Certifications / Cisco

Why Have a New CCNA?

by David Zomaya
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Published on October 15, 2019

A few months have passed since Cisco announced sweeping changes to their certification program. Now that things have settled a little, it's time to take a look at the big picture. How will it impact the industry, and more importantly, learners?

Previously, we reviewed the new CCNA and what to expect from the new exams. This time, we'll take a look at the "why" behind the newCCNA. If you want, you can even take a look at our new CCNA training.

Cisco had a winning formula with the CCNA for quite a while. It is one of the most popular IT certs and it's well-respected. This suggests they must have good reasons for the changes, and in our opinion, they did.

The changes helped better align the CCNA with where IT is going and empower cert-seekers. With that said, let's jump into the reasons behind the new CCNA.

New CCNA is Easier to Track

Under the current CCNA, there are many different paths you can take. Depending on what area you're going to focus on, there are a lot of different areas in which you can specialize:

  • CCNA Cloud

  • CCNA Collaboration

  • CCNA Cyber Ops

  • CCNA Data Center

  • CCNA Industrial

  • CCNA Routing and Switching

  • CCNA Service Provider

  • CCNA Wireless

These paths take passing at least two exams, if not more, to certify. And if you decide to start with earning CCENT certification, you need to take a path that counts toward that CCNA.

Choice can be a virtue but, here, it may have gotten to the point of too much complexity — too soon. There are so many things to keep track of. Not to mention this can look even more intimidating to certification newbies. The good news is this is all changing February 24, 2020.

Under the new changes, all of the current CCNA certs will fall under one CCNA. Everyone will be on the same track with only one exam required. The logic here makes sense. Associate-level IT pros don't have to specialize just yet, so give them the foundation they need. They can specialize as they go and still get the cert(s) to help advance their careers.

New CCNA Fits Market Needs Better

The previous point leads right into this one. At the associate level, there's not much need to concentrate in any one area. Not because it isn't helpful, it just isn't needed at this level. Cisco recognized the need to create a cert that is useful at the associate level.

Employers looking to hire Cisco Certified Network Associates are usually looking for professionals who have a basic understanding of networking and other related topics. The problem with the current CCNA is that you'll choose your focus before you have acquired the right knowledge, much less experience. To some extent, the old path put the cart before the horse.

With the new CCNA, you'll develop the skills to work in a Cisco environment with a basic understanding of each area of a network. That way, once you've gained enough experience, you can start looking into a Cisco Certified Specialist and eventually, a CCNP.

The CCNP is changing too! Here's a rundown of what's new.

New CCNA Keeps Up With Changing IT Landscape

There might be some who don't like the changes, or any changes for that matter. However, these changes show that Cisco is listening to their community — and watching the industry as a whole. Introducing a newDevNet program is really the best example of this. DevOps is exploding in popularity, and Cisco's DevNet certification plays directly to that.

DevOps engineer is one of the hottest jobs in the industry, and the DevNet program is targeted to that role. It also verifies in-demand skills in IoT (Internet of Things), infrastructure as code, and automation. By focusing on these areas, Cisco can position itself to continue to be a leader in IT. If they didn't adapt with the times, Cisco would eventually lag the market.

Initially, it may seem odd that changing a cert program would help solidify a company as a market leader. However, it makes sense if you think it through. Cert-seekers today are the IT pros of tomorrow. Eventually, they'll be making purchasing and implementation decisions. If they are comfortable with Cisco technology, Cisco is more likely to be their choice.

In turn, there is more demand for Cisco certified professionals to manage the equipment, and the cycle continues. Obviously, Cisco needs to continue to make quality solutions, but the certs are an important aspect of a long-term plan.

What the New CCNA Means for You

Okay, so now we have an idea of the reasoning behind these changes. They seem to make a lot of sense for Cisco as a company. However, it's also important to consider what they mean for you as a certification-seeker.

Therefore, one of the key reasons for the changes is simple: they add more value for IT pros that get the certifications. This keeps the CCNA in demand. Let's explore some of the specific benefits the new CCNA can offer you.

CCNA Provides a Strong Foundation

Cisco has done a great job at simplifying their certification offerings and watching what employers are looking for. This is especially true for their CCNA where companies aren't usually looking for anyone to specialize at the associate level. With the new CCNA, you'll learn the basics that can qualify you for associate-level roles like junior network analyst.

When you are ready to advance in your career, you can work on specialist certs while working toward aCCNP. The new program Cisco has put together will give you the flexibility to go more easily from the associate level to whatever your employer's needs are.

CCNA Validates In-Demand Skills

With so many changes in tech and IT industries, you need a way to show you're staying current with these advancements. That's where certs come in — and Cisco's certs are strong ones to add to your resume.

Staying up to date with tech demonstrates leadership. By building the skills needed to maintain their networks, employers will place more trust in you. Earning their trust can pay off in the long run and position you to grow into leadership roles.

If you're walking into an office today, you've probably seen Cisco solutions used. Being ubiquitous makes Cisco certifications all that more desirable. Companies are looking for IT pros with the knowledge and skills to maintain a Cisco environment and a CCNA validates these skills.

Even if you do have experience with Cisco devices, you'll likely be overlooked, in favor of someone with a CCNA. This makes the CCNA the best way to show you have the experience needed to work in that Cisco environment.

The bottom line is that most employers believe Cisco-certified employees are more valuable to their company than someone who is not certified. That piece of paper proves to them you have the necessary training and skills. Because, again, Cisco is arguably the most respected networking tech vendor.

CCNA Improves Your Marketability

Money can be a hard topic to discuss. A lot of the time it makes people uncomfortable and some don't know how to approach the topic. But let's be real, we all need money. If nothing else, the CCNA is a very good step to landing higher-paying jobs. For that matter, any Cisco certificationis a smart bet.

With a CCNA you'll be in a better negotiating position. One of the most important things to building a career as a Networking Engineer is to market yourself well. We all want to better ourselves and, in most cases, feel we're worth more than what we might be currently getting.

The problem comes with getting others to see this and be willing to offer you more for your skills. You need to at least level the playing field, if not give yourself the edge, by having a CCNA.

With a CCNA, you could be looking at an average salary between $53,000 and $90,000 per year. This already puts you in a better position than the United States'national average of $47,000.

Final Thoughts

The old CCNA wasn't broken, but Cisco was proactive and recognized areas for improvement. The new CCNA is much easier to follow and should provide a lot of benefits to cert-seekers. Cisco's logic here seems sound. Make changes to modernize the CCNA content and simplify the certification path. As a result, it can continue to provide value to cert-holders and employers.

As February 2020 nears, keep your eyes open for more Cisco news so you can be ready to make your next certification move.


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