Over the past several years, Cisco certifications have become extremely popular. In fact, Cisco certifications are considered some of the most valuable certifications in the IT industry today. When it comes to Cisco certifications, there are many different options.
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It’s worth mentioning that the concept of standard Cisco certification was introduced in 1998. It was when Cisco first introduced beginner-level and professional networking certifications. The basic idea behind the certifications was to complement the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) program. Since then, Cisco has expanded its certifications and currently offers quite a few certifications for professionals of all experience levels.
Cisco Certification Levels
What is CCNA?
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) credential has become one of the most highly reputed entry-level networking certifications in the industry. The CCNA certification is geared towards people who have 1 to 2 years of experience in network engineering. The most important benefit of CCNA training is that the CCNA certification is very affordable.
The main objective of this Cisco certification is to provide an associate-level certification for enthusiasts and beginners who already have some experience with networking. Students interested in the CCNA program need to undergo testing and training in the installation, maintaining, and troubleshooting of Cisco’s medium networking devices. Students in this program are also tested and trained in the troubleshooting and installation of end-to-end networking.
Related read: 5 Study Tips to Pass the CCNA Certification Exam
The CCNA certification also provides aspirants the opportunity to learn more about the basics and concepts of the Cisco networking environment. Additionally, the certification also provides beginners with considerable knowledge about operating IT equipment without experiencing any problems. Although the material has been specialized to suit a Cisco environment, it is also useful at a fundamental level—those who attain this certification can use their knowledge in many different situations and increase their marketability across various platforms.
CCNA Exam Details
There are no prerequisites for the CCNA certification. You’ll have the choice between the following exams:
200-120 CCNA Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices: Accelerated (CCNAX)
- 100-101 ICND1 Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1)
- 200-101 ICND2 Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 2 (ICND2)
In recent years, Cisco has also introduced a wide range of specialty CCNAs.
Here is a video that takes you through the introduction to CISCO Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
What is CCNP?
CCNP is the Cisco Certified Network Professional certification. This certification is available for IT professionals with at least one year of experience in professional networking. A high school diploma or equivalent is also mandatory.
The CCNP certification is intended for professionals seeking specialized training programs in implementing, maintaining, and planning Cisco’s wide range of high-end network solution products. The CCNP certification curriculum consists of many different courses, which cover the basics of IT networking. Some of these include:
- Cisco remote access
- Cisco advanced routing
- Cisco multilayer switching
- Converged network optimization
- Scalable internet works
Professionals who choose this certification program are trained to troubleshoot, install, and maintain both wide area networks (WAN) and local area networks (LAN) for systems between 100 and 500 nodes. In this certification program, students also gain expertise in a wide range of network features and protocols, including Route Redistribution, Access Lists, Ethernet, and AppleTalk.
During the certification course, the primary focus is preparing professionals for the CCNP examination. A series of practice exams are conducted to test the student’s understanding, and knowledge of Cisco’s IP switched network and IP routing technologies. These tests also measure the student’s ability to troubleshoot, test, and maintain various techniques.
CCNP Exam Details
To take the CCNP certification exam, you are required to have a CCNA certification. The CCNP certification consists of 3 exams, namely:
- 300-101 ROUTE Implementing Cisco IP Routing (ROUTE)
- 300-115 SWITCH Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (SWITCH)
- 300-135 TSHOOT Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks (TSHOOT)
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What’s the Difference Between CCNA and CCNP?
In a nutshell, the difference is that the CCNA certification is the associate-level certification that tests professionals on switching and routing fundamentals. The CCNP is a more advanced certification that requires a deeper level of knowledge and understanding of WANs and LANs, and how they work together.
The CCNP certification is considered the more senior out of these two Cisco certification levels, considering that it delves much more in-depth and broader into the workings of networking and its associated content such as security and wireless options than the CCNA.
CCNA vs. CCNP Career Differences
Since the levels of training between CCNA and CCNP are different, each of these certifications leads to different career paths.
CCNA Career Path
This certification is best suited for individuals looking to gain an entry-level career such as:
- Network Support Engineer
- Network Technician
- Helpdesk Engineer
- Service Desk Engineer/Technician
- First and Second Line Support
CCNP Career Path
The CCNP certification suits IT professionals who want to go further with their career and can include the following:
- Third Line Support
- Network Engineer
- Network Analyst
- IT Team Leader
- Systems Engineer
- Network Specialist
Similarities Between CCNA and CCNP
When it comes to Cisco certifications, two of the most popular options are CCNA and CCNP. Both of these certifications can help you further your career in networking, but what are the similarities between them? Let's take a closer look.
First and foremost, both CCNA and CCNP represent an intermediate level of networking knowledge. This means that if you're just starting out, you'll need to get your CCENT certification before either of these. However, once you have your CCENT (or if you already have an equivalent level of knowledge), then either the CCNA or CCNP would be a great next step.
Interestingly, while the CCNA and CCNP represent different tracks within Cisco's certification program, they actually share a lot in common. For starters, both certifications require you to pass two exams in order to earn the credential. Additionally, both the CCNA and CCNP quizzes are 90 minutes long and consist of multiple-choice and simulation questions.
So, what exactly sets the CCNA and CCNP apart? Well, the main difference is in the focus of the exams. The CCNA exam covers a broad range of topics, including IP addressing, routing protocols, switching, security, and more. The CCNP exam, on the other hand, is much more specific and focuses primarily on Cisco routers and switches.
Additionally, the CCNA is considered to be a more entry-level certification than the CCNP. This is because the CCNA covers a wider range of topics and requires less experience than the CCNP. So, if you're just starting out in your networking career, then the CCNA might be a better option for you. However, if you have a few years of experience under your belt and want to focus on Cisco routers and switches, then the CCNP might be a better choice.
Ultimately, both the CCNA and CCNP can help you further your career in networking. However, it's important to choose the right certification for your individual needs. If you're just starting out, then the CCNA might be a better option. However, if you have more experience, then the CCNP might be a better choice.
CCNA and CCNP Exam Requirements
To become a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), you must pass one exam. The current CCNA exam topics are:
- Exam 100-105: ICND1 Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1
- Exam 200-105: ICND2 Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 2
To become a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), you must pass two exams. The current CCNP exam topics are:
- Exam 300-101: ROUTE Implementing Cisco IP Routing
- Exam 300-115: SWITCH Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks
- Exam 300-135: TSHOOT Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks
Cisco also offers certification tracks for specific technologies, such as the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) and the Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP).
The CCNA and CCNP exams are both multiple-choice, with a mix of question types. Some questions require you to select the best answer from a list of options, while others require you to drag and drop answers into the correct order. The exams are also available in different languages, including English, Spanish, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese.
You will have 90 minutes to complete the CCNA exam, and 120 minutes to complete the CCNP exam. Both exams are offered in a proctored environment at Pearson VUE testing centers. You can also take the exams online, through the Cisco Online Exam Portal.
Cisco recommends that you have at least one year of experience working with Cisco networking products before taking the CCNA or CCNP exams. You should also be familiar with the Cisco IOS command line interface (CLI) and have a basic understanding of IP networking.
CCNA and CCNP Exam Difficulty
In order to obtain a CCNA or CCNP certification, candidates must pass an exam. The difficulty of these exams can vary depending on the person's level of experience and knowledge. However, in general, the CCNA exam is considered to be easier than the CCNP exam.
One reason why the CCNA exam may be seen as easier is because it covers a smaller scope of topics than the CCNP exam. The CCNP exam covers more advanced material, such as network security and IP routing. Therefore, candidates who are already familiar with these topics may find the CCNA exam to be easier.
Another reason why the CCNA exam may be considered easier is because it allows candidates to use a simulator during the exam. This simulator can help candidates familiarize themselves with the Cisco IOS and learn about various networking concepts. The CCNP exam, on the other hand, does not allow the use of a simulator.
Overall, the CCNA and CCNP exams differ in their difficulty level based on the person's prior knowledge and experience. Those who are already familiar with the topics covered in the CCNA exam may find it to be easier than those who are not as familiar with these concepts. Additionally, the use of a simulator during the CCNA exam can also make it easier for some candidates.
CCNA vs. CCNP Comparison Table
Average annual U.S. salary for certified individuals
Third Line Support
IT Team Leader
Network Support Engineer
First and Second Line Support
Service Desk Engineer
A high school certificate or an equivalent is required
Type of exams
Core exam: 350-401 ENCOR, Concentration Exam (two exams in total)
One Exam (200-301)
$300 for Concentration Exam, $400 for Core Exam
If you’re looking to boost your IT career, Cisco certifications can help get you headed down the right path. Simplilearn offers a catalog variety of IT training, including CCNA and CCNP courses taught by certified professionals.