What is CCNA? Why I’m not hiring you without one?


What is CCNA?

CCNA stands for Cisco Certified Network Associate. It is a widely popular certification program aimed at Network Engineers and Network Administrators with 1-3 years of experience. In the old days, the CCNA use to be a single certification that touches skin deep on several areas of networking such as routing, switching, security, wifi and video and voice. Over the years, the CCNA has now branched into separate certifications each with it’s independent path into the professional level and expert levels. Below are the list of different areas you can specialize in.

  • CCNA Routing and Switching
  • CCNA Data Center
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Service Provider
  • CCNA Service Provider Operations
  • CCNA Video
  • CCNA Voice
  • CCNA Wireless

Which path should you take?

CCNA Routing and switching remains among the most popular as it covers the most fundamental areas in the networking profession. Although Cisco has separated the CCNA into many separate tracks, most tracks require you to take the routing and switching exam first.

In order to get your CCNA, you may take a series of two exams which earns you the title of CCENT or the more beefier single exam which gets you to the CCNA directly. Whichever method you take depends on the comfort level you have on the exam material.

I have a CCNA, why can’t I find a job?

Here’s where I’m going to be offending most readers. The truth is, a CCNA without any experience won’t automatically land you a job. Back in the dotcom years I’ve heard many success stories about people landing a network engineer job for some large company earning a handsome salary. Fast forward 10 years this is no longer the case. Much like the story with University degrees, the CCNA has now become a dime a dozen.

The IT industry looks heavily on people who have experience. Coming from a person who once was seeking to be hired to the person doing the hiring, I know exactly the difference between those who have experience and those that don’t. The tip is to obtain the CCNA and then aim for an entry level job such as desktop or helpdesk analyst. No serious hiring manager will hire a CCNA to manage their network without any experience.

Got the experience, but no CCNA?

Here’s where I will offend some more readers. So you claim you have experience in networking and want to apply for a job that manages Cisco routers and switches but you don’t have a CCNA? I cannot find much logic to that, especially when you are up against people who have both the experience and certification, there’s noway you will win that one. From a hiring manager perspective and a person who has attained the CCNA, I’m pretty concerned that most self learners won’t be to obtain all that knowledge on the job vs the person who is both getting the education and the work experience. That being said, I’ll most likely be hiring the person who has the certification when comparing two people with similar levels of experience.

Is the CCNA enough?

That depends on where you want to go. The CCNA is indeed just an entry level certification. Beyond that there are two more tiers. Some people stop at the CCNA depending on the type of work they do. It might be worth while exploring other certifications and options in the IT field. Especially when you are a sysadmin and a good amount of your time is being spent on other systems and areas. If you’ve decided to specialize, you will have to understand the market and area where you live. Are there companies in the vicinity looking for higher level specialized knowledge in networking? The next tier – CCNP requires three exams with one being a troubleshooting exam requiring more heavy hands on skills. If you do not have real exposure to Cisco switches and routers you may want to consider finding a place that has them.

Some guy is earning 80k with just a CCNA!

Here’s where I’m going to bust some people’s dreams here. Depending on where you live, and who you work for and most importantly how MANY years of experience you have, your salary will vary tremendously. You absolutely won’t be earning this much with only 1-3 years experience. Here in Canada you’re most likely going to need somewhere between 5-10 years experience in the networking field with the CCNA to earn this, if not a CCNP and many more years. Your networking exposure will incorporate managing medium to large networks with high availability. The skills you need for this stretches beyond the knowledge covered in CCNA. You will need to have much hands on knowledge in security, wireless, voip and maybe even systems. This list doesn’t end but I’m going to end here. If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to leave a comment below.

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About the Author

Alfred Tong
Author and owner of this blog. A Networking enthusiast, full time networking and systems Engineer. Generally curious about all things IT.Certifications: GIAC GSEC, CCNP-S, CCNP, CCSP, CCDP, CCNA, RHCE, JNCIA - FWV