CCNA changes: Realigning the entry-level Cisco certification

Cisco made changes to its CCNA program to help admins become voice, wireless and security specialists faster.

Cisco has streamlined its Cisco Certified Network Associate certifications by reducing the amount of core routing...

and switching expertise an administrator needs to obtain a CCNA Voice, CCNA Security and CCNA Wireless accreditation. These changes will allow IT pros to use an entry-level Cisco certification to accelerate their careers as specialists in these disciplines, Cisco said.

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) has long been Cisco's foundational certification. Administrators had to pass two rigorous exams on routing and switching -- the ICND1 and ICND2 -- to obtain a standard CCNA before taking additional exams on wireless, voice or security to obtain specialist CCNA certifications. This approach has encouraged administrators to get a deep foundation of networking skills before trying to develop expertise in a specific branch of networking.

But employers are looking for more entry-level administrators who can do more than plug in and configure voice, wireless and security systems. They don't necessarily want all their voice, security and wireless administrators to know how to work with routing protocols like BGP and OSPF.

"Job roles are changing," said Ramesh Bijor, product marketing manager at Cisco. "Companies are asking associate-level engineers to do more. They are being asked to troubleshoot and debug system problems with increasing levels of complexity and feature implementations."

More enterprises are creating dedicated job roles in these specialty areas, creating a demand for a more streamlined entry-level Cisco certification program, Bijor said. Cisco commissioned Forrester Research to survey 1,500 enterprises on the subject. It found that 80% of companies will have network administrators dedicated to security in 2013; 69% will have dedicated voice administrators; and 66% will have dedicated wireless administrators.

Of course, entry-level administrators with core routing and switching skills remain just as important to employers, so Cisco will continue to test candidates on these skills with its rebranded CCNA Routing and Switching certification. Cisco will, however, consolidate the exams and test preparation for CCNA Voice, CCNA Security and CCNA Wireless. For these accreditations, administrators will only need to take two exams rather than three. The first exam will evaluate their knowledge of the routing and switching technologies most relevant to their chosen specialty, and the second exam will test their skills in voice, video or wireless.

Not only will this redesigned CCNA help employers find entry-level specialists, but it will help network administrators differentiate themselves early on in their careers, according to Cushing Anderson, program vice president for IDC.

"When we do surveys on hard-to-find skills, routing and switching, voice and security now appear at the top and wireless isn't far behind that," Anderson said. "We're finding that those skills are teachable to entry-level positions. Some level of certification can help make those candidates more employable and also give employers some known competencies that they should be skilling their staff to."

This realignment of entry-level Cisco certifications will allow administrators to define a career path for themselves earlier than they have in the past.

"It allows a Cisco engineer to decide right up front if they want to specialize in security or unified communications," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst and founder of Westminster, Mass.-based ZK Research. Employers want administrators who can quickly fill a specialized role "versus a more jack of all trades administrator."

"Those specialist skills are valuable earlier on in an employee's lifecycle," Anderson said. "They don't need to be generalists and then specialists. Being more knowledgeable in one or several specialty areas makes an employee more valuable."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, news director.

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What entry level skills are most important to you?
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I have to confess that I have been dubious of the value of certifications over the years. Having said that, I appreciate the fact that many of Cisco's certifications require a demonstration of skills to pass, and ultimately, that would mean more to me than any piece of paper.
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Routing & Switching
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Companies need skills in routing and switching, because they do not all need wireless or voice. But companies need a minimum skills to configure security on swiths and routers and Cisco firewalls. Companies must thought to security issues even only within configuration of switchs and routers.
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Real time communications remains a priority that is not always present in generic R&S practices.
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I need to Know more of routing and switching, then i can do more on security later after refining the above mentioned
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You need to KNOW the basics or routing and switching. A passing knowledge of R&S reminds me of the old saying, a little knowldge is a dangerous thing.
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Routing and switching is more important to me.
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Cannot see a value after it...
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A system is only as strong as it weakest link
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Switching and Routing is very imp.
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basic routing & switching is fundamental
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Routing & Switching is the main concept of Networking...
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Security
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wireless
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solid foundation on routing & switching increase competence in specialist areas!
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Voice, Wireless and security are build on R&S.
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Security requires more than just networking skills , which is exciting and challenging as well.
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GoodMorning
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In my opinion, the Routing and Switching is best entry level skills for networking field. As it is the base of networking, without the knowledge of routing and switching, the other level is not possible.
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Routing and switchin
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usually candidates are expected to have routing and switching skills before they are assigned projects which require specialization
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I think that security is priority along with routing and switching.
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Routing and switching
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bcz i am working on security firewall that's way i choice ccna security
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The basic of network can be configured only if one knows routing and switching
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