Let’s face it: our certification choices aren’t always based on our ‘true calling’. More often than not, they are a better career move or, simply enough, the most accessible option to get a timely career boost. When speaking of Cisco’s Associate level certifications (Cisco’s most popular certification level), it is often about being allowed to take this step – depending on whether or not you meet the necessary requirements. Some Associate level certifications have the prerequisites while some others don’t. So, looking at all the CCNAs, it would make sense to break the certifications into 2 groups: those that have prerequisites and the ones that don’t.
Today, we’ll look into those obviously more ‘complicated’ CCNAs that require previous Cisco certifications. You’ll need a valid Cisco CCENT, CCNA or any Cisco CCIE as a prerequisite to proceed. As of October 2013, this list includes the following Cisco Associate level certifications (yet, as always, we encourage you to double check with the official website for details). So, today we’ll look into:
- CCNA Security
- CCNA Service Provider Operations
- CCNA Voice
- CCNA Wireless
CCDA: Network Design Engineer
Until recently, you wouldn’t need a CCENT to achieve the Network Design Engineer certification. Yet, having added the CCENT as a prerequisite for this program, Cisco seem to aim for candidates’ improved understanding of routed and switched networks, and previous background in this field should be helpful on the exam (640-864 DESGN).
This certification validates your understanding of network design for the Cisco converged networks, primarily based on Borderless Network Architecture. Cisco certified Network Design Engineers can design infrastructures consisting of routed and switched networks, including LAN, WAN, wireless, and broadband access for a wide range of organizations: from businesses to international NGOs and government offices.
As the title suggests, CCNA Security certification program is closely focused on the security aspect of Cisco networking technology and equipment. This includes development of a full security infrastructure, analysis and recognition of threats and vulnerabilities of a network as well as mitigating these threats. CCNA Security curriculum (and exam) is highly focused on core security technologies, installation, troubleshooting and continuous monitoring of all network devices, with the integrity, confidentiality and availability of data and devices being the top priority at all times.
As Cisco introduce IPV6 to most of their certifications and relevant exams, CCNA Security candidates supposedly have the understanding of the new protocol thanks to their CCENT or CCNA R&S certification. However, CCNA Security exam (640-554 IINS) puts a way bigger emphasis on the new protocol. So, even if you have passed the latest CCNA R&S certification, don’t expect this part to be a breeze: it won’t. Keep in mind that the 640-554 exam goes way deeper into the IPV6’s ins and outs. Don’t just scan that part of the study guide: give it the time it deserves.
To prepare for the exam, the Cisco people recommend taking their Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security (IINS) course. Even if you don’t plan to follow this advice, you may want to look it up for preparation details and guidance.
CCNA Service Provider Operations
This Cisco certification may be found similar to CCNA Service Provider, the one that does not have any prerequisites (and obviously is more popular). The two certifications do share a lot of topics, however, CCNA Service Provider Operations is more upscale in its perspective, focusing on combining process with technology, as opposed to being fully Cisco equipment-centered.
Another thing that sets CCNA Service Provider Operations apart from similar certifications is ITIL being one of its cornerstones. This allows candidates to significantly broaden their horizons, as well as to have a wider choice of study materials, with the ITIL study guides being a must for successful exam preparation.
CCNA Service Provider Operations is a great option for those willing to expand their knowledge and validate their skills of a Tier I support engineer, including troubleshooting and fixing issues within carrier class IP NGN core network infrastructure. The certification curriculum includes but isn’t limited to incidents/failures, configuration issues, implementing changes, and a variety of performance management procedures along with NMS tools & protocols.
If your ideal job includes administering a voice network up to the high Cisco standards (and paychecks of the same level), then Cisco Certified Network Associate Voice (CCNA Voice) is perfect for you – especially if you have the prerequisites it calls for. CCNA Voice validates your associate-level skill set for specialized positions in voice technologies, such as voice technologies administrator, voice engineer, and voice manager. The certification also confirms candidates’ skills related to VoIP technologies: IP PBX, IP telephony, handset, call control, voicemail solutions, etc.
The CCNA Voice certification is very popular among employers as it proves candidates to be proficient in working with the Cisco Unified Communications Manager. This application is widely used by large organizations such as governments, colleges, transnational corporations and big businesses. Moreover, CCNA Voice Certification assesses your expertise in the Cisco CallManager Express (CME) and Cisco Unity Express (CUE) solutions, mostly used by organizations with less than 2,000 employees, including a variety of businesses, small school districts and other organizations.
To pass the exam (640-461 ICOMM), you will need to spend sufficient amount of time on the CCNA Voice Lab setup and its various configurations as they turn out to be the main obstacle on the way to success for many candidates.
Cisco Certified Network Associate Wireless (CCNA Wireless) will prove your proficiency in configuring, implementing, supporting and troubleshooting wireless LANs using Cisco equipment – from a small business to full-scale enterprise network. To pass, you need to meet the requirements, as well as study all aspects of configuring, monitoring and troubleshooting basic tasks of a Cisco WLAN in SMB and Enterprise networks. Explore the study guide for details and do keep in mind that many people who had passed the exam referred to it as being ‘harder than it looks’.
Summing up, Cisco attached prerequisites to these certifications as they are tricky and require additional knowledge, supposedly provided by CCENT or CCNA R&S or CCIE certifications you may already have under your belt. Earlier, we discussed that the new CCENT makes a good foundation for further certification steps, and this is exactly what these steps are. These Associate’s certifications are a little upscale and, truth be told, most of the times they are better paid (we’ll have a separate blog post on IT Certifications and salaries levels soon).
Summing up, these are truly rewarding steps to expand your career horizons on the Cisco Associate level. Yet, even if you aren’t so much up for the challenge, there’s something on the CCNA level still available for you: prerequisite-free certifications. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this overview.