CCNA - Cisco Certified Network Associate

CCNA certification is a solid component of an IT career

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CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) is a popular industry certification program in computer networking developed by Cisco Systems. Cisco created the CCNA to recognize basic competency in installation and support of medium-sized networks.

Types of CCNA Associate Certifications

The CCNA program began in 1998 with one core certification focused on network routing and switching, obtainable by passing a single 75-minute written exam.

Since then, Cisco expanded the program to cover many other facets of computer networking and network administration, offering certifications at five increasingly demanding levels: Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert and Architect. Currently, the CCNA specialized certifications are:

  • CCNA Cloud
  • CCNA Collaboration
  • CCNA Cyber Ops
  • CCNA Data Center
  • CCNA Industrial
  • CCNA Routing and Switching
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Service Provider
  • CCNA Wireless

Among Cisco's five-tier network certification system, the CCNA family belongs to the Associate tier, which is one step up from the Entry tier.

Studying and Taking CCNA Exams

The CCNA Industrial, Security and Wireless specializations each require completing a different Cisco certification first, while the others have no prerequisites. Each certification requires passing one or more exams.

Cisco and other companies offer various formal training courses to help students prepare for these exams.

Topics to study vary according to the specialization. For example, topics covered on the CCNA Routing and Switching Exam include

  • Basic functions of the operating system used in Cisco routers (Cisco Internetwork OS)

A CCNA certification remains valid for three years, at which point re-certification is required. Professionals can instead choose to progress to a higher-tier Cisco certification beyond CCNA, including the CCNP and CCIE certifications. Employers sometimes reimburse the exam fees of their employees as part of supporting their career development.

Jobs That Require CCNA Certification

Businesses with networks using Cisco routers and switches often look for IT professionals who have earned CCNA certification. Common job titles for those holding CCNAs include Network Engineer and Network Administrator.

Companies hiring new IT associates require varying combinations of certification, academic degrees, and work experience depending on their needs. Some do not seek CCNA holders at all while others consider it mandatory, even for roles that appear similar to one another. 

Because large numbers of people possess a CCNA certification, gaining one does not by itself guarantee employment or greatly distinguish one job candidate from another when they compete for the same job. Nevertheless, it is a solid component of an overall IT career development strategy.

 Many employers consider certifications such as CCNA as optional but preferred when evaluating job candidates.