If you work in IT networking, then it’s a given that you’ve dealt with Cisco products. Cisco is like the Google of its realm — in the networking world, they are everywhere. This ubiquity is one reason, among numerous others, why you should consider adding a Cisco certification to your resume. Cisco offers something for everyone, particularly for associate-, professional-, and expert-level IT pros. Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned IT pro, Cisco’s Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) course will open up a world of opportunities and advancement.
CCNA is Cisco’s most popular entry-level course, and the prerequisite for undertaking any further professional (CCNP) or expert-level certifications (CCIE). CCNA almost always features in any listing of top certifications and is India’s most sought after networking certification. In 2014, more than 105,000 candidates sat for the exam worldwide. It is becoming so popular that it’s almost expected for networking professionals to have it. CCNA is valuable because it certifies that an individual possesses the following IT tools:
- Understanding of how interconnected devices work and interact with other devices
- Fluency with networking concepts and topologies
- Ability to configure, install and troubleshoot LAN devices within the network
- Ability to configure and troubleshoot WAN devices
- Ability to identify and mitigate low-level networking threats and propose solutions
- Ability to implement VLAN and ACL between different branches or offices
- Ability to implement IP addressing requirements and verify and troubleshoot associated problems
The CCNA exam is not a walk in a park, you will have to demonstrate your skills and expertise with practical real-life scenarios, often presented as lab simulations on the exam. To earn the CCNA, you can clear one single exam (200-120) or two individual exams: ICND1 (100-101) & ICND2 (200-101). Each exam tests your ability to install, operate and troubleshoot for a small- to medium-size enterprise branch network. The exams are 90 minutes in duration and consist of between 50 and 60 questions of varying formats ranging from multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, and fill-in-the-blank. A score of 75 is required to clear each exam.
Exam topics include:
- Operation of IP Data Networks
- Lan Switching technologies
- IP addressing
- IP Routing Technologies
- IP Services
- Network Device Security
- WAN Technologies
Be aware that this is just a general list of exam topics. Related topics may also appear, depending on the exam. Take care to visit Cisco’s CCNA site for any updates. For a more complete overview of topics, click here. Although there are no requirements to sit for any of the exams, Cisco does recommend that exam candidates have 1-to-2 years of prior networking experience.
There are many Cisco-certified training institutes in India that offer CCNA training for aspiring candidates. Check the Global Learning Partner Locator for a site near you. If you’re the disciplined type, then you can elect to self-study and practice at home with a less expensive Cisco router. Cisco does provide a pretty comprehensive study guide, organized by topic, designed to help you find what you are looking for. It isn’t a complete self-study program, but it will help you get started.
The exam itself will cost you approximately ₹ 17,000 ($250 U.S.). The certificate is valid for three years. Renewal will require you to register and pass an appropriate recertification exam. A valid certification can be renewed indefinitely, but take care to not let it lapse or you will be required to repeat the entire exam process.
Recertification periods and requirements vary, so be sure to double check requirements. One impressive way to retain your CCNA certification is to do as many other networking pros do — go for next upper level certification like the CCNP, CCIE. Either certification will automatically revalidate your CCNA.
CCNA-credentialed individuals can expect to find ample employment opportunities as network administrator, analysts, technicians, and as technical support and information systems engineers. Salary for a CCNA with little to no experience generally starts at around ₹ 250,000 ($4,000 U.S.) annually. With 5-to-6 years of experience a CCNA can expect to earn annually between ₹ 1.5 to 2 M ($23,000 to $30,000 U.S.).
CCNA certification also offers concentrations in Security and Voice and Wireless. Candidates must have the generic CCNA R&S (Routing and Switching) or CCENT (ICND1) certification before appearing for any of the following three exams: CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, and CCNA Wireless.
CCNA certification will give you a solid foundation in networking, and help you advance in the field to upper tier certifications. It opens up the whole field of networking. CCNA certification is a sure stepping stone for you whether you are landing in a new job, or moving up the ladder in the certification path.
A CCNA under your belt will do more than just add letters after your name. It will bring you greater salary and career opportunities, and earn you respect from colleagues and employers as proof of your commitment to learning new technologies.
Because of the effort you will make to achieve certification, employers prefer a CCNA when it comes to selecting among potential employees. One other widely known fact is that having a Cisco certification will validate your knowledge with Cisco hardware all over the world, and most CCNAs do continue on to additional top-tier Cisco certifications.
CCNA is networking’s most sought-after certification in India. Possessing it will enable you to gain a step on your competition for higher salaries and greater career opportunities.