A closer look at the finer points of the CCNA certification
First off, the CCNA certification program is designed to train individuals to deal with medium-sized networks. This basically means that a person with this certification can essentially install, configure, utilize, and repair networks of moderate size. Naturally, those who complete a CCNA cert program are prepared to take on a career with Cisco, but that doesn’t mean that you’re limited to opportunities with them. A large number of companies with extensive IT assets see the CCNA certification as an ‘indicator of competence’.
As with any certification, the ultimate purpose shouldn’t be to merely add another few intriguing qualifications to your resume’, the real goal should be to add information and experience to one’s skill set. In many ways, all of Cisco’s cert programs promote this type of practical mindset, particularly the CCNA. Since these courses / exams are relatively short, they can be obtained with relative ease, but the information lurking around inside of them isn’t necessarily as easily absorbed by everyone. In other words, you really need some solid preparatory materials if you’re going to going to get your CCNA and actually comprehend what that entails.
Additionally, most people probably aren’t aware of the fact that CCNA certifications have a 3-year limit attached to them. There are various reasons why this restriction exists, the constant influx of technological growth and renewal (in terms of hardware and software) being one of them. Simply put, a lot can change in the course of a 3 year period, and it often does; for example, over the last 3 years we’ve seen a cloud computing explosion which is changing the rules for most networking specialists.
The actual CCNA exam itself consists of a written test which applicants are given 90 minutes to complete. The exam itself consists of questions derived from elements of WAN / LAN design (as well as WLAN / VLAN) and delves into network security management along with routing protocols, IP addressing and other important matters. In addition, there aren’t any prerequisites for the CCNA exam, but there are certain programs like the CCENT which are designed to function as introduction-level courses. Prospective CCNA students should already possess some form of experience or training if they really want to get the most out of their certification.
Perhaps the biggest question on people’s minds is, “why do I need a CCNA?” In all honesty there are several good reasons why an IT pro should consider this certification, knowledge base expansion being only one example. For those IT employees (particularly managers) who have been at it for years and might be ready to ask their employers for a raise, a CCNA cert is an excellent bargaining chip of sorts. In short, it’s an immediate way to prove to your superiors that you’re still ‘in the game’ when it comes to modern networking practices.
Likewise, if you’re relatively new to the IT job market, having a CCNA is an excellent way to ‘separate yourself from the rest of the pack’, so to speak. Furthermore, a CCNA might allow you to push yourself in ways that not only fill in any gaps in your overall understanding of networks, but also to improve upon basic designs. In other words, for those who are routinely tasked with coming up with creative networking solutions, a CCNA can act as both a refresher course as well as a means of reevaluating one’s general approaches to networking in general.
CCNA certification isn’t limited to internal IT personnel either; project managers and even salespeople should consider exploring what it has to offer. For instance, if project manager routinely relies on IT networks in terms of capabilities and communication, it is perhaps in their best interest to gain a greater grasp of how these components function. Some of the more intuitive project managers could even use the knowledge they gain from a CCNA cert to improve their department’s productivity as well as capabilities (definitely a valuable asset).
Salespeople who deal in networking hardware/software/services should also strongly consider taking a CCNA course. This would allow them to not only gain a better understanding of their product line(s), but also help them create more applicable, sensible sales strategies. IT managers and network administrators (or those who are seeking these positions) are certainly among the most likely candidates for CCNA certification though.