CCNA Vs. MCSE: What's the Difference?

Aug 04, 2018

Information technology (IT) professionals have the option of earning numerous certifications, including Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) designations. Explore these options, their availability, and applications.

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  • 0:04 CCNA vs. MCSE
  • 0:27 CCNA & MCSE Qualifications
  • 1:34 CCNA & MCSE…
  • 2:11 CCNS & MCSE Recertification

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The CCNA and MCSE are both professional software vendor certifications, but the CCNA is for Cisco products, while the MCSE is for Microsoft software and tools. Other differences include qualifications, specialization options, and recertification requirements. Let's compare the certifications in more detail.



The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) designation is for IT professionals with 1-3 years of work experience creating business solutions specifically using Cisco switches and routers. These IT professionals also need to know how to configure, install, and maintain LANs, WANs, and dial-up networks using IP, Ethernet, frame relay, and other protocols. In addition, they should be able to configure servers, routers, or other network or security devices.


The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) designation is designed for current IT professionals. To be eligible to sit for the exam, individuals must have previously earned a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) credential, and Microsoft also recommends professional experience with the specialized technologies and tools covered on the exam. In addition, some of the optional preparatory courses offered by Microsoft call for at least two years of experience with Microsoft technology, whether that's servers, databases, or other IT tools.

Specialization Options


The specialization options for each certification are very different. CCNA specializations include service provider, data center, industrial, cloud, and routing and switching. Depending on the specialty a candidate pursues, he or she will need to pass one or more exams.


Individuals can pursue the MCSE specialties in the following areas: business applications, cloud platform and infrastructure, data management and analytics, mobility, and productivity. To earn one of these credentials, individuals must pass at least one exam.



Both credentials require recertification, but there are a few differences. CCNA certifications expire after three years. After that time period, CCNA professionals must recertify. There are a number of ways to do this, including passing a current CCNA exam in one of the other specialty areas or by taking a certification exam offered at the specialist or professional level.


MCSE certifications must be renewed every three years by passing a recertification exam. The content of the exam is similar to that of the original certification exam in the same MCSE specialization area, but it focuses more specifically on recent advances in the field in order to ensure that professionals are up-to-date with the latest products and practices.

The CCNA and MCSE are both professional certifications allowing IT workers to demonstrate their skills, but they focus on different proprietary software and have a number of differences in their requirements.

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