What Is the CCNA? An Entry-Level Networking Certification

The Cisco Certified Network Associate is one of the most popular IT credentials today, shortened to CCNA. This entry-level networking certification is issued by Cisco, a leading global networking hardware giant. The CCNA credential validates a candidate’s knowledge and expertise on the fundamental concepts of networking that networking roles require in IT companies. 

Let’s take a look at some important information you should know if you wish to pursue this credential. But first, here are the facts you should know before proceeding. 

  • You need to clear the 200-301 CCNA exam if you wish to earn a CCNA certification.
  • Last checked in June 2021, a CCNA exam will cost about $300.
  • There are no mandatory prerequisites for taking the CCNA exam. However, Cisco and industry professionals recommend prior training and 6 months of work experience in computer networking.
  • In 2021, CCNA registered over 6000 job positions available on Glassdoor and 12000 on Indeed, for job positions in the US that require a CCNA certification. 

What is the Eligibility Criteria for CCNA?

Cisco provides two certifications at the entry-level for IT professionals These credentials are known as:

  • CCENT - Cisco Certified Entry Level Technician
  • CCT - Cisco Certified Technician

The CCT certification has several sub-categories. Of these, the most widely used credential is the Routing and Switching certification. This credential focuses on the skills that professionals need for the on-site maintenance and support of Cisco branded equipment and systems. 

Both these certifications provide a strong starting point for network professionals in their IT careers. They are also highly recommended as basic training you should complete before applying for a CCNA certification. 

Also Read: Study Tips to Pass the CCNA Certification Exam

Options Available Under CCNA:

Cisco provides many certification options for associate-level networking professionals. Some of the topics and specialisations offered are video, voice, industrial, cloud, wireless, service provider, data centre and routing and switching. Most companies have switched, or are in the process of switching, to cloud technologies or platforms for agility and flexibility. The Cloud certification by CCNA was made for network admins and engineers to expand their skill set and advance their knowledge of cloud-based technologies. 

Every network security professional requires the CCNA Security certification as a basic credential to be recognised by their employer. A Security credential tells employers that the candidate has the skills and expertise to identify security threats, minimise vulnerabilities and manage highly complex infrastructures.

As mentioned before, the CCNA (Routing and Switching) certification is the most widely recognised certification at its level. As the complexity of networks increases, enterprises are looking for more qualified professionals to implement network infrastructure while managing network issues. Networking solutions include voice communications, video services and collaborative environments. The CCNA Routing and Switching training program follows a curriculum that is practical and highly relevant as its training modules align closely with a networking professional’s real-world roles and responsibilities.

Benefits of a CCNA Certification:

Every CCNA certification provides candidates with a deep understanding of fundamental networking concepts. These certifications allow networking professionals to update their knowledge and skills to match the new developments within the domain. CCNA certifications are highly regarded on your resume and provide potential candidates with interviews and employment opportunities in leading organisations. Even within organisations, CCNA-certified professionals are paid higher salaries and receive better new opportunities than non-certified colleagues.

The key benefits of clearing a CCNA exam are:

  • Demonstrating knowledge: When you clear the CCNA exam, you are telling potential employers that you have a foundational understanding of how networks run.
  • Skills: Training for a CCNA certification gives you enough practice for several responsibilities you will have as a networking professional.
  • Credibility: A CCNA credential validates your skills before your employer or hiring manager. It states that your skills, knowledge and expertise in Cisco networking infrastructure is certified by Cisco itself. 
  • Updated skills: Applying for and clearing the CCNA certification is a highly-valued feat, even for a veteran IT professional. It ensures the candidate is updated on all networking advancements and industrial developments.
  • Increased salary: According to data by Global Knowledge, getting a new certification leads to an average salary increase of $13,000.
  • Versatility: According to the US BLS, the demand for networking professionals is rising at a rapid pace. CCNA adapts easily to multiple roles and provides a strong foundation for several domains. It’s a valuable credential to have in your name.

Which Networking Certification Should You Choose - CCNA vs. CompTIA Network+:

The CompTIA Network+ credential is similar to a CCNA certification. It also tests your networking skills, knowledge and expertise. Most networking professionals acquire this certification in an attempt to grow their networking knowledge and job prospects. However, there are a few differences between the two.

  • CCNA is offered by Cisco, while CompTIA Network+ is a vendor-neutral credential. This means with a Network+ certification, you can work with devices or systems regardless of the manufacturer. CCNA only equips you to deal with Cisco tools and products.
  • Some professionals consider Network+ to be more foundational for networking. Meanwhile, CCNA provides a strong foundation for all future Cisco certifications. 

Despite the vendor-specific nature of CCNA, most networking professionals prefer it to CompTIA Network+. Cisco’s products and infrastructure make up a large part of the networking marketplace, holding  47% of the Ethernet switch market. It also makes up 33% of the combined enterprise router and SP market. 

Additional Read: Top 24 Most Popular CCNA Interview Questions And Answers

CCNA Certification Exam Details:

To earn a CCNA certification, candidates need to clear the 200-301 exam. This is a 2-hour long exam that candidates can attempt in Japanese or English. There are several different networking modules covered within this exam. Here’s a breakdown of the exam and what you will be preparing for. 

  • Networking Fundamentals - 20%:

This covers network elements like switches, routers and access points, cabling types, physical interfaces, network topology architecture

  • Network Access - 20%:

VLAN verification and configuration, Layer 2 discovery protocols, interswitch connectivity, Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol operations

  • IP Connectivity - 25%:

Routing tables, IPv4 configuration and verification, IPv6 routing, single area OSPFv2

  • IP Services - 10%:

NAT and NTP configuration and verification, DHCP, DNS, SNMP and syslog feature descriptions, SSH usage

  • Security Fundamentals - 15%:

Security threat analysis, threat mitigation, password policy, physical access control and control lists

  • Programmability and Automation - 10%:

Comparing traditional and controller-based networks, JSON data interpretation, automation concepts. 

Give your career the boost it deserves and start training for a CCNA certification today.

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Armin Vans
Archer Charles has top education industry knowledge with 4 years of experience. Being a passionate blogger also does blogging on the technology niche.

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