Tag

ccna

Browsing

Information technology is a highly dynamic and ever-changing field.  As the industry evolves, new types or sets of certifications continue to crop up.

Because of the sheer number of certifications, certification paths, specializations and providers out there, it is easy for someone new to IT to be confused about where to start.  Even people who are certified might be unsure of the next steps.

Let TrainSignal walk you through the basics of IT certification training, including how to carve out your own certification path and a few tips on how to ace certification exams.

In this easy-to-follow guide, you will get the answers to these often-asked questions:

    • Why should I get certified?
    • What are my certification options? What is the difference between them?
    • Which certification should I start with?
    • Which exams should I take first among the various certification paths?
    • How do I prepare for a test?

Why should I get certified?

There are myriads of reasons why you should seek out certification in a number of IT-related programs, software or skills, but three reasons are key:

    1. Credibility
    1. Marketability
    1. Personal development

Credibility

IT certifications are testaments to your skills and proficiency in a certain area.  For example, becoming a VMware Certified Professional tells hiring managers, companies and clients that you have the experience and skills needed to effectively create, design, manage and maintain a cloud environment.

This is the biggest reason why IT professionals pursue IT certifications.  It helps validate your skills and expertise in your current job.

Marketability

There are certain certifications that are appropriate for wherever you are at in your career.  For example, it may help new graduates land entry-level positions if they pursue basic certifications such as CompTIA A+, Microsoft Certified Professional, Certified Internet Webmaster Associate, Sun Certified Java Programmer and Cisco’s CCNA.

These certifications validate the skills they learned in school  and can help make up for not having the right work experience for the job.

In fact, no matter where you are in your IT career, certifications will almost always give you an edge over non-certified IT professionals.

Certifications do more than just validate your skills and experience.  It also shows potential employers that you are committed to the IT field by spending the money and time to obtain your certifications.

IT certifications also make career advancement more likely.  The plain truth is that, in general, IT certifications can help you get a pay raise or a promotion.

According to Rich Hein at CIO.com, the right certifications could mean anywhere from an 8 to 16 percent increase in your pay, so certifications are very important when it comes to compensation.

Lastly, certifications are a must in certain sectors within IT. Consultants and  people who are self-employed would be wise to obtain certifications so more clients will trust them.  Additionally, most government IT positions require certain certifications for you to be eligible for hiring.

Personal and Professional Development

IT is a very dynamic field and new technologies are introduced every single day.  Certifications are important to ensure that you are on top of these developments and that your skills are updated.

Certification training can help you cover new areas while also reinforcing the skills you already have.  Think of it as a refresher course that can help you identify and overcome your problem areas.

Certification can also help you to network with other IT professionals.  Your next job, project or endorsement could very well come from someone you met at a study group or technical conference related to a certain certification exam.  Certification can help you meet IT professionals who have similar interests and specialties as you.

Heading down a certification path will also give you access to resources that would not be available otherwise.  This includes access to online forums, training materials and other learning resources that are provided by certification providers such as Microsoft and Cisco.

There’s also something to be said about the personal satisfaction that comes with acing an exam that validates your expertise.  Go ahead, put your certificate on your wall or add those letters after your name!

What are my certification options? What are the differences among them?

There are a lot of answers to these questions, really.  It would all depend on what you need for your job, what your career goals are, and what you are interested in.

What it comes down to is that your certification path should reflect your career path.  There are two things that you should know about certifications.  The first is that hiring managers will be able to weed out applicants who have obtained certifications but don’t have the appropriate job experience.  A certification alone will not help you land a job nor will it make you ready to perform a certain function.

The second thing is that you really need hands-on, real-world experience with the technology, devices and software involved in the certification you are seeking.  It will make passing the exams easier, which is something we will discuss later.

Choosing your certification path depends on two things: Where you are now and where you want to go in your IT career, and what functions and work-related experience you have in your profession.

Knowing these will help you wade through the numerous certification providers that offer different paths. You will also have to decide whether to go for vendor-neutral certifications or vendor-specific ones.

The certifications provided by the biggest certifications providers, are:

In recent years, another group of certifications have cropped up: those related to the cloud, specifically, virtualization.

Examples include certifications from:

What certification should I start with?

If you work with technologies, devices and software from a particular vendor, you might want to start with that.  For instance, Microsoft has certifications for their products in network administration, Windows administration, programming and databases, among others.  With Microsoft, the Microsoft Technology Associate credential is the most basic and people with some experience or education in the field may start with a  Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist, or MCTS, certification.

If you are up for a little challenge, you might want to try for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).  The CCNA is regarded as one of the most difficult entry-level certifications. Cisco also offers the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)which is the starting point for all advanced associate, professional and expert certifications from Cisco.

If you do not want to be locked into just one vendor, go for CompTIA, which is vendor neutral and focuses on general technologies and concepts rather than specific hardware from a single manufacturer.

With CompTIA, most people start with the CompTIA A+ and then take the CompTIA Network+ exam.

Which exams should I take first among the various certification paths?

Once you have determined the right certification path for you, you will need to research about the various certifications available for that particular path and select the ones that you probably would not need in the long run.

For example, if you are just starting out your IT career, you would want to start off with an entry-level certification such as CompTIA A+, CCENT or CCNA, among others.

Once you have your niche, then you should have a clearer picture of which certifications to pursue.  For example, an IT security professional will want to get CCNA SecurityMCITPMCSE, Security+and/or Network+ before moving on to Wireshark Certified Network AnalystCertified Ethical HackerCertified Professional Penetration Tester and Offensive Security Certified Professional.

If you are aiming for a particular higher-level certification, your certification choices become a lot easier.  For example, if you want to be a CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner, then you should get CompTIA Security+ first.  It is recommended that you should also have a CompTIA Network+ certification under your belt when aiming for Security+.  Conversely, if you are aiming for a Microsoft Certified Master level of certification, it would help to first obtain a Microsoft Certified Technology and then Professional level certification first.

More Popular Certifications

Project Management Professional is a highly sought-after certification for IT professionals.  It will validate your skills as a project manager and is admittedly one of the most difficult certification exams to pass.  The requirements are quite stringent. You would need thousands of hours of general leadership experience and months of project management experience.  You would also need 35 hours of formal project management education before you can take the exam.   The PMP Exam has 200 multiple-choice questions and most of these are based on theoretical situations that force you to apply your knowledge to real-world scenarios.

VMware Certified Professional 5 or VCP 5 is another one of the most popular certifications today.  VMware is one of the most widely used virtualization platforms, thus making this credential very important.

The VCP is the entry-level credential and part of the requirement is to have hands-on experience with VMware vSphere. The VCP5 exam itself only has 85 questions that need to be answered within 90 minutes.

Citrix also has similar certifications that are focused on virtualization:

    • Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer
    • Citrix Certified Integration Architect

Microsoft has a lot of certifications for IT professionals using its products, including Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, MCSA, and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, MCSE.  The new MCSE is no longer focused on server administration and its associated technologies, but on the different approaches to solving business and enterprise problems.  It now takes a look at business intelligence, database administration and cloud computing.  In fact, there are now three tracks that can help you get an MCSE credential:

    • MCSE for Private Cloud
    • MCSE for SQL Server 2012
    • MCSE: Business Intelligence

Cisco, on the other hand, has the Cisco Certified Network Associate Security certification.  The CCNA tests various skills that relate to designing, creating, deploying, installing and configuring, testing and maintaining Cisco appliances and security devices.  This would include testing:

    • Your understanding of the different types of attacks and threats against networks
    • Your knowledge on designing effective policies on network security as well as implementing it
    • Your knowledge of Cisco products and technologies
    • Your skills on how to provide secure access to network devices, among other

The CCNA Security credential has two possible paths. One is to pass the CCNA Composite Exam or take two separate exams: Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices 1 and 2.  As always, you would need to know the concepts as put forth by Cisco and how to apply them to real-world scenarios.  In fact, a big part of the CCNA is performing tasks with simulated switches and routers.  You would need to practice on Cisco equipment, so it would be helpful if you can rent or buy Cisco equipment if you do not work with them at your company. Either that or you can practice on simulators available online such as Cisco Academy’s Packet Tracer or Boson’s, but a good free alternative comes from GNS3, which is open source.  Trainsignal has a lot of resources to introduce you to GNS3.

How to Prepare for a Certification Test

No matter which test you want to take, you will always need to prepare.  Here are some general tips on how to prepare for your certification exam:

1. Practice makes perfect.

Practice tests will help you tremendously in passing the test.  Working on practice tests can help you know which areas you need to brush up on, as well as making you familiar with the actual test.  You will be able to simulate just what it will be like to answer the test with the time limits, instructions and other variables that are present during the actual test.

2. Make sure to keep the time.

While doing practice tests, take note of the time you need to complete it.  You will need this in order to pace yourself so that you could complete a certification exam within the allotted time.  If, for instance, you take four hours to finish an exam that has an allotted time of 1.5 hours, then you might not be ready to take at all.

3. Study groups help.

Study groups are a great way to cover examination topics and battle the boredom that comes from studying alone.  Chances are, there are colleagues in your office who are studying for the same exams.  If not, then you can probably find a study group on Craigslist or online certification forums.

4. Use different preparation methods.

Fortunately for you, there are a lot of ways to study for an exam.  You can get books, participate in an online forum, go through a formal classroom review, check out web-based training like TrainSignal offers, and talk to people who have taken the same tests.  Do not just rely on one preparation method because it might not be enough.

Whatever you do, however, please be sure to avoid braindumps.  Braindumps are online sites that help you cheat on your certification exams by  divulging the questions and answers to actual tests.  While this may sound like an easy way out, it is undoubtedly highly unethical.  Also, if you are caught, you could instantly fail the test.

But the deeper evil of braindumps is that you are getting credentials for something that you do not really know or understand. How will a CCNA certification, for example, help you if you really do not know anything about routing and switching?

5. Make sure you are ready for the test.

This probably goes without saying, but if you have prepared and you still feel that you are not ready for the test, do not go through with it.  And when you do feel that you are ready, make sure that you get enough rest and sleep on the night before the exam.

Above all, you should have a clear understanding of what skills will be covered on the specific test you’ll be taking.  Some more popular exams, CompTIA for example, work hard to measure your real-world experience and test your problem-solving skills.

As you can see, planning for a certification path can be complex. Pluralsight offers many more resources for IT certification training, including courses on the most-popular certifications.

Aim high and good luck!

Ready to test your skills for the CompTIA A+ certification exam? See how they stack up with this assessment from Smarterer. Start this CompTIA A+ certification test now

Source: Pluralsight

Certifications give your resume more credibility and can make you more marketable to recruiters and hiring managers. And at the entry-level, they’re a great way to stand out from other candidates — and even boost your pay.

As you grow in your career, you’ll want to consider more advanced certifications to continue your professional development. By then, you’ll know what specialties to focus on and what skills you need for your desired career path. But at the entry level, it’s better to stick with more generalized certifications that will help get your foot in the door.

Here are 10 IT certifications to launch your career, whether you just graduated or you’ve decided to make a career change.

10 entry-level IT certs to jump-start your career

  • Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
  • Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing & Switching
  • CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)
  • Comp TIA A+
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
  • PMI Certified Associate in project Management (CAPM)

Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)

Earning a Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCNET) certification will demonstrate your ability to install, operate and troubleshoot a small enterprise branch network. It’s a great place to start if you want to land an entry-level network support position or if you already know you want a career in networking.

To earn the certification, you’ll need to complete the course Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1). It’s a five-day course that takes place in-person or online and you’ll cover the fundamentals of network layers involved in routing and switching. The course also covers firewalls, basic network security, wireless controllers and access points. Once you complete the course, you’ll be ready to pass the CCENT certification exam.

Exam fee: $125

Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)

The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) certification verifies your abilities to diagnose, restore, repair and replace critical Cisco networking and system devices at customer sites. There are two different CCT paths you can choose from: data center or routing and switching.

The CCT Data Center certification covers support and maintenance of Cisco Unified Computing systems and server. It’s targeted at field support engineers working with Cisco data center system devices and software. You’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Data Center System Devices (DCTECH) v2.0 before you can pass the exam. The course covers data center networking fundamentals, field servicing and equipment replacement and how to identify Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) component models, accessories cabling and interfaces.

The CCT Routing and Switching certification covers on-site support and maintenance of Cisco routers, switches and operating environments. It’s designed for on-site technical support and other support staff who work with Cisco Data Center Solutions. Before you can take the exam, you’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Routing and Switching Network Devices (RSTECH). The online self-paced course covers networking fundamentals, Cisco outer and switch models, Cisco IOS software operating modes and the Cisco command line interface (CLI).

Exam fee: $125 per exam

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing & Switching

The CCNA Routing and Switching certification is a good option for those who want to work in networking, but also a solid choice if you’re looking for an entry-level help desk position. The exam verifies your ability to identify Cisco router and switch models, accessories, cabling and interfaces. You’ll need an understanding of the Cisco IOS Software operating modes and the Cisco CLI.

Before you can take the certification exam, you’ll need to take the course Supporting Cisco Routing and Switching Nework Devices. It’s a self-paced online course that includes up to six hours of on-demand training materials that you can access for up to one year.

Exam fee: $299

CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+)

The CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+) certification is designed for those interested in starting a career in IT or who want to change career paths. The exam is intended to validate your foundational knowledge in IT and to give you a better idea of what it’s like to work in IT. The certification exam covers networks, infrastructure, IT concepts and terminology, applications and software, security, database fundamentals and software development. It’s also a good starting point if you want to continue down the CompTIA certification path, but it’s not a requirement for other certifications.

Exam fee: $119

Comp TIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification is targeted at support specialists, field service technicians, desktop support analysts and help desk support. If you’re interested in landing a job in a related field, it’s a solid entry-level certification that is well-regarded in the industry.

The certification verifies your ability to troubleshoot and solve problems with networking, operating systems, mobile devices and security. The certification focuses on nine major IT skills, including hardware, networking, mobile devices, Windows operating system, hardware and network troubleshooting, operating system technologies, software troubleshooting, security and operational procedures.

Exam fee: $211

CompTIA Network+

The CompTIA Network+ is an entry-level certification that covers networking concepts, troubleshooting, operations, tools and security as well as IT infrastructure. The certification is designed for junior network administrators, network field technicians, junior system engineers, IS consultants and network field engineers.

The exam verifies your knowledge with configuring, managing and maintaining network devices, implementing and designing functional networks, network troubleshooting and network security. If you know you want to work closely with IT networks, it’s a well-recognized and worthwhile certification that will set you apart from other entry-level candidates.

Exam fee: $302

CompTIA Security+

Security is a crucial IT skill for any technology role, so it’s a good idea to earn your CompTIA Security+ certification at the entry-level. It’s suited for network, system and security administrators, security specialists, junior IT auditors, security consultants and security engineers.

The exam covers threats, attacks and vulnerabilities, risk management, architecture and design, technology and tools, cryptography and PKI and identity and access management. Earning your Security+ certification will show employers you have the skills to install and configure systems to keep applications, networks and devices secure in accordance with compliance laws.

Exam fee: $330

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)

The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification covers IT fundamentals like infrastructure, databases and development. It was designed by Microsoft as an entry-level certification for workers just starting out in IT or for those looking to change careers. The exam is meant to help you establish your career track in IT, with a focus on databases, hardware, software or infrastructure. It covers what you’ll need to know as a Junior IT Auditor or as a systems, network or security administrator.

Exam fee: Varies by location

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification is another entry-level option from Microsoft that covers designing and creating technology solutions across Microsoft’s services and software suites. It’s a little more advanced than the MTA certification, but you don’t need to complete your MTA to earn your MCSA. However, you will need to earn your MCSA if you want to continue down the Microsoft certification path to earn your MCSE, MCSD, MCPS or MCT certifications.

Exam fee: Varies by location

PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification is a widely-recognized entry-level certification for project management offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI). You don’t necessarily have to be a project manager to get your CAPM — plenty of IT jobs require project management skills to oversee technical projects.

You’ll need at least 23 hours of project management education completed before you can take the exam — but you can accomplish that through PMI’s Project Management Basics course. The course is designed by PMI to prepare you for the CAPM certification exam — it covers project management basics and skills you’ll need for an IT project management job.

Exam fee: $225 for members; $300 for non-members

Course fee: $400 for non-members; $350 for members

Source: CIO

An Introduction to CompTIA and Cisco

When looking to break into the field of networking or aspiring to obtain a networking certification, the two most popular entry-level certifications are Cisco CCENT and CompTIA Network+.

What is CISCO?

CISCO is a company based in San Jose, California in the USA involved in the manufacturing, designing, and selling of Network Equipment. It has grown from its inception in 1984 to become the most significant networking company in existence. CISCO was added to the NASDAQ stock exchange in 1990 after going public, and in by the year, 2000 became the world’s most marketable company, showing a market capitalization of over $500 billion.

Cisco Logo
Cisco Logo

The certifications attainable from CISCO include:

• CCENT
• CCT
• CCNA Routing and Switching
• CCDA
• CCNA Cloud
• CCNA Collaboration
• CCNA Data Center
• CCNA Security
• CCNA Service Provider
• CCNP Routing and Switching
• CCDP
• CCNP Collaboration
• CCNP Data Center
• CCNP Security
• CCNP Service Provider
• CCNP Wireless
• CCIE Routing and Switching
• CCDE
• CCIE Collaboration
• CCIE Data Center
• CCIE Security
• CCIE Service Provider
• CCIE Wireless
• CCIE Routing and Switching
• CCDE
• CCIE Collaboration
• CCIE Data Center
• CCIE Security
• CCIE Service Provider
• CCIE Wireless

What is CompTIA?

CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association) is a non-profit trade association that was formed in 1982. The organization is vendor-neutral and provides certifications in the IT industry. It was at first known as the Association of Better Computer Dealers, but the name was later changed to better imply the company’s ever-changing role in the computer industry.

CompTIA certification
CompTIA Logo

The organization’s increase saw them eventually include subjects such as networking, imaging, mobile computing, UNIX. In 2010, CompTIA launched the “Creating IT Futures” ambition which sees them offering IT training to individuals with a lower income and veterans returning from their military duties.

Their certifications currently available from CompTIA include:

• A+
• Network+
• Security+
• CASP
• Server+
• CTT+
• Linux+
• Project+
• Cloud+

Understanding Cisco CCENT

CISCO CCENT is the first of two exams that can be passed for the student to earn their CCNA (Cisco Certified Networking Associate) certification. The review relating to CISCO CCENT is called ICND1 (Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1).

This exam will consist of the following topics:

Explain the operation of data networks:
The student will be required to identify the functions of different network devices and to select the correct components to meet the network’s specifications. Use the protocols of TCP/IP to explain the flow of network data, explain what common web applications and networking applications are.

Implement a small switched network:
Use the correct equipment to network devices, interconnect switches, network devices, and hosts and describe media access control and technology for Ethernet types. Describe what network segmentation is, describe the operation of CISCO switches and their necessary operation, perform initial switch operations and save, and verify them. Work through hardware failures on switched networks.

Implement an IP addressing scheme and IP services to meet network requirements for a small branch office:
Create and execute an addressing scheme to a network, assign and verify IP addresses for hosts, networking devices and servers on a Local Area Network. Describe what DNS operations are and validate them, configure, test and troubleshoot DHCP and DNS on a router and identify and remedy IP address problems.

Implement a small routed network:
Describe what the basic concepts of routing are, explain the basic operation of CISCO routers, interconnect routers with networking devices using the correct equipment, connect, configure, and verify device interface operational status. Verify the device configuration using commands and utilities and ascertain the state of the network and router operation.

Explain and select the appropriate administrative tasks required for a Wireless LAN (WLAN):
Define the standards of wireless media, describe the various components of a small wireless network, specify the parameters and configuration needed for devices to connect to the right areas on a wireless network and identify common issues with wireless networks.

Identify security threats to a network and describe general methods to mitigate those threats:
Describe common network security threats and how the correct security policy helps defend against them. Describe what the best security practices to follow in securing network devices.

Implement and verify WAN links:
Describe what the different methods are to connect to a Wide Area Network, configure an essential WAN serial connection and check that network.

Understanding CompTIA Network+

CompTIA Network+ has a much broader view of networking than CISCO does, but takes a lighter approach in their topics. The topics that are included in the CompTIA Network+ course include the following:

Network Technologies:
services including TCP/IP suite, Networking protocols default TCP, and UDP port numbers, addressing formats for IPv4, IPv6, and MAC addressing, discussing addressing technologies (subnetting, CIDR, supernetting, NAT, and PAT), a discussion on routing, and a reviewing wireless communication standards, authentication, and encryption.

Network Media and Topologies:
Standard cable types and their properties including transmission speeds, distances, duplexing, noise immunity, and frequencies; cable connector types and common physical network topologies (star, mesh, bus, ring). Various wiring standards, LAN and WAN technology types, and properties plus wiring distribution systems and components.

Network Devices:
Includes the range of networking equipment like hubs, network interfaces, modems and media converters, switches, wireless access points, routers, firewalls, etc. Functions of specialized networking devices. There is a broader focus on switch details such as virtual LANs and port mirroring.

Network Management:
An explanation of management at the seven layers of the OSI model, configuration management and it’s documentation, describing how to use literature to verify a network. Monitoring network performance and connectivity, methods for optimizing a system, methods of network troubleshooting and common problem-solving issues.

Network Tools:
Different types of software and diagnostic tools used to identify and troubleshoot networking issues. Essential command-line IP tools, different network scanners. Discovering different types of diagnostic hardware such as cable testers, protocol analyzers and TDRs, electrical tools like VOMs, temperature monitors, and various other devices.

Network Security:
An overview of security device functions and features then digs into firewall features and functions, Methods of network access security and user authentication. Device security problems including physical access and logical, secure vs. insecure network access methods and common security threats and security justification techniques.

Cisco CCENT vs. CompTIA Network+

The choice between CISCO CCENT and CompTIA N+ relies on how sincerely you want to delve into the world of networking. CompTIA N+ has a much broader, yet less involved scope towards the subject while CISCO takes a more in-depth approach to networking while having a smaller extent as far as topics covered is concerned.

Both the CISCO CCENT and CompTIA certifications have recognised the world over as good entry level certifications and, whichever of the two you end up choosing, it is sure to set you well on your way to a career in networking or to add that much sought-after certification to your name.

Source: Medium

Cisco Systems is arguably most known for its business routing and switching products that can handle direct data, voice and video traffic across networks around the globe. However, the company also deals in storage networking, unified communications applications, telepresence and collaboration, and many other services ranging from basic product support to complete data center solutions and cloud management.

The company offers some of the most coveted certifications in the industry, including certifications for every level of IT practitioner: entry-level, intermediate, specialist or even expert-level credentials.

Cisco

Cisco understands IT professionals need to stay up to date when it comes to mastering the skills necessary to support its products and solve customers’ technology queries at all times. This is why the Cisco Career Certification program commences at the entry level, then evolves to associate, professional and expert levels, and for particular certifications, takes you further up to the architect level.

Each certification level offers one or more credentials, and getting one of those credentials usually involves clearing one or more exams. To earn higher-level credentials, you need to prove you have cleared some prerequisite levels. As the certification level goes higher, you need to have more credentials and prerequisites.

The Cisco certification programs include the following levels:

  • Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
  • Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
  • Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)
  • Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)

Although there are multiple certifications and paths you can choose to undertake in Cisco’s career program, the two primary paths are Network Design and Network Operation.

Cisco track

Your typical network operation certification road map starts at the entry level with the CCENT credential. Next up is the CCNA, then the CCNP and, finally, the CCIE.

If your goal is expertise in network design, then you might want to move to CCDA after earning your CCNA. Next, you could earn the more professional-level CCDP, followed by CCDE and later, the CCAr.

The certification program at Cisco also offers a wide range of specializations. These are mainly designed to vouch for a professional’s skills in specific Cisco technologies, like rich media, data center application service, messaging or voicemail. All in all, there are roughly about twenty categories to choose from. Specialist credentials require you to pass one or more exams. And some of these also require prerequisites.

Entry-Level Cisco Certifications

There are two entry-level credentials at Cisco:

  1. Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
  2. Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)

As the names suggest, obtaining the CCENT or CCT requires no prerequisites, and entrants are required to pass a single certification exam for each credential.

A CCENT-certified professional installs, maintains and troubleshoots small networks or a branch of an enterprise network. Implementing basic network security is also a part of the job. This certification is also a prerequisite for associate-level credentials, like the CCNA and CCDA.

On the other hand, a CCT-certified professional primarily works onsite wherever the customers are located, figuring out issues related to network-related gear and how to repair or replace them. Post-CCT, a professional can choose any of the network operation specializations like Routing and Switching or Data Center.

Associate-Level Cisco Certifications

Cisco’s associate-level certifications include:

  1. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  2. Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)

Depending on the path you choose, you need to pass one or two certification exams to obtain a CCNA or CCDA.

CCNA recognizes your basic skills in installing, maintaining and troubleshooting wired and/or wireless networks. Specialization options include:

  • Cloud
  • Collaboration
  • Cyber Ops
  • Data Center
  • Industrial
  • Routing and Switching
  • Security
  • Service Provider
  • Wireless

CCNA is also a prerequisite for the professional-level CCNP certification. Prerequisites and the number of required exams depend on which solution track you choose. All solution tracks require one or more exams.

cisco pay rate

CCDA identifies individuals who can design simple wired and wireless networks, and incorporate voice and security solutions in them. It is a prerequisite for the CCDP certification. To achieve the CCDA, a person must possess either a valid CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching, or any CCIE certification, and pass a single additional certification exam.

Professional-Level Cisco Certifications

Professional-level Cisco certifications include:

  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)

To obtain the CCDP, you need to pass three certification exams and possess both CCDA and CCNA Routing and Switching credentials, or any Cisco CCIE certification.

Barring Routing and Switching, all CCNP solution tracks require you to pass four exams, while only three are required for the CCNP: Routing and Switching credential.

CCNP recognizes those who plan, deploy and troubleshoot local networks and wide area networks. CCNP tracks are the same as those for the CCNA, with the exception being Industrial and Cyber Ops, which are not part of the CCNP. CCNP is recommended for climbing the next step in the certification ladder — the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE).

CCDP recognizes skills in designing and deploying scalable and multilayer-switched networks. From the CCDP, you can move on to the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE).

Expert-Level Cisco Certifications

This level includes two main certifications:

  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
  • Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)

As of July 2016, Cisco’s expert-level exams include an evolving technologies domain that targets Cloud, network programmability and the Internet of Things (IoT). This section accounts for 10% of the total exam score.

Achieving the CCIE is a career highlight for most network professionals. A CCIE has master-level technical knowledge of Cisco network products and solutions.

Subsequently, CCDE identifies experts who design network infrastructure for large enterprise environments, which often include technological, operational, business and budget aspects of any given project within that environment.

Architect-Level Cisco Certifications

The Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) certification is perfect for those seeking key positions like network or data center architect. If you were to draw comparisons with traditional academia, a CCAr is like the PhD of the career program at Cisco. Many consider it one of the most difficult certifications to achieve.

Maintaining Cisco Certification

One of the most important things you need to know about these certifications is they are not valid forever. As the IT scene constantly evolves, certified professionals need to constantly stay abreast of all the new innovations in their respective fields. While the entry, associate and professional-level credentials are valid for three years, specialist certifications and the CCIE are each valid for two years. The CCAr is valid for five years.

Certified Cisco professionals need to clear a recertification exam after these time periods to maintain certification or move on to the next level in the program hierarchy.

How to Earn Your Next Cisco Certification

Infosec Institute can help you prepare for Cisco exams with hands-on certification Boot Camps taught by experienced security professionals. The following exams are covered by their own dedicated Boot Camp:

  • CCNA, CCENT, CCDA, CCNA: Security Boot Camp: This Cisco Certification Boot Camp is an accelerated, in-depth course featuring hands-on exercises and engaging lectures. Students enrolling in this course will earn four certifications in seven days: CCNA, CCENT, CCDA and CCNA: Security. Designed specifically for network engineers and administrators requiring full knowledge of Cisco router and switch configuration, this Boot Camp will prepare you to pass four key Cisco certifications on your first attempt.
  • CCNP Boot Camp: InfoSec Institute’s CCNP Boot Camp includes 10 full days of training from Cisco-certified industry experts, using high-end Cisco equipment in a state-of-the-art training facility. 93% of CCNP Boot Camp students pass their CCNP certification on their first attempt.

All InfoSec Boot Camps can be taken in-person or online, or you can enroll in a Mentored Online course and learn at your own pace. In a Mentored Online course, you will take the exact same course as the instructor-led Boot Camp, but carried out at your own pace.

Source: Prodefense