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How to Become a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

by

Gary McCauley

|

May 13, 2019

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

CCNA is short for Cisco Certified Network Associate and is a set of qualifications that are offered by Cisco. A course like this will cover networking basics, data flow, and routing, and will give engineers an excellent introduction to the hardware they will be using in their role. There are many companies which won’t hire technicians without this sort of certificate, making it crucial to those who want to break into this industry. CCNA is Cisco’s second-level of certification, coming after their CCENT course.

How CCNA Certification Helps an IT Engineer?

Networking is a broad and complicated field, filled with both theory and practical work which takes dedicated learning to be able to use correctly. Despite this, there are very few universities which offer specialized networking courses, with most institutions choosing to cover the topic amongst other ones. Starting with the necessary hardware you’ll be exposed to in this field, CCNA provides an engineer with everything they need to be able to work in a busy server room.

Along with the absence of other options, CCNA also has many benefits of its own. With Cisco being one of the largest networking companies in the world, employers will instantly recognize a certification like this and will have a good idea of what it means. This is perfect for those looking to get an entry-level job in this field. In some cases, CCNA will also enable you to get better jobs, though you may have to go further down the Cisco education tree before you notice a real difference here.

The Benefits of a CCNA Certification

Getting any certification has its benefits, especially when you choose a practical field, like networking. Cisco’s CCNA system offers a lot more than the other options you have available, though, and you can find some examples of the real benefits below.

Cover-All

CCNA is designed to be a cover-all solution for new network engineers. This means that it will give you all of the skills you will need to get to work immediately after passing, without having to learn additional information to get caught up.

Modern & Expanding

Cisco has worked extremely hard to keep their certifications up to date, and CCNA is no exception. Covering the OSI model and TCP/IP, along with being updated to meet new hardware and practices, CCNA is the only certification which is always relevant.

Recognized

Employers from across the globe will recognize CCNA, and a lot of them will even demand it. This makes it far easier to get work once you’ve finished your course, even when other people are struggling.

Freelance Opportunities

Thanks to the recognition CCNA gets, using it as the basis of a freelance career is a perfectly viable option. Websites like Field Engineer can support you with this, enabling you to find freelance roles based on the certifications you have.

Exact Skills

Unlike other networking courses, CCNA doesn’t focus on one side of networking, and will teach you about the hardware and software which makes these systems work. This is crucial for those who want to work in this field, with employers requiring technicians with an array of skills.

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The Skills Measured by a CCNA Certification

Cisco’s CCNA Certification covers a wide range of different skills, ranging from recognizing cables to planning and implementing large networks. You can choose what you’d like to learn, and don’t have to cover all of it, though some employees will ask for specific elements of this program to be included before they will hire you.

Routing & Switching

This covers the necessary skills network technicians will need to do their job, with information about both the hardware you’ll be using and the software which powers it being integral to routing and switching.

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Security

Being able to design, implement, and manage a network securely is paramount, and this section will teach you about firewalls, the best practices, and other security skills.

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Wireless

As wireless networks become increasingly ubiquitous, skilled engineers are getting more demand. Working with modern Wireless AC systems isn’t as simple as plugging in a router.

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Cloud

Most modern businesses prefer to store as little data as possible on their networks, instead of relying on data in the cloud. This field is incredibly complicated, though, and is worthy of its own section in the CCNA course.

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Data Center

Building a data center and keeping it secure are challenges which a lot of companies have to face, with the growing needs of this sort of facility making it crucial that skilled engineers are on hand.

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Collaboration

Complicated networking jobs often require large teams. Managing this sort of work requires professionals who have all been trained with the same methods, making the CCNA collaboration element an invaluable one.

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Cisco CCNA Certification Exams

To pass a Cisco CCNA course, you will need to sit for several different exams. Each of the topics you cover will come with its multiple choice exam which will be taken online, with a time limit of around 30 minutes. You will be given three chances to pass, after which you’ll need to start again if you don’t get the right marks. These exams will test your knowledge of networking theory, the OSI model, and TCP/IP systems, along with giving you practical tasks to solve, like setting up a basic router and switch network with a properly managed IP address allocation system.


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Cisco CCNA Certification Prerequisites

Anyone is allowed to sit a Cisco CCNA course, and you don’t need to have any prior qualifications to do this. Cisco recommends taking each of the sections in the correct order, as this will help to build your understanding of networks slowly. Along with this, it will also be beneficial if you have some experience in the field of networking.

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Cisco CCNA Certification Training

Some people will choose to learn the skills they need for a CCNA certification by themselves, using the internet as their guide. These exams are tough, though, and it can be helpful to have an expert to support you through your learning, even if this means paying for it. There are loads of companies out there which can make this process easier, giving you the chance to test your skills before the real exam. Cisco also offers examples of past exams for you to try, and this can also be helpful.

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Cisco CCNA Jobs

Once you have a certification like this, it will be time to start hunting for a job, and this is where FieldEngineer.com can help you. Roles in this field include networking engineers, first and second line support agents, and security consultants, all of which are well-paid and professional jobs. In the US, an engineer with a CCNA certification will earn between $55,000 and $90,000, making it far more lucrative than working without it.

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