Students who want to sit for the CCNA exam can prepare by enrolling in a certificate program that focuses on Cisco Certified Networks, or an associate's degree program in computer networking.
Both of these programs teach students how to install and maintain Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs) with Cisco routers and switches. While certificate programs are often 2-3 semesters in length and focus almost exclusively on Cisco networking skills, associate's programs usually take about two years to complete and cover a wider range of IT topics. Associate's programs also include general education coursework.
Admission requirements for both certificate and associate's degree programs usually include a high school diploma or GED, though some certificate programs expect applicants to have completed formal IT training or work experience prior to enrollment.
Certificate Programs in Cisco Certified Networks
Certificate programs are focused on preparing students for the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam. Students learn networking protocol, networking terminology, network security issues and wireless networking concepts. Programs often require a specific progression through the coursework.
Programs are typically designed to take students through a progression of topics that build on one another. Usually courses must be taken in order. Topics covered include:
- Basic computer repair
- Network fundamentals
- Routers and routing
- LAN and WAN
- Wireless networks
Find schools that offer these popular programs
Associate's Degree Programs in Computer Networking
Associate's degree programs in computer networking prepare students for entry-level positions in this field, such as area network technicians or administrators. Several schools offer students the opportunity to apply credits from a CCNA certificate program towards an associate's degree in computer networking.
The curriculum covers network design and management and deals with how to select the hardware and software used in networks. Other topics might include:
- Basic programming
- Unix and Linux
- Network administration
- Systems analysis and design
- Project management
- Switching and wireless
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
Employment of computer support specialists is expected to increase by 12% during the decade from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Network and computer systems administrators could see an increase of 8% during this period. Much of this growth will be due to advancements in network technologies, yet due to an increase use of cloud computing we may see a slowing in job growth.
Computer support specialists earned median annual wages of $51,470 in 2015; network and computer systems administrators earned $77,810 annually. It should be noted, however, that these salary figures include those who have earned bachelor's degrees, as well as factoring in individuals who have earned certificates or associate's degrees.
Popular Career Options
Students who complete a certificate program in Cisco networks are prepared for a variety of jobs that involve installing and maintaining computer networks. Popular job titles include:
- Computer support specialists
- Help desk technician
- Field technician
- Systems technician
- Network administrator
- Network technician
- Technical service technician
- Technical support specialists
Certification and Continuing Education
After completing a certificate program, students are prepared to take the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices exam. The exam consists of two parts. Applicants must pass both parts to be awarded the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) designation. CCNA certification is good for three years. Associates will need to pass additional exams to recertify. Continuing education may be necessary for recertification.
In addition to the Cisco certification, certifications are offered through other product vendors and professional organizations. Some of these may require additional training and education. Students might also consider transferring to 4-year degree programs in areas such as information systems, computer science or computer engineering.
Training programs that prepare computer support specialists and computer network administrators for CCNA certification include certificate programs that focuses on Cisco Certified Networks, and associate's degree program in computer networking. Both provide students with the technical skills need to install, repair and update LANs and WANs.