How to Earn a CCNA Certification (With List of Careers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 22, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As an IT professional, it's beneficial to pursue entry-level certifications at the beginning of your career. These courses help you gain foundational knowledge and improve your career prospects. Understanding what the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification is can help you decide if you want to pursue it to help advance your IT career. In this article, we discuss the CCNA certification, explain its benefits, explore how to earn one, and provide a list of jobs you can pursue with this certification.

What is a CCNA certification?

A Cisco Certified Network Associate, or CCNA certification, is one of the most common certifications for IT professionals. It's an entry-level certification that prepares you for a career in information technology by assessing your range of skills and understanding of networks. Some of the test areas include maintenance, installation, and troubleshooting. Although there are no criteria for this certification, it's advisable to obtain some experience in security, networking, data centre operations, or other related fields before attempting the examination.

Related: 11 Popular IT Certifications to Advance in Your Career

Benefits of a CCNA credential

Some of the benefits of obtaining this certification include:

  • Better remuneration: Obtaining this certification may allow you to negotiate higher compensation than those without it.

  • Enhanced knowledge: Completing the CCNA program may help improve your understanding of the field and help you grow in the industry.

  • Higher chances of getting a promotion: Asides from helping you secure a new role, a CCNA qualification can make you eligible for a promotion in your current workplace.

Related: How to Get Into IT (With Tips to Build Your IT Career)

How to earn a CCNA certification

Here are the steps to follow to obtain a CCNA qualification:

1. Gain experience

It's advisable to gain relevant experience in computer networking before attempting this certification program. You may also choose to complete an undergraduate degree in information technology, computer science, or any related field. Completing a bachelor's degree can provide foundational knowledge to help you succeed in the examination. Some companies may offer basic introductory courses on computer networking to those without an undergraduate degree.

You can also earn practical experience by working in minor computer networking roles. As an undergraduate student, you can enrol in internship programs to help you gain practical experience. You can ask professionals and senior colleagues about available internship programs or research job opportunities on social media, online job boards, career fairs, and local community groups.

Related: How to Become a Network Engineer (With Job Roles and Salary)

2. Review the examination topics

You can research and review the examination topics before training for the certification examination to understand the areas of study. There may be slight differences in the examination topics, but each test typically contains six general concepts. Here are the concepts of the certification examination and the percentage of each topic:

  • IP connectivity (25%)

  • Network access (20%)

  • Network fundamentals (20%)

  • Security fundamentals (15%)

  • IP services (10%)

  • Automation and programmability (10%)

3. Practise for the test

You can use online training programs to study and practise for the CCNA examination. The organization company, Cisco, offers different resources, courses, and training programs to help you prepare for the examination. For example, if you subscribe to the Cisco digital learning platform, it grants you access to various online labs, lectures, assignments, and webinars for a year. The company also provides a community network for candidates to communicate with each other and licensed tutors. You can also research technical schools or colleges that offer specialized classes.

It's advisable to research a training program's cost, length, and location to see if it suits your schedule. It's also essential to note that instructor-guided programs may span for a few weeks or months, while you may have access to resources for a year in a self-guided program. The cost of training programs may vary depending on the program's resources. Some essential resources that training programs may offer include:

  • LAN and WAN design

  • OSI models

  • Introduction to data centres, routers, and firewalls

  • Switching concepts

  • Wireless essentials

4. Take a practice examination

As this is one of the final steps when preparing for the CCNA examination, you can schedule the practice exam after completing the training course. Consider taking multiple practise exams before taking the actual examination to familiarize yourself with answering similar questions within the allotted time. Practise exams also help you identify the areas where you may require improvement and extra study. You can purchase the Cisco practise bundle with 300 lab exercises and sample questions.

As the CCNA qualification has multiple concentrations, it's advisable to choose a practice exam that focuses on your area of specialization. These specialized exams typically contain more in-depth study materials on the particular concentration. If you want to take the general CCNA examination, you can study with a general practice exam. It's advisable to write the practice exam at least a week or two before the actual examination. This timeframe may give you enough time to identify and work on the areas that require improvement to ensure you get a passing grade.

5. Schedule and take the CCNA examination

After preparation, you can schedule your examination on the Pearson VUE or Cisco website. You can schedule your examination up to six weeks before your intended date. Also, you may choose to take a supervised online test or visit a Pearson VUE testing site for a physical examination. For the online examination, it's essential to find a quiet location with a stable internet connection. It also requires a computer with a webcam, government-issued identification, and Pearson VUE proctoring software. You can visit the Pearson VUE website to find the testing centre closest to you for an in-person examination.

For the general CCNA examination, the allotted time is 120 minutes. The minimum score to earn a passing grade is 80%. You can take the examination as many times as you need. After completing the test, you can track your certification status from your Cisco account.

6. Recertify every three years

After passing the CCNA examination, the certification is valid for three years. After the expiration of three years, you can take the recertification examination or submit proof of continuing education credits to maintain your status. You can complete Item author exams or additional training courses to earn continuing education credits. You can visit the recertification catalogue on the Cisco website to guide you for further clarification.

Jobs that require CCNA qualification

Here are some career opportunities you can explore after completing and passing the CCNA examination:

1. Technical support engineer

National average salary: $62,950 per year

Primary duties: Technical support engineers assist other employees and customers by fixing any technical issues with their computer devices. They also participate in live chats, answer customers' phone calls, attend to emails, or sit with other employees to explain how these devices operate. A technical support engineer may write simple documents for technological processes and submit billing to customers.

2. Network administrator

National average salary: $67,736 per year

Primary duties: Network administrators supervise the company's networks. They optimize the network, troubleshoot issues, and conduct regular maintenance checks. They also teach other employees good practices on how to keep the network clear. A network engineer also keeps the network safe, assigns staff permission to access the network, and advice the company on which tools effectively support the network's function.

3. IT security specialist

National average salary: $95,101 per year

Primary duties: IT security specialists protect the company's computer systems and ensure that they're safe from breaches. They review and select protection tools to help identify malware and protect against cyber security threats. IT security specialists may also decide to encrypt confidential correspondence between the company and external clients. These professionals also design firewalls, upgrade systems, and restrict sensitive information stored on servers, computers, or networks.

4. Telecom engineer

National average salary: $70,049 per year

Primary duties: A telecommunications engineer is in charge of connecting the company's communication systems. They typically work with data, video, and voice systems. These professionals transmit communication data, install equipment, and reconfigure systems and networks. Telecom engineers buy new equipment and perform necessary upgrades.

5. Wireless engineer

National average salary: $84,220 per year

Primary duties: Wireless engineers ensure that the company's internet connection remains stable and optimal. In addition, these professionals set up, update, and maintain wireless equipment. They also manage firewalls, networks, permissions, troubleshoot issues, test routers and networks, and create router protocols.

6. Director of information technology

National average salary: $119,463 per year

Primary duties: A director of information technology oversees the company's IT department. These professionals create employees' schedules, manage projects, monitor activities, work with other employees to provide solutions for business problems, and study new technologies that may benefit the company. IT directors also manage the financial aspects of the department and create reports on the department's operations.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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