Reading and learning the material from a book is easy but what is the best way to get practical IT experience, particularly in the realm of network administration and cyber security?
I'm currently enrolled in a cyber security degree program and would like to eventually make the jump from the military to IT. As I am currently not in an IT career field, I find it hard to imagine being able to get the practical experience in order to transition comfortably.
If your friends and family don't know anyone, have them ask at their work. Almost all jobs have an IT department. Even a phone interview with someone may help you get some of your questions answered.
I'm in a unique position to answer here because I'm currently doing IT in the Navy and I'm getting out in a couple years to go to school for software engineering. Practical experience is obviously extremely important, but the tech field is nasty compeditive so if you want to be able to get those nice (and paid) internships, you have to look good on paper before you go. College helps, but certifications are a big one. The "big four" for core IT skills are A+, Security+, and Network+. Those combined will give you a huge amount of starting knowledge on everything from network infrastructure and management to database operation. The military (at least the Navy, I'm not sure on other branches) will also pay for the first attempt at the cert exams, and that will save you over a thousand dollars between those 4 tests. But they are rigorous. I'm not sure how much time you have left in the military to study, but they're beasts. You'll need to really buckle down and hit the books (but also make sure you're studying for the correct version of each exam).
Once you have a couple certs (A+ is the easiest, and the others can be any order), you'll be much more compeditive, especially with a military background. Hiring veterans is great PR for companies, and it shows that you have at least some kind of respectable work ethic.
If you're like me and you may be more interested in code than in networks, getting a Python cert would be helpful. Even if you don't want to code, once you have some free time and the certs you want, learning to code will get you extremely familiar with how computers "think," and that never hurts anyone in the IT realm.
Mitchell recommends the following next steps:
you can build virtual machines and start an AD (active Directory). May seem daunting reading this but there are lots of materials on the internet to assist with this. This can give you an understanding of what it might be to admin a corporate network.
You'll find some great resources in this website: https://www.csoonline.com/article/3340819/7-cheap-or-free-cybersecurity-training-resources.html
All really good, and worthwhile trying while you're going to school. I also suggest getting your hands on some cheap equipment through eBay, or Craiglist and start playing around with it like how the redditors in r/homelab do. You don't really need anything fancy, a RaspberryPi would be fine to start with. Another good thing is that cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP offer free tiers that opens up all a big windows of resources to play with at no cost.
or volunteering to help small businesses create a new program.
qualify yourself by obtaining certifications, such as COMMPTIA A+, Network+, cybersecurity analyst,
work at a local college's IT desk for support.
You best bet is probably to connect with a mid- to large-sized company that offers internships. Another good option is approaching non-profits and volunteering to help them out in this area. Since you are enrolled in a program, talk to each of your instructors for advice and specifically ask them for referrals or information about opportunities.
I just recently finished mentoring a Marine who was looking for an IT role as he transitioned out of the service. We connected through American Corporate Partners (ACP), a program that matches corporate mentors to active military personnel. They're a terrific resource, so you may want to check them out at:
Thanks for serving in the military! I did 8 years and was an IT while I was in.
Would it be possible to shadow and assist with the IT's on base/at your unit?
Look at doing an internship (that can lead to a full time job or adds experience to your resume).
Have you done TAPS yet? They tend to mention the latest IT transition programs available to veterans from Amazon, Cisco, the VA, etc.
Also, see if your college has any volunteer opportunities or if you can help assist/plan cyber events at the college (my college had a hackathon).
Hope this helps.
Jay recommends the following next steps: