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college student here with a desire to get a job as a network admin/technician later on in life. For me, learning by experience is the most beneficial way for me to learn the ins and outs of a new piece of software/hardware. The only issue (given my shoestring college student budget) is that I really can't gain any hands on experience with SMB/Enterprise grade networking software/hardware because of how expensive most products in this category are. Sure, reading through manuals can be enlightening, but for me nothing ever comes close to actually getting hands on experience tinkering with something. Any suggestions as to how to get more real-world networking skills with this level of software/hardware would be greatly appreciated.

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  • You can buy equipment on E-Bay for relatively low prices, work with it, then resell it on E-Bay when you are done. This is how most people do it. Alternatively, there are rack rental services where you can rent time on a fully equipped rack of network equipment. Most also offer lab exercises, or you can just play with the equipment.
    – Ron Maupin
    Jul 11 '16 at 13:38
  • I'm sure the job market is different these days but if you take at least one computer science class, work at some job nights and weekends during college, and are willing to start at the bottom you could just get an entry level job right out of college without having touched business equipment. Look for a small company and be willing to learn anything and everything. Prove yourself and before you know it you'll be playing with all the cool toys. Jul 12 '16 at 3:53
  • Did any answer help you? If so, you should accept the answer so that the question doesn't keep popping up forever, looking for an answer. Alternatively, you could provide and accept your own answer.
    – Ron Maupin
    Aug 14 '17 at 21:26
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You have pretty much two options.

1) Buy used equipment from Ebay which are dirt cheap. You won't get the latest and the greatest but if you are starting up, this is ideal. Do research on which equipment is best to start your lab. Many people have done great write ups on this. Just google for information.

2) Cheapest option is to use simulators such as PacketTracer and GNS3. GNS3 gives you alot more options as it isn't locked down to a single vendor where as Packet Tracer is specific to Cisco equipment. With GNS3 you can use Cisco, JunOS, ComWare and ExtremeNetworks just to name a few. GNS3 website and forum is a great start to learn more about it.

Apologies if my answer isn't too in-depth but this section of the site isn't really for questions like yours. This site is more dedicated for enterprise technical questions and not for learning, home setups, etc etc.

Wish you all the best in your pursuit.

SleepyMan

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