The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is one of the must-have or preferred credentials you will see in job descriptions for networking roles such as network administrator or a network security engineer.
If you’re on a networking career path and want to take it further, earning the CCNA certification may be well worth your time. This in-demand credential not only could make you more marketable, it also could lead to a higher salary.
According to the Robert Half Technology 2015 Salary Guide, starting compensation for a network administrator in the United States ranges from $71,250-$105,750; network security engineers can expect to earn a base salary between $99,250 and $138,500. Adding Cisco network administration skills to the mix for either role could mean an impressive 9 percent boost in starting salary, according to the guide.
Which CCNA certification is right for me?
The CCNA is the second of four certification levels offered by Cisco. Cisco makes it easy to understand the certification path with their certification job matrix. To see how to get a CCNA certification in one of four specializations, be sure to choose “Associate” as the desired level in the job matrix.
A Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification is a prerequisite to any CCNA certification, and is the first level of certification in Cisco’s certification path. After you earn the CCENT, you select your specialization and take the appropriate tests to get a CCNA in that particular specialization.
Which specialization you choose will depend on your interests and career needs. Note that the Cisco Certified Network Associate Voice (CCNA Voice) and Cisco Certified Network Associate Video (CCNA Video) certifications are being retired, and the final day to test for them will be August 14, 2015. You should stay away from these specializations unless you have a specific need for those certifications.
Once you have obtained your CCENT certification you can take a specialized test to earn your CCNA certification.
Taking the CCNA certification exam is the final step in the certification process. Getting there requires a combination of studying and experience. Each CCNA certification’s page has links to a variety of learning materials such as:
- Downloadable documents teaching specific topics
- Online study groups, where you can ask and answer questions
- Online learning seminars
- In-person classroom training
- Online videos
- Intense, boot camp-style, in-person training
Whatever style of studying you prefer, there is a CCNA certification preparation course that is right for you. You will also likely want to find a method that offers access to Cisco equipment (if you do not have access to some already) that you can practice on and experiment with. Some learning materials are free, and others range in price from under $100 to thousands of dollars.
Do you have your CCNA certification? Let us know in the comments below how it has helped your career.