There are certificate programs designed to prepare you for each Cisco certification. In these programs, the coursework is usually specific to what you need to know to earn the certification. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) programs are meant to teach students how to install, maintain, configure and repair medium-sized and switched networks. CCNA programs are offered online, as well as in traditional formats, and last six months.
Certificate programs that prepare students to sit for the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) examinations include courses covering the basic theories and principles of networking and computing.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) programs teach students how to troubleshoot, install and maintain computer networks with up to 500 nodes used by large businesses and organizations.
For the CCNA and CCENT programs, you will usually just need to have a high school diploma. Some schools may require some previous networking experience. CCENT programs prefer students already enrolled in an associate program or working. For a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) program, you will need to hold a CCNA credential, and it is preferred that you have experience in networking.
Students enrolled in a CCNA certificate program learn how to set-up local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). They also learn the basics of IP addresses, networking security, Cisco network technologies and network models. Students may take courses in:
- Interconnecting Cisco networking devices
- Network design, configuration and management
- Local area networks
- Wide area networks
- IP traffic
- Networking and routing basics
Cisco offers networking certificate programs for network technicians working at more entry-level or professional capacities. For example, the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician is geared towards individuals with a fundamental understanding of networking systems and data communication. Some community colleges offer CCENT certificate programs. Such programs provide students with the entry-level, technical skills necessary to troubleshoot network problems and maintain network systems. Courses include:
- Introduction to computing
- Networking fundamentals
- Intermediate networking
- Computer technician theory
- Cisco learning lab
CCNP Specialist Certificate
Students in these programs learn advanced routing and switching concepts, advanced network security procedures and broadband technologies basics. The technical courses included in a CCNP specialist certificate program provide students with the hands-on skills necessary to tackle advanced networking problems in both LAN and WAN systems. Specific courses may be similar to the following:
- Building scalable Cisco networks
- Cisco remote access networks
- Broadband technologies
- Cisco internetworking troubleshooting
- Multilayer switched networks
- Advanced switching and routing
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), network and computer systems administrators will have a predicted 8% job growth for the years 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported in 2015 that these workers earned $77,810 as a median annual wage. Computer network support specialists earned a median annual salary of $62,250 in 2015 as well.
Certification Options and Continuing Education
Graduates from a Cisco networking certificate program are required to take an examination before earning the CCNA, CCENT or CCNP designation. The certification is valid for three years. Specialists who are interested in furthering their education beyond the CCNP level might consider enrolling in the expert-level (CCIE) Cisco certification program.
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certificate program focuses on the installation and maintenance of network systems, while the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) program concentrates on networking basic theories and principles. The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) program fixates on networks used by businesses and organizations.