For those who are seeking employment in the information technology field, or are looking to gain additional training for their current positions, Cisco Systems, Inc. offers a wide range of certifications in its products. The Cisco Certified Design Associate, or CCDA, program is a base-level certification that focuses on network design concepts and principles. Using Cisco products targeted toward businesses and organizations, the certification covers the skills needed to design routed and switched network infrastructures, with elements involving LAN, WAN and broadband network access.
Specializing in networking equipment, Cisco Systems is headquartered in San Jose, Calif. Its products have a heavy workplace focus, and span a wide variety of networking, security, and data management services and business solutions.
Cisco offers five levels of IT certification on nine different product tracks. Certifications are available the following levels: Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert, and Architect. The product tracks offered are: Routing & Switching, Design, Network Security, Wireless, Voice, Data Center, Storage Networking, Service Provider, and Collaboration.
Training and exams related to each of these certifications are administered by the Cisco Learning Network, at learningnetwork.cisco.com. The online portal provides resources for learning options, business community networking, and careers, including a jobs listing portal for those who have completed their Cisco certifications.
The Cisco Certified Design Associate certificate program is one of several levels of design certification offered by the company.
- Those looking to demonstrate and build on their networking abilities may choose to start with the entry-level Cisco certification, CCENT, which tackles basic skills including installation, operation and troubleshooting for small networks.
- At the Associate level, it is possible to choose between the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) certification tracks. Cisco refers to this as the “apprentice or foundation” level for networking professionals.
- Cisco offers Professional certifications in two main areas, network operations and network design. The Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) track requires three exams, and establishes expert proficiency in advanced design concepts. The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) track is similarly challenging, and offers focus areas including data center, security, voice and wireless.
- Making up less than 3% of all Cisco certified workers, those with Expert certifications are considered at the top of their field. There are eight network operations tracks available, all of them requiring significant work experience and knowledge coming into the program.
- The highest level of design-side certification, the Cisco Certified Architect must have achieved the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) status, and must pass a review in front of a board of experts.
While there is no prerequisite certification to begin the CCDA program, students will need to have the routing and switching skill sets and knowledge obtained through the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) programs.
There is one exam for the CCDA certification track. Students must successfully complete the Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions exam. The 75-minute test, available in English and Japanese, is administered in a timed, proctored environment.
According to the exam description, it tests a base of knowledge in “network design for the Cisco converged networks based on Borderless Network Architecture.” Those who are successful will know how to “design routed and switched network infrastructures and services involving LAN, WAN, wireless, and broadband access for businesses and organizations,” according to the exam description.
Cisco offers one, five-day training course for the exam. The course is available in a classroom or virtual classroom environment, and covers topics including:
CCDA certification is good for three years, and may be renewed by passing any Cisco certification exam at the Associate level or higher.
Based on the skills covered in the CCDA training and evaluation process, it may be possible to find employment in a number of design-focused positions. As many of the exam and certification requirements for the CCDA program are the same of the CCNA, those who have completed the design training also may be qualified to compete for the following networking jobs:
- Network design engineer: A network design engineer is responsible for the implementation and networking of various workplace systems, including the configuration and installation of systems, managing WAN and LAN networks, and handling routers and other engineering aspects.
- Network technician: A network technician handles routine maintenance and troubleshooting related to workplace networks. Responsibilities may include system upgrades, regular maintenance and network troubleshooting, and configuration and implementation of networked technologies.