IT Stepping Stones: All About the CCNA

A Certified Cisco Network Associate (CCNA) certification is intended to help workers in the networking field prove to their employers that they have expertise in configuring, building and maintaining networks built out of Cisco networking devices.

Cisco doesn’t require any qualifications of candidates taking their CCNA exam – you only need to know your Cisco networks to pass. Cisco has no formal expectations to do with how you may have come by your knowledge – you may learn at home or through formal training at a qualified teaching center (if you need to find such a training center, you can click here for information on training by Countrywide, a well-respected name among Cisco Learning Partners.

CCNA certification courses help students learn the skills necessary to successfully design and manage complete networks. Once you put yourself through a course and gain networking expertise with Cisco equipment, you need to sit for Cisco’s 180-minute CCNA certification examination. When you gain the CCNA professional designation, you will able to prove to employers that you have technical competence in the areas of building and managing networks built of Cisco networking devices.

A CCNA certification course at an institute offering formal training 

A student signing up for formal CCNA training can expect to gain both theoretical knowledge of how Cisco computer networks are put together and specific, hands-on knowledge on building networks. At most institutes, CCNA courses offer networking training in the following areas.

  • Networking and routing principles, including the OSI reference model
  • Managing and troubleshooting expertise in both wired and wireless networks
  • Knowledge of Cisco routers, bridges and switches
  • LAN switching, IP addressing, BOOTP, ARP and RARP
  • Security in wired and wireless networks
  • The Cisco Internetwork OS protocol
  • Cisco Internet Protocol telephony

Cisco training courses last two semesters. While Cisco itself doesn’t specify any qualifications that candidates must possess to sit for the CCNA exam, most training schools ask for a high school diploma or equivalent.

Formal training for CCNA certification doesn’t always need to come from attendance at a CCNA institute. Online training courses such as Cisco’s E-learning System and other online resources can help. Often, training comes in the form of an in-organization learning session organized by one’s employer.

The CCNA exam 

In its original version, the CCNA exam came with 65 questions to be answered with 80 minutes allowed. Over time, though, Cisco his expanded the scope of the examination. It tests students with 78 questions, to be answered in 120 minutes. Passing the exam requires at least 80% of the questions answered correctly. Once you pass, your CCNA certification remains current for 3 years. To keep your CCNA certification, you need to go through the examination process each time.

A career track with Cisco certifications 

CCNA is only one of three important certification programs that Cisco offers to those who wish to build a career in routing and switching.

As a CCNE, you can find different kinds of work in the networking field – as a helpdesk worker, a field technician or a junior networking designer.

As a Cisco Certified Network Professional, you can gain employment as a network administrator or consultant.

Finally, the top-of-the-line certification offered is the Cisco Certified Internetwork expert. With this qualification, you get to work as a senior network administrator.

In conclusion… 

While Cisco’s CCNA is more demanding than CNE by Novell or MCSE by Microsoft, some experts question the actual value to be gained from it. The emphasis that the CCNA exam places on theoretical knowledge, rather than practical expertise (none of the questions in the exam test for practical knowledge of the way Cisco devices function), works against it.

A CCNA certification can be a useful addition to any networking professional’s resume. It only works, though, when it is accompanied by a college degree and work experience. While the CCNA exam itself doesn’t require pre-existing qualifications, employers usually do.


Travis Adams loves his work in IT. He frequently blogs about his experience and tips to success in the industry.

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