CCDA (Design Associate) Certification

Cisco CCDA validates the knowledge required to design a Cisco converged network. With a CCDA certification, a network professional demonstrates the skills required to design routed and switched network infrastructures and services involving LAN, WAN, and broadband access for businesses and organizations. Thus the CCDA is aimed at network design engineers and technicians involved in establishing network environments with an understanding of network design principles. The CCDA curriculum includes designing basic campus, data centre, security, voice, and wireless networks. CCDA certification opens the path to multiple higher level certifications, ranging up to the industry-leading CCAr.

The Certification Process

In order to obtain CCDA certification candidates are required to pass either one exam only, this exam is arranged separately from any training courses offered, further information on this exam can be seen by clicking on the title. Note that candidates must hold a valid CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching or any CCIE prior to earning their CCDA.

Note that this certification requires re-certification every three years, this can be done by performing any of the following:

Preparing for the Exams

The DESGN exam lasts 75 minutes, containing somewhere between 50 to 60 questions. Further details can be seen on the exam page. The exam has a focused orientated on the design of enterprise campus networks along with IP addressing and routing protocols. We would recommend erring on the side of over preparation so as to ensure a mark high enough to provide a pass.

For more information on Cisco exam policies in general, take a look at this page.

Training Courses

GBdirect offer the Cisco approved course aimed to provide the skills and knowledge required to earn this certification. The course offered is:

While this course will help prepare you for the exam it may not provide you with everything you need to pass it. To ensure this we would recommend hands on experience with the products concerned, along with additional reading from Cisco certification texts. It is advisable to look up the content of the exam, while performing practice labs and taking advantage of the practice exams available on the Cisco website should also prove beneficial. We welcome any reviews of your Cisco Certification experience, if you feel that you know of an improved learning method then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Official Cisco Materials

Cisco provides a large amount of online materials, some of which is available through the certification pages themselves. An excellent starting point is to look at the exam content available on the exam page as well as a PDF that provides the exam guidelines. It should be noted that this certification assumes some knowledge of routing and switching technologies, as well as some areas of voice and security. Thus if you qualify for this certification with a CCENT then it may be wise to ensure that you have adequate experience and knowledge relating to some areas of the ICDN2 exam and CCNA Routing and Switching in general.

The syllabus for the CCDA certification in its entirety can be found here.

Cisco hosts forums for those taking their certifications in the form of Study Groups, allowing for the discussion of any topics relating to CCDA and other certifications. It may also prove useful to look at CCENT or CCNA forums for those with less experience with other Cisco technologies that are involved in some elements of this certification.

Frequently asked questions relating to the CCDA certification can be found on Cisco's instant answers page, this could well answer questions in relation to the sort of experience candidates are expected to have in regards to other Cisco technologies.

A full list of study materials provided by Cisco can be found under the Study/Learn tab on this page, whilst a small selection of practice questions can be found under the practice tab.

Books

CCDA 640-864 Official Cert Guide This book receives largely favourable reviews, however it is widely reported that this particular text contains a large number of errors. Otherwise this text receives praise for a variety of features, such as the exam focus, simple layout and the availability of practice questions from the included test engine. Reviewers also tend to indicate that the content is of sufficient depth to be used as a reference guide for some concepts.

Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions (DESGN) Foundation Learning Guide This book is designed for a rather different purpose to the cert guide. This book aims to provide the technical knowledge, rather than exam specific learning and assumes a lower level of background knowledge and experience. This book does receive positive reviews although it does usually need to be combined with more exam specific preparation as this particular series of books is more focused on providing the technical knowledge that underpins the certification.

Cisco CCDA Simplified This text receives positive reviews due to its clear outline as well as being well suited for those who are less familiar with network design in addition to voice, video, security and any other elements considered in this certification. There are also end of chapter tests that are similar to those included in the official Cisco tests. It should be noted that this particular book does not contain and practice labs and as such some other resources may be needed to prepare for the certification exam.

Additional Resources

The Techexams.net forum is one of the most active covering Cisco and other certifications, there is a great deal of detailed information related to either specific technical details or the certification as a whole. It may be worth looking at some of the sections other than CCDA as this certification covers material from a range of other Cisco certifications.

CBT Nuggets have a series of instructional videos for this certification, with around 7 hours of content. This particular course does not include either a test lab, due to the theoretical nature of the exam, or any practice exams; this said it could still be a useful additional learning tool.

Mostly Networks has a post from someone who has passed the DESGN exam and shares some information about their study materials in addition to the uses of the certification and a brief note about progression to CCDP.

Juan Golbenz's blog The owner of this blog has very kindly uploaded their notes for CCDA and as such has provided a very useful preparation resources, either for basic learning or to check that your preparation is in line with someone else's.

One user of Cisco's study groups for this certification has shared their exam experience and has some useful information/advice about how the exam differs from most certification exams and what may be required to pass it.

Boson offers a set of practice exams for this certification, which receive generally favourable reviews.

What if I fail?

Don't panic. You will be able to see and your test result and the areas you felt weakest in, focus on content areas where your performance was weakest and areas with a high percentage of questions. Once you feel ready you can reschedule your exam. Cisco's exam retake policy is listed below:

The policies for retaking exams are as follows:

Excellent, you've passed

Upon passing you will receive a score report complete with your photo; this can be used to share with employers or other third parties. This will also grant you access to the Cisco Certifications Tracking System, allowing you to see certification progress, access logos for valid certifications, allow third parties/employers to see your certifications and to sign any necessary agreements.

Next Steps

Obtaining CCDA certification allows for further progression along the Cisco design certification path, the next step in which is the CCDP. If you want to continue in this manner then you must complete, if you have not already done so, CCNA Routing and Switching which is a prerequisite for the CCDP. For a more detailed view of Cisco's certification see their certification map.

CCDA, Salary and Contract Rates

A recent survey of IT jobs offered across the UK reported the following statistics on the average earning of salaried and contract workers holding CCDA certification. The UK average salary for a CCDA is £58,750, with the average salary for London being £61,250. A breakdown of this shows 90% are offered a salary of more than £36,000 while 10% are offered more than £70,000.

Contractor daily rates were also surveyed and the UK average was found to be £413 per day and £450 per day for the city of London. The further breakdown of these figures shows that 90% are offered a daily rate in excess of £323 while 10% are offered more than £485. Further details can be found on the IT Jobs Watch site.