Cisco CCNA Security Certification

Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA Security) validates associate-level knowledge and skills required to secure Cisco networks. With CCNA Security certification, professionals demonstrate the skills required to design, implement and monitor a comprehensive security policy. The CCNA Security curriculum uses Cisco IOS features and technologies as examples for this objective. Cisco recommends that those attempting to achieve this certification have a working knowledge of both the Windows operating system in addition to Cisco IOS networking and concepts. Completing this CCNA allows for further progression to CCNP Security.

Note that candidates must have a valid CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching or CCIE certification in order to earn CCNA Security.

The Certification Process

In order to obtain CCNA Security certification candidates are required to pass 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 this certification requires re-certification every three years, this can be done by performing any of the following:

TelePresence Installations (ITI) exams, Cisco Leading Virtual Classroom Instruction exams, or any 650 online exams), or

Preparing for the Exams

The IINS exam lasts 90 minutes, containing between 55 and 65 questions, while these questions are spread over a range of topics there is a greater focus on VPN and Firewall technologies in addition to Cisco IPS. 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.

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. 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.

The full Syllabus for CCNA Security is available here.

For a fee Skillsoft offers a Cisco endorsed CCNA Security preparation bundle that can aid in preparation, although some reviewers suggest it may not be worth the fairly high price. This is available for purchase through the learning network store.

A free learning module entitled "Hardening Cisco IOS Devices" is also available on the learning network.

A forum or "study group" is available for those studying for CCNA Security certification, this is in fact one of the larger groups on Cisco's Learning Network and could prove useful for particular issues or more general preparation.

A few review questions are available on Cisco's site that can aid in testing your current knowledge and serve as a learning aid.

A full list of official learning materials available can be found on Cisco's site.


A range of texts are available for those studying for this certification:

CCNA Security 640-554 Official Cert Guide This book receives excellent reviews on the whole, praising the concise and beginner friendly style. The book is tightly focused on the Cisco exam and covers the whole of the material contained within it. There are also a large number of diagrams used for further detail, while there are also questions available to ensure that your studies are progressing well.

Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security (IINS 640-554) Foundation Learning Guide The foundation guide series is designed to provide the more basic information contained within the area of certification. As such the book could be useful for those with less background knowledge or experience. This book receives slightly worse reviews, due to a claimed lack of organisation on some topics, but this book is still a good starting point or reference tool.

CCNA Security (640-554) Portable Command Guide This book receives good reviews and is praised as being useful for accompanying any course or labs that you may participate in. Naturally as a command guide it is highly practical, and can therefore prove useful even after completing your certification.

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.

Additional Resources

The 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.

A series of posts on the Cisco learning network "My journey back to CCNA Security" may prove useful for the technical areas the writer covers.

"Passed CCNA Security" This post is very much focused upon the certification and exam itself; you may also find some of the materials listed at the end useful.

CBT nuggets offer a course of instructional videos that could be used to support either course based learning or independent study, this particular course lasts approximately 11 and a half hours.

A set of CCNA Security notes has also been made available from one contributor on the Techexams forum, while these are not for the latest iteration of the exam these could be highly useful.

A set of practice questions are available from Boson, but some reviewers claim that the questions do not reflect current CCNA questions, either being for the old exam or including CCNP materials.

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 CCNA Security allows for progression to CCNP Security, a more detailed certification designed for those with a greater amount of experience and to demonstrate a greater level of technical expertise. 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.