Becoming an IT Expert with a Cisco Certification

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Affan Basalamah

So you have decided that you want to pursue IT professional certifications and have even chosen which one you want to add to your resume namely, a Cisco certification. The path towards a certification can sometimes be daunting, but the lifetime benefits far outweigh the time period it will take for you to get certified. In this blog post, we are going to look into the process of getting a Cisco Career Certification and talk a little bit about the Cisco Networking Academy and how it can prove an invaluable resource.

What are Cisco Career Certifications?

In a nutshell, Cisco Career Certifications are certificates (much like a college certificate) that IT pros can obtain that "certify" them as experts in the use of products under the umbrella of Cisco Systems.

Under the realm of possible Cisco Certification there are seven total levels, two of which are specialties. These are as follows:

Entry Level

The Entry Level Cisco Certification comes in two flavors the Cisco Certified Entry Level Technician (CCENT) or the Cisco Certified Technician (CCT). For those pursuing a CCENT certificate, you can expect to be prepped to work in an entry-level networking environment, offering operating and technical support for a company's network. The CCT certificate, meanwhile, will teach you how to diagnose and repair Cisco devices.

Typically if you want to pursue an Associate level Cisco Career Certification, you will use the CCENT as a launching point.

Associate Level

The next step up from an Entry Level certification is the Associate Level. To pass the Associate Level, you need to complete two certificates out of the possible nine available. These nine certificates are: Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center, CCNA Security, CCNA Service Provider, CCNA Service Provider Operations, CCNA Video, CCNA Voice, and CCNA Wireless.

Each of these programs have their own pre-requisites you will need to enter them, and, in turn, are pre-requisites themselves for other levels of Cisco Certification.

Professional Level

The next step up the ladder in the path to Cisco Master of the World is the Professional Level. At this point, you will have needed to complete your CCENT and at least two levels of Associate Certifications, as well as any other pre-requisites to tackle any of the 8 Professional Certificates. These programs include: Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), CCNP Data Center, CCNP Security, CCNP Service Provider, CCNP Service Provider Operations, CCNP Voice, and CCNP Wireless.

Architect Level

Perhaps the highest level you can achieve in IT professional certifications, at least where Cisco is concerned, is the Architect Certification. It is the cream of the crop, and can open many doors for you. Known as the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) certification, the program is all about understanding business strategies and how to implement a sound IT infrastructure around that framework.

Specialist Cisco Certifications

In addition to the core five levels listed above, you can also opt to obtain specialist certification in the following areas: Business, Collaboration, Data Center, Operating System, Security, and Video. Within each of these categories is a subset of around 18 certificates you can earn each of which make a great addition to your resume and skill set.

You can learn more about the various Cisco Certifications, what they entail, and their pre-requisites by visiting the Cisco Certifications and Training website.

What is the Cisco Networking Academy?

While it is not mandatory to obtain any of the Cisco Certifications (if you are good with books and discipline you can certainly achieve them that way), most generally recommend taking advantage of the Cisco Networking Academy. The Academy or more appropriately Academies are certified centers of education that focus on teaching and prepping you for Cisco Certifications. All told, there are 9,000 of these prep centers, located across 170 different countries, boasting 4 million students since their inception.


No matter how you decide to achieve your certification goals, at the end of the day it requires a lot of patience, determination, and study. Information Week has a great article on Cisco Certification Tips that is a great place to start when deciding whether or not you want to pursue the Cisco Networking Academy or just go at it alone. You can also find some regular college courses that teaching Cisco networking at local universities.

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