CCNA vs Network+: Main Differences and Which to Choose

IT has long been a fast-growing industry sector. In fact, this year, in 2020, the global information technology industry is predicted to grow at a rate of 3.7%.

We’re the generation that relies on advanced technology for day-to-day living. So, if you’re interested in innovation, it only makes sense to look towards a career in this field.

A job in IT presents an opportunity to work in an environment full of constant changes and developments. There are tons of versatile employment in this sector, all of which benefit from ongoing professional growth and training.

We’ve noticed that as the world has increasingly come to rely on IT and tech, salaries have skyrocketed to reflect the importance of these professions. IT networking, especially, is a field with growing potential – at the time of writing, the average senior network engineer earns a whopping $103k!

Has this whetted your appetite for a career in IT networking? If so, earning certificates that demonstrate a broad range of fundamental skills for the role, is a surefire solution to opening doors to a job in this industry.

Don’t just take our word for it – 78% of tech executives believe certifications are critical for success, and 99% of organizations use them to make hiring decisions.

This is where certifications like CCNA and Network Plus come into their own. But, which one should you invest your time in, and how do they work?

Let’s take a look…

In this next section, we’ll provide a quick overview of how these two IT certifications compare. So, if you’re after a simple means of comparison, look no further…

Main Differences Between CCNA vs Network+

The main differences between CCNA vs Network+ are:

  • Network+ promises a vendor-neutral approach and it covers networking technologies across all vendors and solutions, whereas Cisco’s CCNA verification focuses on networking for just Cisco products and solutions
  • Network+ takes a traditional approach to skill validation, whereas CCNA has recently revamped its examination system and as it’s a new certification, it’s, therefore, unfamiliar to some employers
  • Network+ certification covers a few business skills so that network professionals can keep their organizations’ objectives in mind, whereas CCNA focuses on technical skills only
  • Netweor+ exam only takes 90 minutes whereas CCNA exam allows 120 minutes for completion

Their Main Similarities

  • Neither certification asks for formal prerequisites. However, each recommends some experience in the networking field. That being said, anyone can attempt the examination.
  • Both the Network+ and CCNA exam feature performance-based questions.
  • The exams are similarly priced – $300 for CCNA and $329 for Network+.
  • Both certifications are job role-based and offer practical knowledge to help network professionals do their job justice. 
  • Each qualification is valid for three years.

Who’s CCNA?

CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) is an associate-level networking certification provided by Cisco. To earn it, you have to pass an exam created by Cisco to demonstrate you know how to run an IT network. For a while, Cisco offered different CCNAs for different areas of network infrastructure.

Now, the certification consolidates all areas of IT networking into one foundational accreditation. This gives you all the credentials you need to go anywhere in the IT network sector.

Becoming CCNA-certified is also now a more streamlined and simplified process. There’s only one exam, and a Cisco training course to prepare you.

As we’ve just said, there are no formal prerequisites for sitting the CCNA exam. However, candidates should have an understanding of the exam topics before taking the test. That’s why most CCNA candidates have one or more years of experience implementing and administering Cisco solutions already.

Most candidates also demonstrate a basic knowledge of IP addressing and have a good understanding of network fundamentals.

Who’s Network +

Network + is one of the certifications offered by CompTIA with a particular focus on designing and implementing functional networks, configuring the devices, and establishing security standards and protocols.

It covers the fundamentals of IT networking and as such, aims to serve the professional development of IT professionals, specifically anyone looking to become a:

  • Junior network administrator
  • Network field technician and/or engineer
  • System engineer
  • Computer technician
  • Network analyst
  • IT consultant

Lots of major companies use this certification to make hiring decisions—for instance, HP, Intel, Canon, Dell, Apple, and Verizon.

Like CCNA, there are no prerequisites for sitting the exam. But, at least 9 to 12 months of networking experience is recommended. CompTIA also recommends that candidates already possess the CompTIA A+ Certification.


CCNA vs Network+: Their Key Features Compared

If you’re investing in a certification to kickstart your career, you must ensure it covers the knowledge and skills you need to demonstrate you qualify for a role in your field. 

Both Network+ and CCNA cover networking fundamentals and crucial IT security measures. The knowledge gleaned from these accreditations lay an essential foundation for your progress as an IT networking professional.

CCNA’s Core Features

The CCNA certification covers a broad range of fundamentals, including (but not limited to): the latest technologies, software development skills, and job roles. It’s one of the highest respected associate-level certifications in the industry, combining theory with practical real-world-know-how, it certainly takes a job role-based approach.

The Cisco Certified Network Associate exam is 120 minutes long and tests the candidate’s knowledge and skills relating to the core topics listed below. To prepare, candidates can also take the course ‘Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions’ (CCNA).’

Here are the main areas the certification covers and their weight in the exam. For a fuller outline, visit the CCNA website.

Network fundamentals (20%)

For this section, you’ll need to demonstrate your knowledge about the role and function of network components. You should be able to describe the characteristics of network topology architectures.

Plus, you’ll also have to compare physical interface and cabling types and identify issues with either. An understanding of IPv4 and IPv6 is required, and you should be able to describe wireless principles, switching concepts, and virtualization fundamentals.

Network access (20%)

For the network access section of the exam, you’ll need to configure and verify Interswitch connectivity and VLANS. You should be able to describe physical infrastructure connections of WLAN components as well as AP and WLC management access connections.

Plus, you’ll have to display how to configure the components of a wireless LAN Access for client connectivity using GUI. On top of that, you’ll need to boast know-how on WLAN creation, security settings, QoS profiles, and advanced WLAN settings.

IP Connectivity (25%)

In this part of the test, you’re required to interpret the components of a routing table. You’ll determine how a router makes forwarding decisions by default. You should be able to configure and verify IPv4 and IPv6 static routing and configure and verify single-area OSPFv2 and describe the purpose of first-hop redundancy protocols. 

IP services (10%)

This requires you to prepare how to configure and verify inside source NAT with static and pools. You should be able to configure and verify NTP operating in both client and server mode. You’ll also need to explain the function of SNMP in network operations and the role of DHCP and DNS.

Other areas cover the forwarding per-hop behavior for QoS, including classification, marking, queuing, congestion, policing, and shaping. You’ll need to know how to configure network devices for remote access using SSH. You’ll also have to understand how to define the capabilities and function of TFTP/FTP within the network.

Security Fundamentals (15%)

This section requires an understanding of critical security concepts and security program elements. You need to configure device access control with local passwords and understand how password policy elements are managed.

Automation and Programmability (10%)

For this section, you’ll explain how automation impacts network management. You’ll compare traditional networks and controller-based networking.

You’ll also need to show that you understand the characteristics of REST-based APIs and configuration management mechanisms, including Puppet, Chef, and Ansible. You’re also required to interpret JSON encoded data.

Preparing for the CCNA Certification

Cisco offers various resources to help you prepare for the exam. For example, you can join a guided study group for a 12-week course. These are led by dedicated and expert learning coaches who will guide you through your exam preparation step-by-step.

Please note: These 12-week courses are only available during certain times of the year. So, check their website to see what groups are available.

Signing up to a CCNA guided study group unlocks access to one certification exam voucher. You also gain four months of access to the e-learning CCNA course and the Cisco Exam Review.

A CCNA essentials webinar series is also available online. This takes an in-depth tour of the CCNA exam across three episodes.

On Cisco’s website, you’ll also find access to the CCNA community where you can connect and network with fellow learners.

General Things to Note

A CCNA certification grants you a level 200 training badge. You can use this to broadcast your specific skills and learning outcomes. It also equals 30 Continuing Education (CE) Credits.

Upon completion of the CCNA, you can link the digital certification logo to your social media profiles, making it easy to display your achievement to potential employers! Badges like this come in handy on professional networking sites like Linkedin.

Network+ Core Features

The Network + certification is also designed to ensure IT professionals know how to design and implement functional networks. Those that pass should be able to configure, manage, and maintain essential IT network devices.

You should also be able to use switches and routers to segment network traffic. That’s as well as understand how to implement network security, standards, and protocols and support the creation of virtualized networks.

The examination is 90 minutes long and features a maximum of 90 questions.

Core topics include:

Networking Concepts

Here, you’ll need to be able to explain the purpose of various networking concepts and demonstrate how to implement them appropriately. The examination also covers essential cloud computing best practices and typical service models.


This involves you having to determine and explain the appropriate cabling, devices, and storage technologies for any given scenario. 

Network operations

Here you’ll need to describe the best practices to manage the network, determine policies, and ensure business continuity.

Network Security

This involves summarizing physical security and frequent attacks while securing both wired and wireless connections. 

Network Troubleshooting and Tools

You’ll also have to explain network troubleshooting methodology and outline the appropriate tools for supporting connectivity and performance.

How Much Do CCNA and Network+ Certifications Cost?

The CCNA and Network+ certifications are similarly priced and both quite affordable in the long run. But how much money you spend on these qualifications may depend on your existing knowledge.

Preparation courses and online resources are available for both, and to access these; you’ll need to budget a few extra thousand dollars.

The CCNA Certification

A voucher to take the 200-301 CCNA exam costs $300 and can be booked via pearsonvue.com. This is a proctored exam. Vouchers are valid for one year, so be sure to register for an examination within that period. You’ll also need to fill out a voucher form online to request the relevant exam voucher for your region.

Preparative courses on the topic of ‘Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions’ are available from $800 – $4000. These often include an examination voucher, so, again, check the availability in your region.

Some candidates may also choose to take a practice exam, which is available through various platforms. For example, on nwexam.com, a practice exam is available for $36,80.

Network +

CompTIA’s Network+ certification can be attempted for $329 and is offered via Pearson Vue in-person test centers and online.

A preparation course is available. This includes ten days of hands-on, instruction-led online training with classes held from Monday to Friday. The overall price of this course is $2,299.

You can also have a set of practice questions sent to you from the Network+ exam for free.

Other self-learning materials include the CertMaster Practice resources in the CompTIA store. Also, a practice license for Network+ is available for $189, and the exam prep bundle retails at $599.


How much can I make with a Network+ Certification?

How much you might earn with the support of a Network+ certification depends on your field of IT. However, getting certified can open a whole host of new opportunities that qualify you for higher salaries. Many jobs benefit from or require this industry-standard certification.

Salaries can range from network support specialists ($67,510) to network system analysts ($92,740). Ranges for each profession are broad, but a Network+ certification could push you towards the higher end of the spectrum.

How long do Network+ and CCNA Certifications last?

Both CompTIA’s Network+ and Cisco’s CCNA certifications run out after three years. At this stage, you may need to renew the certification and retake the exam.

Can I cut costs for the Network+ Certification?

There are sponsorships and special programs available to help finance these exams. These aim to train and certify individuals that belong to the following groups:
•Unemployed or under-developed individuals
•Displaced workers
•Military veterans
•Ethnic minorities
These are typically government-sponsored programs and nonprofit charitable initiatives. Your company may also choose to sponsor your training as part of your professional development.
CompTIA also offers a student discount, which provides the exam voucher at $150.

What are the prerequisites to taking the CCNA or Network+ examination?

Neither qualification has formal prerequisites for attempting the exams. However, both recommend experience in IT networking. CCNA recommends candidates have a good foundation of networking knowledge. They suggest 1-3 years of experience in a relevant field.
Network+ recommends less experience with 9-12 months. But, they suggest that individuals complete the CompTIA A+ certification first.

Is the CCNA vendor-neutral?

Cisco’s CCNA certification focuses on familiarizing yourself with Cisco products and procedures. They are, therefore, not vendor-neutral and not suited to all applications.

CCNA vs Network+: Which Certification is Worth Pursuing?

If you’re an aspiring network professional at the start of your career, either the CCNA or Network+ certification is a handy asset to have on your resume. Furthering your education independently is a great way to impress potential new employers. The pricing of the exams are similar, and both come with more expensive preparation courses.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you require the certification to cover. Both will prepare you for the fundamentals of IT networking, including security and configurations, and not to mention a wide range of IT-related skills and knowledge.

However, Cisco’s CCNA exam focuses on its own products and technologies. Whereas, Network+ takes a vendor-neutral approach, which arguably makes it more versatile in application.

Both are industry-standard certifications that are well worth your time and money. If you’re currently working in IT, your employer might be able to inform you as to which certification would best support your career at present. Your company might also provide training, support, or encourage you towards a particular exam -so be sure to bear all of that in mind before making your choice!

We hope you found this comparison helpful! Have you taken either the CCNA or Network+ exam? Let us know in the comments box below how the certification has helped you. Speak soon!

Rosie Greaves
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