associate level certification, cisco associate level, ccna routing and switching, ccna service provider, it certification exams

Cisco Associate Level Certifications: No Prerequisites, But Where’s The Catch?

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  • October 25, 2013
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associate level certification, cisco associate level, ccna routing and switching, ccna service provider, it certification examsIn the previous post, we gave an overview of Cisco’s Associate level certifications that have prerequisites attached to them. Those are cool certifications, valued by both candidates and their employers alike. Yet, some CNAAs do not have any prerequisites, which seemingly allows for an easy boost of your IT career. But is it really this simple and where’s the catch? (we know that there’s always one – if not more). Each certification has its tricky moments – no surprise, right? – Let’s go over them.

CCNA Routing and Switching

There are plenty of reasons why CCNA Routing and Switching is one of Cisco’s most popular certifications. First of all, this certification opens the doors to a greater career potential.  The certification confirms candidates’ skills and ability to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks, as well as their in-depth understanding of routing and switching, and other aspects of network infrastructure, IP technology, wireless access, security and connectivity using WAN. The certification is popular among the employers, bringing you a definite salary increase if you have it on your resume.

To earn the certification, candidates have two examination options: to earn combined passing scores on 100-101 ICND1 and 200-101 ICND2 exams (Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices, Parts 1 and 2), or to pass the combined exam: 200-120 CCNA exam. The beauty of going with the first option is the fact that passing the ICND1 exam puts the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) certification in your pocket. So, basically instead of one certification, you get two, and many people are right to jump on this opportunity.

What to expect from the exams? We’ve discussed ICND1 in the Cisco Entry Level Certifications blog post. However, if you plan to take the 200-120 exam, it is worth giving you an extra warning that the exam is far from being an easy ride, and many claim that passing both ICNDs would be an easier way to go. Yet, if you have your reasons (for example, employers who know what the exam is like can give some extra incentives to their employees who pass it; plus getting Cisco Associate-level certification after sitting one exam instead of two), then our advice is to set aside more than enough time to study. Consider the pros and cons and way to go.

CCNA Data Center

While Cisco keeps all its certifications rather job-role-focused, CCNA Data Center is most certainly a winner here, allowing candidates to maximize the investment in their education and professional skills. CCNA Data Center helps candidates and their employers increase the value of their data center network, step up the data center design, save costs on equipment installation and further maintenance.

Yet, this certification stands out for reasons more than its focus, and causes some complains from candidates for being too pricey.

To become CCNA Data Center certified, candidates need to pass 2 exams: 640-911 DCICN and 640-916 DCICT, the price of which, as of now, exceeds USD 500. Many candidates claim this amount to be too high, and it’s hard to disagree!

It’s worth remembering that for many CCNA Data Center is not their first certification. Many realize that they want to move on with their career in Data Center when they have at least CCENT under their belt, as well as a few years of industry experience (not to mention that the exams are way too complicated for absolute beginners). So, the cost adds up to CCNA’s. Also add the price of preparation materials, some equipment, necessary to those who can’t play all these Nexus  and other ‘toys’ at work to get practical experience, books, etc (and the need to recertify their CCENT/CCNA for some), and CCNA Data Center turns out to be very expensive!

Some see the solution in making the 640-911 DCICN exam optional for those who already have a valid CCNA. Cisco, however, state the requirements for a certification are coming from a very detailed and extensive research involving customers, partners and experts in the industry, who have put in at least several month of work, so, according to the company, this is the best (and extensively researched) way of making it work. It better be!

So, the certification is challenging and pricey. And, with SimplyHired reporting average CCNA Certified Data Center operations support salaries start from $67,000 (as of October 2013), the choice is yours.

CCNA Service Provider

Cisco’s Certified Network Associate Service Provider (CCNA SP) certification focuses on the latest trends of the Provider industry core networking technologies. The Certification targets service provider network engineers, technicians and network designers. It validates the ability to configure and implement baseline Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation networks.

The certification allows for significant skills upgrade for those willing to move up from the ‘beginner’ level to a solid ‘experienced’. The certification validates that you are capable of providing fully integrated, personalized voice, video & data solutions and can make high quality services available at all times.

The certification requires candidates to pass 2 exams: 640-875 SPNGN1 and 640-878 SPNGN2. Yet, the tricky part is that Cisco do not have any ‘official’ books or study guides to prepare for these exams. Your options would be to either sign up for their course (which most people only do if they are lucky enough to have an employer who’d pay for it), or just use the exam topics and course syllabus, and keep looking for information from different sources. And here your main challenge would be to make the right choice of what exactly you need to study and what would be extra (and on this stage, no one would blame you for doing through brain dumps or investing in one of those Pass4sure sets, which are actually good!).

The good news is, however, that a lot of exam topics are actually covered in the basic CCNA exams. So, having another CCNA or CCENT might be helpful again.

If you are preparing for your Associate-level certification, do note an interesting disclaimer on the Cisco website: Updated ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA Composite exams can be applied towards the achievement of several Cisco associate-level certifications. Please visit the Associate-level Exam Logic Tool for more details. Who knows, maybe your CCNA/CCENT can help you out once again? Be sure to check the requirements and possible exam combinations before you sign up for your next exam.

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