CCNA - Cisco Certified Network Associate

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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 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.

In 2013, Cisco began expanding the program to cover many other facets of computer networking and network administration. Ten different CCNA specialized certifications exist:

  • CCNA Cloud
  • CCNA Collaboration
  • CCNA DataCenter
  • CCNA Industrial
  • CCNA Routing and Switching
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Service Provider
  • CCNA Video (retired as of September 2015)
  • CCNA Voice (retired as of September 2015)
  • CCNA Wireless

Among Cisco's five-tier network certification system,the CCNA family belongs to the Associate tier, second from the bottom tier (called Entry) and below the middle Professional tier (that includes the CCNP certification family).

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 either one or two exams with standard total sitting fees of USD $250-$300 per specialization (after prerequisites).

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

A CCNA remains valid for three years when re-certification is required. Alternatively, professionals can instead progress to the higher-tier Cisco certifications beyond CCNA, including the CCNP and CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). Employers sometimes reimburse the exam fees of their employees as part of supporting their career development.

Jobs That Require CCNA

Businesses with networks using Cisco routers and switches often look for IT professionals having 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 each other. 

Because large numbers of people (Cisco does not disclose exact figures) possess a CCNA, gaining one does not by itself guarantee employment or by itself greatly distinguish a person from others competing for the same jobs.

Nevertheless, it is a solid component of an overall IT career development strategy. Many employers consider certifications like CCNA as optional but preferred when evaluating job candidates.