You've learned about the exciting possibilities of a career in IT and are looking to jump in. You have some computer experience but need a qualification to help you get the entry-level role you need to get started. So, let us talk you through Cisco's CCNA certification and the types of jobs you can expect to get once you have it.
What is CCNA?
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is Cisco's entry-level exam, aimed at anyone who is just starting in the IT industry. Cisco's certifications are some of the most popular and respected accreditations available to IT professionals, making CCNA a great place to start if you are looking for entry-level IT jobs, particularly around Maryland and the Washington DC region.
In February 2020, Cisco made significant changes to the CCNA program, which will benefit you as a beginner. Before this, you would have had to take two exams to get CCNA accreditation - a core exam and a specialization exam in one of several specialized topics. In the new CCNA accreditation, Cisco has brought the core exam and elements of all the different specializations into one certification test. These changes reduce the cost of attaining CCNA and give you a broader understanding of all the IT industry's primary domains.
Compared with CompTIA's entry-level exams (A+ and Network+), students with minimal or no previous IT experience may find CCNA more challenging. But for IT beginners with some experience working with computers and networking, CCNA will provide a comprehensive introduction to Cisco systems and IT fundamentals across multiple topic areas.
What Job Roles Does CCNA Prepare Me For?
Gaining your CCNA certification will open up a wide range of career opportunities for you, particularly in Maryland. The high concentration of government agencies, military establishments, and corporate headquarters in Maryland results in a constant flow of open roles as people gain promotions or switch organizations for higher salaries.
With your CCNA accreditation, you'll be looking for entry-level roles where you can establish your newly learned skills and gain on-the-job experience. While these 'starter' jobs are typically less well paid than you may have hoped, it's worth remembering that many companies use these roles to evaluate new employees for future promotion into more exciting and lucrative positions.
Broadly speaking CCNA focused jobs fall into three role types - Network Engineer, Network Administrator, and Systems Administrator.
When you search for CCNA related jobs online, you will find a broad range of job titles, but for the most part, employers are asking for different combinations of skills of these three core roles. The exact requirements for any given position will depend on the size of the organization. Organizations with extensive computer infrastructure will employ people to perform these specific roles. In contrast, smaller organizations will look for people who can blend different elements of these three role types based on the organizations needs.
A Network Engineer is primarily responsible for planning, implementing, and operating an organization's computer networks. Their job is to build the system to ensure that users have the maximum amount of uptime.
As a newly certified CCNA professional, you would likely join a company working with an established engineer, learning about the organization and its network requirements. In organizations with an established network, you will design and implement new configurations and upgrades as needed, documenting and managing changes.
According to glassdoor.com, Network Engineers working in Maryland typically earn an average salary of $72,362, although this can vary depending on your experience and the company you work for.
As a Network Administrator, you'll be expected to ensure that your organization's IT networks are up-to-date and running as expected. Your focus will be on maintaining network infrastructures such as switches and routers, troubleshooting issues with these, or the behavior of networked-attached devices.
So rather than designing and implementing systems like the Network Engineer, your focus will be on ensuring the systems in place are running efficiently and meeting the organization's goals.
In larger organizations, you'll potentially be responsible for connecting multiple networks to desktops, laptops, and other mobile devices, as well as connecting them to the cloud, all while maintaining system security. When you start taking all this into account, you begin to understand the complex nature of a Network Administrators' role.
As a Network Administrator working in Maryland and the Washington DC region, you can expect to earn an average of $63,043, although new starts can expect to $45,000 plus.
As a Systems Administrator, you will be responsible for the configuration, maintenance, and reliable operation of your organization's computer systems. Your role is focused on working directly with the computers and software connected to the network, including installation, maintenance, data recovery, documentation, and training.
While the System Administrator and Network Administrator roles are often blended within an organization, in larger organizations, the System Admin is more customer-facing and focused on the running on the network. In contrast, the Network Admin would be more concerned with the function and connection of infrastructure components like routers and switches.
A Systems Administrator working in Maryland can earn an average of $64,892 a year, with new starts earning an average of $43,000 plus.
How to get trained in CCNA
You can prepare for the CCNA exam in different ways. There is all manner of CCNA resources online, including self-guided and instructor-led classes. These vary in price from 'free' to several thousands of dollars. The route you choose will largely depend on your budget, how quickly you want to move forward, and your learning style.
If you are a very self-disciplined learner with a tight budget, then self-guided Training could well be your best option. If this is the route you choose, then make sure you are using the latest resources based on the current CCNA curriculum. To a large extent, the adage 'you get what you pay for' is true. Free or cheap resources are often poorly written and often out of date. Having said this, there are many reputable self-guided resources out there, although they will lack the support and guarantees that come with Instructor-led classes.
TrainACE offers Instructor-Led CCNA training, in-person and live-online. While the instructor-led route costs a little more than self-study courses, you'll have the most up to date resources, structured classes to keep you on track, and the ability to interact with instructors when you find you are struggling with difficult concepts. We also back up our training with quality guarantees and excellent customer service.