Cisco networking technologies remain the IT infrastructure backbone of many organizations. As a result, Cisco-certified professionals are always in high demand; qualifications such as CCNA and CCNA Security are now prerequisites for many mid- and high-level technology positions.
But what’s the difference between these two certifications? What do they cover? What type of positions do they prepare you for, and which one should be taken first? Most importantly, what’s the impact for IT pros living in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area?
Understanding the CCNA Certification
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification — often called CCNA R&S for routing and switching — is an entry-level qualification that has no prerequisites. It’s designed for IT professionals with a background or interest in network technologies; IT pros often leverage CCNA training to upgrade skills for their existing position or lay the groundwork for new career opportunities.
This course covers a wide variety of Cisco networking topics, including:
- Troubleshooting VLAN connections — Virtual local area networks (VLANs) offer greater flexibility and control but require experienced IT professionals to manage and troubleshoot emerging issues.
- Understanding Cisco licensing — With multiple Cisco license types and structures available, CCNA training helps IT pros understand license requirements and ensure organizations are compliant.
- Troubleshooting IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity — The ongoing transition from IPv4 to IPv6 can create unexpected connection issues for corporate network users. CCNA-trained staff can help identify and remediate these concerns.
- Implementing EIGRP — The Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP) is a proprietary Cisco solution that helps automate routing decisions and configuration. CCNA-certified pros have the skills and knowledge necessary to implement this protocol at scale.
- Managing Cisco devices — The influx of mobile devices across Cisco routing, switching, and other network technologies demands a trained IT professional to deliver reliable performance without compromising security.
To successfully earn the CCNA certification, you must complete exam 100-105 and either exam 200-105 or 200-125. Each exam is 90 minutes long and includes a mix of multiple-choice, drop and drag, fill in the blank, simulation, testlet, and simlet questions.
The CCNA Security Certification Explained
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Security Certification is a mid-tier IT qualification that focuses on securing Cisco network infrastructures. While CCNA R&S certification is not a requirement to obtain CCNA Security, IT professionals must possess at least one qualification — CCNET, CCNA R&S, or CCIE — to register for the exam.
The exam itself, 210-260 IINS, is 90 minutes and 70 questions long and includes a variety of answer formats. CCNA Security training is designed for network security specialists, security admins, and security engineers looking to improve their knowledge Cisco network defense.
Key concepts for CCNA Security training include:
- Understanding the fundamentals of network security
- Implementing threat management controls on Cisco devices
- Configuring secure network management services
- Deploying critical control and data plane security features
This associate certification also paves the way for more advanced qualifications such as the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification, which focuses on advanced networking skills required for higher-level positions such as Network Analyst, IT Team Leader, or Systems Engineer.
Potential Career Options and Compensation
IT professionals with CCNA certification are typically qualified for job roles, including Network Administrators, Network Engineers, and Network Specialists. Salaries usually range from $50,000 to $90,000 depending on your location and experience, and these positions help pave the way for higher-level IT jobs and certifications.
CCNA Security qualifications provide access to more specialized positions such as Network Security Specialist or Network Support Engineer. CCNA Security-certified professionals can expect a salary range of $70,000 - $120,000 along with a high demand for their skills — emerging threats and the changing security landscape have created a marked shortage of qualified infosec staff.
Who’s Hiring in Your Area?
So who’s hiring in the DMV area, and what type of jobs can you expect to find with your CCNA or CCNA Security certification in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington D.C.?
One option for security-trained professionals is the federal government, since CCNA Security satisfies DOD 8750 Level II requirements, opening mid-level agency opportunities to certified professionals. There’s also a significant uptick in technology entrepreneurship and innovation across the DMV area; Virginia is looking to lure high-profile tech companies to its expanding tech corridor, while Maryland continues to invest in local technology startups.
The result? IT professionals in this area can expect an increasing need for CCNA and CCNA Security professionals as startups transition from micro-networks to more robust connections that must satisfy both in-office and remote demands. Compliance also plays a role. Emerging national and international regulations around data handling, transmission, and storage require that companies demonstrate due diligence in all aspects of their IT infrastructure.
It’s also worth noting that increased IT demand also means increasing competition for technology staff — standing out from the crowd and getting that short-list callback demands certifications that exceed company requirements. While CCNA and CCNA Security are designed for differing experience levels, both offer a career boost for DMV-area professionals.