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 base-level certification for any IT professional looking to learn more about and verify their skills in working with Cisco products is the CCNA, or Cisco Certified Network Associate, program.
The certification covers areas including installation, monitoring, maintenance and troubleshooting for a workplace network infrastructure. Cisco considers the CCNA the foundation for its more advanced, Professional- and Expert-level certification programs. After completing the certification, job-seekers might have a leg up in looking for positions including network specialist, network administrator, and network engineer.
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 first step to earning a Cisco certification is the entry-level test, or CCENT. Some products give a Cisco Certification Technician exam instead, the CCT. The CCENT certification tackles basic skills including installation, operation and troubleshooting for small networks, covering simple security and wiring concepts, some configuration, and some networks. This level is a good first stepping stone to further certification, and may be enough to win the upper hand on entry-level job openings.
Cisco refers to the CCNA, the Associate program, as the “apprentice or foundation” level for networking professionals. Certification is available specifically for network operations (CCNA) or network design (CCDA). While there is only one exam option on the design track, there are several on the operations side, with test tracks covering Routing and Switching, Voice, Wireless, Security, Data Center, Service Provider, and Service Provider Operations. These certifications require a significant background of knowledge, and may involve more than one exam.
The specific exams required for the CCNA program vary depending on the area of focus. For example, the base-level CCNA focuses on Routing & Switching, and requires a two-part test, Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices. The 90-minute composite exam is available in several languages, and tests the skills need to install, manage and troubleshoot a medium-sized network. Specific skills tested include wireless access, security, and connectivity related to a network.
This is the most general CCNA test; it can be used to satisfy the prerequisite for CCNA area tests, which focus on areas including Security and Data Center. Each certification area requires its own test, which requires the test-taker to demonstrate a practical understanding of how Cisco products in that area are used in the workplace. The CCNA is good for three years before recertification, which can be completed by passing any Associate-level exam or higher.