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Cisco Certifications: An Overview of the Cisco Certificate Programs

CCNA and CCNP are two common certificate programs offered by Cisco. Learn about the requirements and courses for them, as well as career and continuing education opportunities.

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Essential Information

The CCNA programs for this entry-level credential cover all of the topics found on the exams for this certification and could take up to two years to complete. Programs offer several specializations for different types of networks including voice over internet protocol (VOIP) or wireless, or for specific jobs in network administration, like security.

Applicants of the advanced-level CCNP programs might need to have obtained the entry-level certification and can select courses based on the specialization in which they're interested. Specializations include security, SP Ops, voice and wireless.

It is important to note that a certificate typically supplements a professional's education rather than replace it, since most entry-level jobs in this field require a bachelor's degree. Many programs are commonly found online.


Cisco Certified Network Administrator Certificate

Cisco Certified Network Administrator certificates verify students' ability to set up and support different types of wireless networks. To get into these certificate programs, students must have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

To obtain Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) certification, students must complete a series of classes and take a two-part exam on interconnecting network devices (www.cisco.com).

These certificate programs typically include four courses, which often must be taken in a specific sequence. Students can complete these certificates in as little as two years. Common course topics include:

  • Fundamentals of networking
  • Wide area networks
  • Concepts of routing
  • Local area networks
  • Routing and switching

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Cisco Certified Network Professional Certificate

The CCNP certificate is similar to the CCNA in that it requires only a handful of courses. It builds upon the CCNA certification, offering more advanced training in planning, maintaining and troubleshooting different types of wireless networks. Students must complete three exams to earn the CCNP certificate. These exams cover topics like implementation of Cisco routing, implementation of switched networks, and network troubleshooting.

To enter the CCNP certificate program, schools may require that an individual has CCNA certification; but to take the certification exam, Cisco requires active CCNA or Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification.

These topics build on information found in the CCNA certification courses. Common course topics include:

  • Implementation of Internet Protocol (IP) routing
  • Implementation of IP switched networks
  • Maintenance and troubleshooting of IP networks
  • Secure wide area networks
  • Multilayer switched networks
  • Converged network optimization

Popular Career Options

Careers involving computer networks generally require a bachelor's degree and professional certifications can increase an individual's employability. Career options for individuals who earn CCNA certification include:

  • Network administrator
  • Network support engineer
  • Network specialist
  • Network engineer
  • Network support specialist
  • Network consultant

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of network and computer systems administrators will increase by 8% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). Computer network support specialists should experience growth of 8% during the same period of time. In 2015, the BLS reported network administrators and network support specialists earned average salaries of $82,200 and $67,260, respectively.

Continuing Education Information

CCNP certifications are valid for three years; recertification must be completed before the third year ends. If recertification is not completed by the end of the third year, these individuals must repeat the entire certification process, according to Cisco.

Cisco offers a third level of certification - at the expert level - for individuals who have earned the professional designation and would like to get more training. The expert level includes certifications for internetworking, network design, security and wireless networks.

Many schools offer certificate programs that prepare students for Cisco certification, such as the Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) and the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). There are several career options for graduates, along with continuing education opportunities to stay up-to-date for recertification and more advanced certification to pursue.

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