Becoming a Cisco Certified Network Associate
A Cisco Certified Network Associate, or CCNA, is a level of certification awarded by the technology company Cisco to individuals who have passed an exam and undergone training programs to prove their proficiency in the area of networking. Cisco debuts a new certification process in 2020, and the new requirements are described below. However, anyone working towards CCNA status before that change is allowed to continue under the other system.
CCNA certification formerly had eleven different specialization tracks available, such as cloud systems and data centers, but has now been simplified to one certification that can potentially apply to all areas, with prior specializations now signified with training badges. For those wondering how to get CCNA certification online, it isn't possible to do so exclusively online. CCNA exams are only offered at in-person testing centers.
Cisco does not have any strict CCNA requirements that must be fulfilled prior to attempting certification, however there are recommendations. Applicants should have a solid understanding of the basics of networking and of how IP addressing works. It is also highly encouraged for applicants to have at least a year of experience working with Cisco devices and networking software, if not more, before attempting certification. Earning a degree in network engineering or a general information systems technology degree would be recommended as well, as there is no direct CCNA degree.
CCNA Certification Training
One of the most common forms of training to become a CCNA is the so-called CCNA Boot Camp, which is an intensive period of training, often over the course of several days, prior to the exam. CCNA Boot Camps may be offered by various providers; they might take place in person and on location, or through online, virtual classrooms. Self-directed training at a more moderate pace is also an option. The material covered in such training may vary slightly depending on any specializations, such as security or wireless, but will often consist of troubleshooting various network issues, configuration/setup, and scalability. These training sessions will typically include exam review sessions, study guides, and more, to help ensure passage of the certification exam afterward. As of 2019, CCNA certification costs about $300 for the exam itself, although training in boot camps can be much more expensive, up to $4,000, for camps that involve travel and lodging.
How to Study for CCNA
If you do not wish to spend the money for a boot camp training experience, there are other options available to prepare for the CCNA exam. Cisco offers self-study materials in its online store, including practice exams, and access to study groups hosted on discussion forums on the website. Numerous third party companies offer exam study materials as well, and websites dedicated to obtaining certification can be found across the web. Be aware of the fact that third party groups and sites may take time to adjust to changes in the certification exam, however.
CCNA Career Information
CCNA certification may be highly valued, as it demonstrates proof of competency and experience with particular systems and tools that will be used over the course of a job. While certification isn't always required to work in the field of information technology (IT), many employers may require that job applicants hold a CCNA certification. Certification lasts 3 years, at which time a recertification exam must be taken to remain certified.
According to Payscale.com in 2019, the average CCNA salary is $76,000, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to see job growth for network and computer systems administrators in the area of 6% over the 10 year period from 2016 to 2026, roughly on par with the average for all occupations.