CCNA vs CCNP – Which one to choose?
Over the past decades Cisco has become popular as one of the top network hardware manufacturers and vendors. At present Cisco is among top 5 network hardware vendors. Cisco offers diversified product range for different levels of customer requirements. This includes Small and mid sized business (SMB), enterprise and service provider networking devices, Network security devices , Wireless , IoT ,Collaboration and Cloud devices. As a result of the increasing popularity and customer satisfaction for Cisco products, there is a huge demand for networking professionals with Cisco knowledge and skills.
Most of the networking roles require Cisco networking skills provided that Cisco vendor products are used in the networks. Network administrators are responsible for managing Local area networks (LAN) and small scale wide area networks or branch networks. This job role requires Cisco routing and switching as well as wireless and collaboration products configuration skills.
Network Engineers who are responsible for design and managing large enterprise networks and wide area networks need to have skills related to specific Cisco products which are used for large enterprises.
Network and telecom engineers who work for service providers should have configuration and design skills for products specifically use for service integration.
In addition to that there are other specific job roles such as Security engineers who should have skills in Cisco security product portfolio. Cisco certifications are designed considering each of the above job roles. Each of the certification help engineers learns how to configure networking devices and design networks for maximum performance and availability.
Certifications help progress your career and commitment to learn. Certifications justify your understanding, skills and learning mindset which will help you stay ahead in the competitive job market.
Having a Cisco certification is a big advantage for network professionals. A junior level engineer or a recent graduates with a Cisco certification such as CCNA, who are looking to start a career in networking has a competitive advantage over other candidates. A Cisco certified network engineer or administrator can demand for a raise in their pay as certifications add value to the individuals as well as Companies. After having received several years of experience, engineers can start pursuing higher level certifications which help them promote to senior levels or higher level job roles.
Following are all the main Cisco certifications currently available
- Entry Level (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician)-CCENT
- Associate Level (Cisco Certified Network Associate)-CCNA
- Professional Level (Cisco Certified Network Professional)-CCNP
- Expert Level (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert)-CCIE
- Architect Level (Cisco Certified Architect)-CCA
CCNA- Cisco Certified Network Associate
CCNA is the next level certification after the first level certification CCENT. CCENT is a basic level certification and most of the network professionals start CCNA straightaway. CCNA is associate level certification with no prerequisites to take the exam.
CCNA has one certification with a wide range of networking fundamentals all networking careers .Exam topics include network fundamentals, network protocols, IP connectivity, network security fundamentals, and network automation and programmability.
To enroll for a CCNA certification program, candidate should complete a Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification depending on which specialty chosen. Some CCNA specialties do not require you to have a CCENT certification before enrolling.
CCNA exam domains.
A candidate can select any of the domains below. Once completed candidate have the option to recertify by passing CCNP with same domain. As an example a candidate who passed CCNA Cloud can continue with CCNP cloud for recertifying or upgrading to higher level certification.
- Data Center
- Industrial / IoT
- Routing and Switching
- Service Provider
Compared to CCNP exams, CCNA exam validates basic to medium level of network technologies whereas CCNP validates higher level of understanding the networking technologies.
CCNA exam code – 200-301 CCNA -Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions
Duration: 120 minutes , Number of Questions: 50 to 60, Languages: English and Japanese.
Exam cost: $300 USD, plus tax or use Cisco Learning Credits.
CCNA exam consists of multiple-choice single answer, multiple-choice multiple answers drag & drop, and lab simulation type answers.
CCNA job roles –
- Network Support Engineer/Technician – A network technician install and maintains network systems.
- Junior Network Engineer
- Network Administrator
- Helpdesk Technician – provides technical support to help customers to fix computer-related issues. CCNA level Engineers troubleshoot problems, update support tickets.
Some of the daily job functions of a CCNA are:
- Install and configure Cisco Networking Devices.
- Configure Cisco Routers and Switches. Monitoring and troubleshooting of errors.
- Maintain security of network devices.
- Take backups of configurations and recovery.
CCNA exam validity: CCNA exam is valid for three years. To recertify candidates can take any CCNP exam before expiry date or pass the current available CCNA exam.
CCNP –Cisco certified Network Professional
CCNP Requirements and paths
Cisco professional certifications path includes several tracks such as DevNet, Enterprise networking, Collaboration, Data Center etc.
The Professional level is an advanced level of certification that shows more expertise with networking skills. Each certification covers a different technology to meet the needs of varying job roles.
- CCDP-Cisco certified Design professional
- CCNP Cloud-
- CCNP Collaboration
- CCNP Data Center
- CCNP Routing and Switching
- CCNP Security
- CCNP Service Provider
- CCNP Wireless
Each professional-level certification requires only two exams: one core exam and one concentration exam. For CCNP enterprise Core exam: 350-401 ENCOR and one Concentration Exam are required.
Exam cost $400 for Core Exam and $300 for Concentration Exam.
CCNP exam consists of multiple-choice single answer, multiple-choice multiple answers drag & drop, and lab simulation type answers.
CCNP job roles
- Senior Network Engineer
- Network Architect / Designer
- Level 3 Support Engineer
- Network Specialist
Compared to CCNA job roles, CCNP job roles are more senior and upper level roles. Often CCNP engineers advice or guide CCNA level Engineers on various tasks. CCNP level Engineers involve in advanced troubleshooting and design of complex networks. These networks are large scale wide area networks with multiple types of traffics and protocols etc. Further these networks are usually converged as a result of different types of traffic such as data, and audio/video.
The key deciding factor for CCNA vs CCNP is your current level of networking experience and the knowledge of the networking technologies. Once you decide to go ahead with either CCNA or CCNP , The next decision will be to choose which option to study ( Such as routing and switching or cloud or security etc). Usually this is based on your career goals or your recent job role. You can either choose to enhance your job role skills or switch to a different technology area where there is more demand in the job market.