windows 2000 network, in which case an MCSE will be valuable in helping you perform your job better as well as open up promotional opportunities down the track. The high saturation of Microsoft products worldwide will mean your certification will be of value to you in future roles for some time yet.
As far as Cisco certification goes, the growth of networking globally and the staggering growth of the internet has seen Cisco grow in leaps and bounds. It is currently a very sought after certification and is likely to be for a few years to come.
The most sort after qualification would be a CCIE, but its high cost (about $20,000), high failure rate and compulsory lab requirements have meant a lot of people have not yet got this qualification. Ideally you will start with a CCNA and work your way up as you gain experience with the equipment. Long term this should be a good qualification to have.
To really answer your question, I would say do both. Start the MCSE now and then work on Cisco and then find another certification to work on. Having one certification will not be enough; you will need to continue year in year out to keep your skills and knowledge cutting edge. In IT you have to continue the education process every day. Good luck.
Readers with career questions can have them answered in this column by IT recruitment specialists. Send questions via Computerworld journalist, Darren Greenwood, with "Dear Adviser" in the subject line.