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What is CCNA Certification?

Instructor: Bill Sands
Cisco, the largest networking company in the world, offers more than two dozen certifications for IT professionals. One such credential is the CCNA, or Cisco Certified Network Associate.

CCNA Overview

In addition to providing information technology solutions, Cisco also offers a number of IT certifications for professionals. Ranging from basic entry-level credentials to advanced licenses, these certifications teach essential skills and knowledge and serve as proof of a professional's mastery of selected topics. Each of Cisco's certifications fall into one of four levels: Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert. At the associate level is the Cisco Certified Network Associate, or CCNA, credential.

In order to earn the CCNA (or any Cisco certification, for that matter), you'll have to pass exams in which you demonstrate your complete understanding of the concepts and topics related to your chosen specialization. To register for an exam, candidates must be 18 or above; additionally, individuals between the ages of 13 and 17 can test with parental permission. Cisco partners with Pearson VUE to administer their certification exam. The exam registration process at the test site can be carried out online, by telephone, or on a walk-in basis at some locations.

CCNA Specializations

The CCNA features nine specializations, meaning that IT professionals have a broad range of subject areas from which to choose. The specialization options include the following:


The CCNA Cloud certification is intended for Cloud administrators and engineers, and teaches them how to create and improve upon skills related to cloud management. Review material teaches students strategies for mitigating the effects of technology transitions on the demands of businesses. In order to obtain this certification, you'll have to pass a pair of exams, one focusing on Cisco Cloud fundamentals, and the other on cloud administration.


Proper communication is essential to networking, and those who choose this specialization will have the chance to hone their video and collaboration skills as they work with mobile applications, video, voice, and data solutions. The two exams for this certification require students to manage and integrate multiple video devices.

Cyber Ops

If you're interested in cyber security and the protection of data, the Cyber Ops specialization may be for you. In today's business climate, security is essential and organizations have a constant need for workers who can prevent breaches. This specialization prepares you for a career as a cybersecurity analyst. You'll need to pass two exams, which will test both your knowledge of security concepts and how to implement them in a professional setting.

Data Center

Designed for data center network administrators, this certification provides effective and practical solutions to help professionals save money and time. Training focuses on equipment installation and maintenance, with additional time spent on efficient data center design. Two exams on data center networking and data center technologies are required.


In the industrial sector, IT professionals often encounter challenges unique to their field. This certification teaches professionals how to install and troubleshoot common network protocols while staying aware of industry standards, and is ideal for those working in the manufacturing, oil, gas, and process control industries. To earn this certification, candidates must pass an exam on industrial networking management for manufacturing.

Routing & Switching

The routing and switching concentration at the associate level focuses on essential network concepts such as access points, wireless controllers, and firewalls. This specialization offers six possible exams, but students will not need to take all of them. Students in the accelerated track will only need to take one exam, while all others will have to take two.


Students pursuing this specialization will learn fundamental security practices such as mitigating threats, recognizing network weaknesses, and developing security infrastructure. The Cisco review curriculum emphasizes each aspect of the security process, from installation to monitoring to troubleshooting. One exam is required, and it covers concepts like VPN encryption, intrusion prevention, and endpoint security.

Service Provider

This option is intended for professionals such as service provider technicians, network engineers, and designers and emphasizes the most modern networking trends and techniques. Individuals who obtain this certification will learn how to implement, maintain, and monitor complex network infrastructures. Those seeking this credential will have to pass two exams covering next-generation networks.


Wireless technology is more prevalent than ever, and this certification can provide a valuable improvement to your skills. This option ensures your knowledge of maximum network performance through proper configuring, support, and monitoring practices. Candidates must pass an exam focused on small- and medium-sized wireless local area networks, or WLANs.

Exam Preparation

In order to help aspiring licensees prepare for these exams, Cisco provides study materials and online support. You can also find plenty of relevant courses through schools or other sites. For convenient exam prep in your home or on the go, offers this information systems review guide, which contains several chapters devoted to IT concepts, including an entire chapter of short video lessons on network systems technology.

The information systems and computer applications course connects IT concepts with business issues, and also has lessons on networking. This course comes with a flashcard set to bolster your study of network systems.

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