The world is changing fast, and so are the skills people need to remain relevant in specific careers. Technology experts live on the edge since they constantly unlearn and relearn to remain relevant and keep up with the changes.
An IT officer’s job description ten years ago is not the same now, so are the skills required to get these jobs. One thing that has changed in the tech space is the nature of qualifications one requires to operate and thrive in these spaces.
Companies are shifting from traditional university degrees to certifications and focused courses that teach the specific skills needed to do a particular job.
In the networking space, some of the most prominent certifications are provided by Cisco, and most companies seek experts who hold them. We will compare two common ones CCNA and CCNP, and break down what they are about to help you select the most suitable one for you.
Main Differences Between CCNA vs CCNP
The main differences between CCNA vs CCNP are:
- CCNA is an associate-level certification that tests your knowledge of switching and routing fundamentals, whereas CCNP is an advanced professional certification that requires a comprehensive understanding of LANs and WANs.
- CCNA doesn’t require prerequisites for taking the certification exam, whereas CCNP requires you to have CCNA or CCIE certified to take up CCNP.
- CCNA certification will get you qualifications for entry-level jobs in IT, whereas CCNP will make you qualified for senior-level roles.
The Cisco certification program offers a path to anyone interested to pursue a career in IT. It has different paths and keeps changing its courses to align to the changing technology space and make those who take the learning paths aligned to the skills employers are looking for.
In February 2020, Cisco overhauled the program, and both CCNA and CCNP, the most popular certifications, changed too.
The certification system is grouped into five levels, entry, associate, professional, expert, and architect. You cannot jump levels as all the certifications provide you a foundation for the next one.
What is Cisco Certified Network Associate Certification?
This is Cisco’s entry-level networking certification. It introduces learners to networking basics such as access, IP connectivity, IP services, basic network protocols, and automation. It gives a broad introduction to modern networking by covering both wired and wireless network protocols.
More importantly, it educates learners about network terminals, IPv4/IPv6 routing, OSPF, FHRPs, NAT, DHCP, and QoS. This certification is open to anyone interested in getting the proper foundation for a successful networking career.
What is Cisco Certified Network Professional Certification?
This is Cisco’s professional-level networking certification. It is available in five different tracks: Enterprise (routing and switching), Data Center, Security, Service Provider, and Collaboration. To attain a CCNP certification in any path, you will have to take and pass two exams, a core and concentration one.
The most popular track is CCNP Enterprise since its content teaches you what is needed to work in most Enterprise networking environments. The examination tests your knowledge in enterprise network technologies such as dual-stack architecture, SD-WAN, network design, wireless design, wireless implementations, and automation in enterprise spaces.
Why CCNA Over CCNP?
The lowest level courses in any technical space are often broad and help you understand the underlying concepts. As you rise, you become more focused and take courses that are narrow but deeper. It isn’t easy to understand these high-level courses without taking the broad low-level ones as they give you the proper foundation to excel.
When picking between CCNA and CCNP, the defining factor is whether you want depth or breadth. However, this distinction is unique since you must go through CCNA before you can take CCNP.
Most people prefer to take CCNA, which is, unsurprisingly, Cisco’s most popular certification. This will work perfectly for you, especially if you need an entry-level IT job. The certification will give you a clear understanding of how IT systems work and complement your job perfectly.
If you have been in the industry for a few years and want to take things to the next level, CCNP will come out as the most suitable one for you. The chances are high that you might have already done your CCNA a few years ago and only want to become a master of your craft.
What Are the Exam Durations?
The CCNA exam contains 50 questions exam lasts for 120 minutes. It contains a blend of multiple-choice questions and simulations, the latter where candidates are required to configure network devices and showcase their practical skills.
The CCNP examinations are more complex since they are professional certifications, and candidates should expect to take a series of examinations. The first examination lasts 120 minutes and consists of 50 to 60 questions: a mixture of lab simulations and multiple-choice questions.
The second exam lasts for the same duration with 45 to 55 questions of the same kind. The last one is biased towards your practical knowledge and is made of between 15 to 25 simulations, with real-life troubleshooting scenarios that you will need to handle.
CCNA certification is broken down into six major topics that cover all the basics you need to start a successful networking career.
The first is network fundamentals that gives you an introduction to networks and how they work. It also introduces you to some essential network equipment such as routers, switches, access points, servers, and endpoints.
From here, it introduces you to network topologies and then expounds on physical interfaces and various connections in any network. Next is an overview of connection issues on physical interfaces and an introduction to protocols such as TCP, UDP, and IP addresses.
IP addresses are the fundamental thing for any network. The following topics dive into how IPV4 and IPV6 works, subnetting public and private IP addresses, different types of IPV6 addresses, and various IP parameters. Lastly, this section introduces virtualization fundamentals and switching concepts.
This section introduces VLANs and their significance to networks. It teaches you to configure trunk ports and Layer 2 protocols. From here, you will get a deep dive into the need and operations of Rapid PVST and Spanning Tree Protocol plus their applications.
Next is a comparison of various Cisco wireless architectures and AP modes plus various physical infrastructure connections of WLAN components. Network devices need to be managed by admins, and the following topics cover some of the various management connections such as Telnet, SSH, HTTP, and console, among others.
Lastly, you will learn how to configure the components of a wireless LAN access for client connectivity using Graphical User Interface.
This section takes a comprehensive look at how IP connections are used in networks by introducing the components of a routing table. This is complemented by the knowledge of routing protocol code, network masks, next hop, administrative distance, and gateway of last resort.
You will also learn how routers make a forwarding decision by default and configure IPV4 and IPV4 static routing using the default, network, host, and floating static routes. The last part will introduce OSPFv2 and describe the significance of the first-hop redundancy protocol.
This part expounds on various services that rely on IP addresses, starting with configuration and verification of source NAT. It introduces the role of DHCP and DNS within the network while explaining why SNMP is essential. You will learn the use of Syslog features and configure and verify DHCP.
Lastly, you will configure network devices for remote access through SSH and describe the function of TFTP/FTP in the network.
Cybersecurity is a huge concern today, and most exploits are carried through the network. This part introduces vital security concepts and security program elements.
From here, you will learn how to configure primary device access control using local passwords and understand security password policy elements such as complexity, MFA, and biometrics.
The next part will expound on remote access and VPNs like Cubik, how to configure access control lists, and configure Layer 2 security features such as DHCP snooping, dynamic ARP inspection, and port security.
Lastly, you will learn authentication, authorization, and accounting concepts, learn wireless security protocols and configure WLAN using WPA2 PSK through the GUI.
Automation and Programmability
This is one of the modern sections of this course, and it teaches candidates how networks interact with modern-day automation and software components. It starts by explaining how automation affects network management and comparing modern-day and traditional networks.
It introduces controller, and software-based architectures and traditional campus device management with Cisco DNA Center enabled device management. From here, you will learn the characteristics of REST-based APIs and understand the purpose of configuration management mechanisms.
The CCNP course is made of more complex networking items. You will have to take CCNA and understand all the items listed in the CCNA course outline to understand what will be listed here.
The outline is divided into three knowledge areas that form the basis of the exams you will take at the end of the learning period. A significant percentage of this course consists of practicals, and the course outline will be made up of scenarios you will have to analyze requirements for, design, and implement.
- Implement an EIGRP based solution with a network design and set of requirements
- Implement a multi-area OSPF network consistent with the provided network design and requirements
- Implement an eBGP based solution given a network design and requirements
- Implement an IPV6 based solution given a network design and requirements
- Implement either an IPV4 or IPV6 redistribution solution, based on the provided design and requirements
- Implement Layer 3 Path control solution.
With a network design and set of requirements, you will be required to implement;
- A VLAN based solution
- Security extension of a Layer 2 solution
- Switch based Layer 3 services
Besides, you will have to prepare the infrastructure to support advanced services and implement High Availability with a network design and set of requirements.
This section consists of knowledge that will help you maintain and monitor networks. This includes setting a plan to monitor and manage a network, perform routine device maintenance and isolate sub-optimal internetwork operations at the defined OSI Model layer. The last part entails troubleshooting multiprotocol system networks such as EIGRP, OSPF, eBGP, NAT, and IP protocols.
Job Opportunities on Completion
With this certification, you will be in contention for entry-level jobs in the IT space such as;
- Helpdesk engineer
- First and second-line support officer
- Network engineer
- Service desk engineer
- Network support engineer
This certification is suitable for those who want to take senior roles in the IT industry. Here, you will be eligible for jobs such as;
- Network specialist
- Third line support
- Systems engineer
- Network engineer
- IT team lead
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Looking at the different levels of these courses, it is a no-brainer that CCNP exams are more complicated than CCNA. This explains why Cisco gives you more time and fewer questions to complete the CCNP exam than CCNA.
Answer: CCNA is valid for three years from the date you get it. After this, you will need to renew it by taking the latest examination or upgrading to professional certification. It is a globally recognized course and is worth it if you are looking to start an IT career.
Answer: CCNA is not a silver bullet, and you might need to combine it with other things to get a job. Many employers will hire someone with CCNA certification for entry-level jobs. Still, you can increase the chances of qualifying for higher-level jobs if you combine it with a second skill or technical experience.
Comparing CCNA and CCNP is not easy since they are on different levels. However, their differences still stand out, and they can be essential in guiding people looking to offset their careers in IT and networking. When choosing between the two, one thing that can help is your preference for depth or breadth.
CCNA is broader, covering a little bit of everything, whereas CCNP takes a deep dive into critical ideas required to work in a high-level networking career stage. On matters of difficulty, it is subjective, but CCNP is harder, owing to the three exams you are required to take.
Between the two, CCNP is the better one since it equips you with more advanced skills to operate in a high-level IT space, but CCNA is equally a good option.
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