Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching Certification
The Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching certification is one of the most recognised certifications in the industry and validates an engineer's ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot small and medium-sized networks. Cisco suggests that CCNA Routing and Switching is for Network Specialists, Network Administrators, and Network Support Engineers with 1-3 years of experience, although it is perfectly possible to obtain this certification with less experience and this may even be necessary for certain job requirements. Completing the CCNA also allows for progression to CCDP or CCNP certifications.
The Certification Process
In order to obtain CCNA certification candidates are required to pass either one exam only or two exams, these exams are arranged separately from any training courses offered, further information on these exams can be seen by clicking on the titles.
Two exam path:
- 100-101 ICND1 Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1
(Passing this exam grants CCENT certification.)
- 200-101 ICND2 Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 2
Single exam path:
- 200-120 CCNA Cisco Certified Network Associate Exam
Note that this certification requires re-certification every three years, this can be done by performing any of the following:
- Pass the current ICND2 exam, or
- Pass any current Associate-level exam except for ICND1 exam, or
- Pass any current 642-XXX Professional-level exam, or
- Pass any current Cisco Specialist exam (excluding Sales Specialist exams or MeetingPlace Specialist exams, Implementing Cisco TelePresence Installations (ITI) exams, Cisco Leading Virtual Classroom Instruction exams, or any 650 online exams), or
- Pass any current CCIE Written Exam, or
- Pass the current CCDE Written Exam OR current CCDE Practical Exam, or
- Pass the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) interview AND the CCAr board review to extend lower certifications
Preparing for the Exams
The ICND1 exam lasts 90 minutes, containing somewhere between 40 to 50 questions. The questions are drawn in different proportions from the topics included in the exam. ICND2 lasts 75 minutes with between 50 and 60 questions. The full CCNA exam lasts 90 minutes with between 50 and 60 questions. Further details can be seen on the individual exam pages. 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.
GBdirect offer the Cisco approved courses aimed to provide the skills and knowledge required to earn this certification. The courses offered are:
While these courses will help prepare you for the exams they may not provide you with everything you need to pass them. 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.
For a fee Cisco also offers a programme of learning labs suited to practical learning, focusing on managing Cisco's IOS software, IPv6 and troubleshooting. This is available through their learning network store.
Free training videos are also available from members of Cisco's learning community. These can be found on the Member-Led Recorded Study Sessions page and will serve as a highly recommended learning tool.
Cisco also hosts forums in the form of Study Groups, allowing for the discussion of any areas within CCENT or indeed CCNA certification. This is naturally very useful for finding information on specific areas, but also for finding overviews of certification as a whole.
A selection of live and recorded webinars are available on various topics related to areas within the CCNA syllabus, these can be found here. More specifically there is one webinar devoted to this certification alone, available here.
A range of texts are available for those studying for this certification:
Cisco CCENT/CCNA ICND1 100-101 Official Cert Guide This is the official print from Cisco, providing highly in depth information on the majority of areas within the ICND1 exam. Reviews seem to point out that the information is presented in such a manner that is suitable for those new to Cisco technologies and IT in general. This also comes with a DVD providing practice tips as well as training exercises.
Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching ICND2 200-101 Official Cert Guide While this book assumes prior knowledge of ICDN1 reviewers still regard this book very highly. It is credited with covering all of the material within the ICDN2 exam in great depth in a clear manner. A DVD is also included with helpful materials such as practice labs and question banks. While this book is laid out in a relatively easy to understand format some reviews indicate that certain sections can become fairly heavy reading.
Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Official Cert Guide Library This contains both the official cert guides for ICDN1 and ICDN2, with some further features available on the DVD. This book therefore, much like its component parts, receives excellent reviews for being comprehensive yet clear and fairly easy to understand.
CCNA Routing and Switching Portable Command Guide This text provides you with all of the commands necessary to complete the CCNA certification, including any practice labs. Reviewers specifically note that this book provides excellent step by step instructions on some operations, as well as being useful for preparing for this certification in general.
CCNA Routing and Switching Study Guide This book is regarded as being one of the very best to prepare for either ICDN1/2 or the full CCNA examination, receiving very high reviews all round. The book is credited with covering all of the required material in depth, accompanied with a large number of diagrams, practical exercises and labs. Exam focused is maintained with short quiz sections, created what is reported to be a very clear yet detailed guide that can also be used for reference purposes due to its depth of information.
We welcome reviews and views of any text you have personal experience with, likewise if you feel we have missed off a more valuable study aid please do get in touch.
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.
Pluralsight offers a four part course covering the ICND1 exam. These training videos receive good reviews and contain approximately 19 hours of learning material.
As of yet Pluralsight has only released two out of the three parts covering the ICND 2 exam, with around 7 hours of teaching material available.
CBT Nuggets also offers two programmes of instructional videos, with 37 hours of material. These courses come highly recommended and cover some of the key components of the CCENT and CCNA certifications. Both of these courses come with free Transcender practice exams.
A significant number of blogs and other sites that could prove helpful for exam preparation, although it should be noted that this list is by no means exhaustive:
Wendell's CCENT Skills This site covers a mixture of both ICND1 and ICND2 material, with the most recent posts being on the latter, however the blog has a wide range of archived materials that should help with more technical issues or troubleshooting.
Internetwork Training The blog posts on this page contain some useful information regarding exam tips and preparation, however the remainder of the site is not of as a high a quality as the materials provided by Cisco or the other sources listed previously.
IT Ghosts This particular blog posts provides a large amount of advice in terms of preparing for the certification, rather than technical details. A small list of preparation resources is also found at the end of the entry.
Abigail Abanilla's Blog While this is not a dedicated technology blog there is still a large amount of content from someone detailing their certification experience. This includes both technical elements and information about the certification and preparation in general.
Practice tests for ICND1 are available for purchase from:
Practice tests for ICND2 are available for purchase from:
The above sites also offer a discount for buying the ICND 1 and 2 tests as a bundle.
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:
- Candidates who fail an exam must wait a period of five (5) calendar days, beginning the day after the failed attempt, before they may retest for the same exam.
- Once passed, a candidate must wait a minimum of 180 days before taking the same exam with an identical exam number.
- Candidates who violate these policies are in violation of the agreement. Such conduct is strictly prohibited as described in the Cisco Certification and Confidentiality Agreement.
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.
Obtaining CCNA Routing and Switching allows for progression to two possible higher level certifications. Either CCNP or CCDP, the latter requires you to also complete CCDA certification as a prerequisite. For a more detailed view of Cisco's certification see their certification map.
CCNA, 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 CCNA certification. The UK average salary for a CCNA is £38,500, with the average salary for London being £42,500. A breakdown of this shows 90% are offered a salary of more than £27,000 while 10% are offered more than £57,500.
Contractor daily rates were also surveyed and the UK average was found to be £310 per day and £350 per day for the city of London. The further breakdown of these figures shows that 90% are offered a daily rate in excess of £189 while 10% are offered more than £450. Further details can be found on the IT Jobs Watch site.