Cisco Certifications – A Closer Look At CCNA And CCNP


Cisco Systems, Inc. is a corporation technology company located in San Jose, California. It is the largest networking company in the world that provides networking equipment such as routers, bridges, and switches. To help their clients select personnel to establish a reliable and efficient network with the aid of their hardware, Cisco developed a set of certifications.

Cisco training has become very popular in the IT sector. If you belong to this field and would like to further your career, you will need the appropriate certification. In this article, you will be able to know more about the two most popular Cisco certifications – CCNA and CCNP.

CCNA Defined

CCNA stands for Cisco Certified Network Associate. It I one of the widely-known basic networking certifications in the industry for people who have at least one year of experience in network engineering.

Objectives Of CCNA

The primary goal of CCNA is to provide an introduction to the networking sector – whether it is for enthusiasts, beginners, or professionals. It also provides students with the necessary information on the basics and concepts that they need to know about the Cisco networking environment. Also, the certification also equips beginners with the knowledge to be able to operate IT equipment flawlessly.

Benefits Of CCNA

One of the most significant benefits of CCNA certification is that it is not very costly and time-consuming because you only need the minimal amount of training to receive this Cisco certification. In addition to it being affordable, CCNA also offers a broad range of specializations that include wireless, security, voice, WAN, data center, service provider, service provider operations, and video.

Popularity Of CCNA

First, the coverage and materials of the certification have made it very accessible. Despite the fact that it is intended to suit Cisco environment, it is also applicable for use at an entry-level.

Second, Cisco values the participation of the target audience and provides them with the necessary tools and knowledge for the certification. The exam can be scheduled depending on your preference and they make sure that their candidates need not worry about they budget problems.

Lastly, the most important reason for its popularity is because of the examinee’s incapacity to cheat. The examination consists of complex multiple-choice questions that can harness the examinee’s ability to practice hard and comprehend the basic concepts’ on networking.

Tasks Of A Certified CCNA Personnel

If you passed the CCNA certification, it assures your employers that you are capable of performing the following functions:

  1. Installing, operating and configuring entry level switches and routers.
  2. Implementing connections to remote sites.
  3. Ensuring the security of the network from malicious attacks.
  4. Fixing and figuring out the solutions to solve common networking problems.

Once you pass the CCNA certification, you may also specialize in other branches related to your field. These include security, voice, and wireless networking. You also have the option to take it to the next level by applying for CCNP certification.

CCNP Defined

CCNP stands for Cisco Certified Network Personnel. It is another kind of certification that you may acquire from Cisco. It is the next step after obtaining your CCNA.  Thus, CCNA certification is a prerequisite in case you would want to have CCNP certification.

Similar to CCNA, if you are interested in having CCNP certification then you must be an IT professional with at least one year experience in professional networking. In addition to passing the CCNA certification, a high school diploma or equivalent is also necessary.

Tasks Of A Certified CCNP Personnel

In this case, it would be harder to acquire CCNP because you must be able to perform the duties of a CCNA personnel on a much larger scale. If you passed the CCNP certification, it assures your employers that you are capable of performing the following tasks:

  1. Doing all the duties of a CCNA personnel.
  2. Working on networks that have nodes between 100, 500, and beyond.
  3. Connecting networks to maximize data speed.
  4. Preventing the appearance of choke points.
  5. Troubleshooting.

Course Topics

If you are a professional, and you are seeking specialized training programs, CCNP certification offers to implement, maintaining, and planning Cisco’s many tops of the line network solution products. The curriculum for the CCNP certification consists of many different courses and some of these include the following:

  1. Cisco Remote Access
  2. Cisco Advanced Routing
  3. Cisco Multilayer Switching
  4. Converged Network Optimization
  5. Scalable Internetworks

Popular Career Options

If you have passed the CCNP certification, you may be able to have various careers in the IT industry. Some of the career choices which you can include the following:

  1. Network Engineer
  2. Network Technician
  3. Support Engineer
  4. Systems Engineer

In summary, Cisco issues two certifications namely CCNA and CCNP. For you to apply for CCNP, it is a must for you to have accomplished CCNA first because it helps you establish the fundamentals of networking. In comparison, the two certifications differ in the depth of information. CCNA deals with switching and routing basics while CCNP is concerned with switching, routing concepts and protocols, and troubleshooting.

How To Prepare For The CCIE Certification Test

sample certification format

If you would like to attain technical certification from a company by the name of Cisco Systems, you will have to take the CCIE certification test. This is also known as the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert certification program and is used to properly qualify network engineers that plan to work on their systems. It will allow them to become proficient at troubleshooting complex problems, make proper plans, and converged networks that have similar infrastructures. Essentially, you will be able to work on any Cisco equipment that is out there, and this can be a very lucrative position. Here is how you can prepare for the certification test that is required to work on Cisco technology.

What Are The Requirements

Although Cisco has stated officially that less than 3% of all of the people that are engineers are CCIE certified, and even less than that for networking professionals that operate worldwide, it is still a good certification to have. It can be expensive to get as many people will spend as much is 18 months trying to learn how to prepare, and thousands of their own dollars doing so. You will get a unique number from Cisco once you have passed all of the requirements, and despite how complex this certification program can be, there are no formal prerequisites. You also do not need to have any prior training or other certification programs under your belt. You simply need to pass a written test, and then a hands-on lab exam, showing that you have an in-depth understanding of how things work. It is recommended that you do have up to five years of hands-on experience so that you will know what to expect on the test.

How Is It Structured?

This is structured into six different areas. These are areas of expertise or what they commonly referred to as tracks. Each track will represent different aspects of this networking technology. It is also possible to choose to pursue multiple tracks at the same time. For instance, you might want to become proficient in everything that is wireless, and at the same time study to pass the track on security. The other remaining categories include routing and switching, service provider, collaboration, and working with data centers.

How Hard Is It To Pass The Test?

If you have somehow attained a job that allows you to do this type of work, and you already have half a decade of experience, you should have no problem passing any of the tracks if you have worked in these areas before. If your primary job has been as a data center technician, then you should know everything that is involved in that part of the testing will be easy. The same is true for people that can do wireless jobs, and also look up security, so having a job first in this industry is going to be beneficial as you are trying to achieve CCIE certification.

Do You Need This To Get A Networking Job?

Since there are thousands of people that are working on Cisco related systems, those that do not have this type of certification, it is clear that you do not need to have it in order to get a job in this industry. What it does is identifies you as an expert so that if you are ever to be in charge of the team, you will likely be the top candidate because there are so few people that actually have CCIE certification. It’s actually very easy to obtain if you have been working with routing, switching, or data centers in the past. You will simply take the test, and once you have passed it, you could actually improve your salary as a result of improving your perceived proficiency levels.

After you have studied for this certification test, you should have no problem passing at all. This is very true for individuals that have been working in this industry for years or decades, and it can only be beneficial in the sense that you will have a certificate that others do not which could lend you a much better job. Once you have done the test, you will have risen into the ranks of what only 3% of the nation has done that works on these types of systems. Get this done as soon as you can and you could soon find yourself making more money doing what you have always done.

Obtaining the CCIE Security Certification

CCIE Security By BY-YOUR-⌘ (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0]
The evolving demand that industry in general, and individual companies in specific be up to speed in all technologies pertaining to security has resulted in Cisco announcing their new framework to validate the skills of individuals in this area.

The Cisco Certified International Expert Security (CCIE Security) regimen is recognizing people who can acquire the skills and the knowledge to implement, maintain and support the highly extensive Cisco Network Solutions for Security by utilizing the latest best practices for industry and technology.

There are no requirements for prerequisites in this program, as other industries or specific training programs are required. In place of that, there is a written examination that is given to qualifying candidates as to their aptitude and abilities, and then a following hands-on lab exam is given.

The qualifying candidates will be expected to exhibit an understanding of the subject matter that is in-depth in regard to the topics discussed as well as the blueprints. It is also emphasized and strongly suggested that a candidate has from three to five years of job experience in the security field prior to attempting the certification process.

The written exam is a two-hour long written examination that will cover concepts in networking and equipment commands prior to the scheduling of the examination. This examination will have to be passed in order for the applicant will be allowed to move forward onto further qualification.

The written exam covers such competencies and skills that professionals in the security sector will already be familiar with in terms of the overall operation, implementation and troubleshooting of a typical Cisco Security System.

The written exam consists of between 90 and 110 questions that are of a multiple choice format, with an exam duration of two hours. Appropriate study materials are available and can be used to prepare for the exam.

The CCIE Security Lab Exam is an eight hour, hands-on practical exam that is designed to test an applicant’s ability to get a secure network up and running in a timed tested structured setting. The lab test must be taken within a three-year period after having passed the written exam, or the candidate must re-take the written exam.

There are also appropriate study materials that are recommended that a candidate obtains in order to prepare for the CCIE Security Exam which is available.

The CCIE Security Certification program is considered to be the Flagship program in the security industry, as having this certification identifies candidates for differing job positions and roles in a number of security fields across the spectrum.

The materials and exam materials are updated on a regular basis and certify that certificate holders will always be up-to-date and on top of the latest security measures that are available. There is a robust continuing education aspect to the CCIE certification that ensures this.

The current certification addresses real-world scenarios that identify the multiple-threat environment that all industries and parties encounter. The relevancy of the CCIE will ensure that the security systems will always be on the cutting edge of any technology that is encountered.

Consequently, the emphasis of the exams is to meld the theoretical to the reality of the threats that appear on an ongoing basis and apply both disciplines to an overall strategy that is continually evolving and expanding. As new threats are encountered in the real world, Cisco then has to evolve to meet those newer threats.

The candidate for the CCIE certification will have to be able to solve problems that result from real world application and be able to troubleshoot and track down problems that not only occur in one area but to be able to observe and discern issues that may cover more diverse areas as well.

Consequently, the CCIE candidate will need to have a deeper, and a more thorough understanding of overall security programs and how they are implemented and maintained in a deeper and more thorough application than other certification programs.

Either prior hands on or job experience will be a great help in mastering the material on both exams, as well as completing the CCNA and the CCNP Security programs for a broad-based spectrum of specific in regard to what is expected.

Tips for Studying for the CCIE Certification

The CCIE certification is a very valuable certification for anyone who is eager to work in networking. The exam is quite an intense one, however, and it is difficult to pass. You will need to study carefully – even if you are quite confident in your ability to use Cisco products – because the test is intended to prove that you are a very skilled network engineer.

Studying for the Cisco exam will require a decent time investment. Make sure that you set up a work environment that has nothing but GNS3 on it – no instant messenger clients, no games, and no social networking clients. This will minimise distractions. Use that, and a copy of the Cisco PDFs that you need to research.
You might find that you study best if you do so early in the morning or late at night, when you don’t have friends or family members around to distract you. Set aside specific periods of the day when you go into ‘work mode’. If you are going to watch videos to study, take notes with a pen and paper at the same time, and try following along with any lab work.

Start with short study sessions, and build up to being able to concentrate on the lab work for a full day, so that you are ready for the lab exam.

While you can do well if you just read the documentation and experiment, you will find that it is easier to prepare for the test through an approved vendor. Pick one, and work through their entire curriculum. Most CCIE training providers teach ‘to the test’ so this will give you the best chance of success when you are limited to studying for short periods. Watch their videos, work through their examples, and try the practice tests. Build a home rack if you have the luxury of doing so, and use that to play with different scenarios.

Are You Ready for The Test?

Before you even start, assess your skills honestly. How much do you really know about the subjects that will be on the exam? Can you really configure an MPLS L3 VPN from the ground up? Do you know how to configure different kinds of authentication in OSPF? You might think that you know a subject well because you encounter it a lot at work – but do you really understand it, or are you just repeating a few specific things that you are used to in your own environment? It is easy to overestimate your skills.

Make sure that you take several mocks in the build-up to your test –you may find that you get quite a surprise with the first mock that you take. Only around one in seven people will pass the CCIE on their first attempt. You can increase your chances of being one of those seven if you take mocks to assess your progress, and then – when you are very close to passing –attend a bootcamp. The bootcamp is something that will help you to refine your knowledge IF, and only if, you already know a lot.

If you don’t have a solid foundation to build on then a boot camp will be a stressful experience. It will cost you a lot of money, time and mental energy, and it will be too intense for you to retain a lot of knowledge. So don’t take chances on it – prepare properly, and use it to put the finishing touches on your knowledge. Knowledge that should be gained through structured study from both CISCO publications, approved training partners, and the network engineering community as a whole.