Choosing The Best Cisco Certification For Me
- 9th August 2017
- Posted by: Juan van Niekerk
- Category: Networking
Struggling to decide which is the best Cisco certification for you? Choosing the right certification is always a challenging task. There are many factors to consider such as personal interests, your own strengths and weaknesses, and of course your career goals.
As there are many Cisco courses to choose from, it can be a difficult task to decide which one to select. The reason for this is because each Cisco course may lead to a different career path. This post aims to guide you, the reader, to select the best Cisco certification. By considering how one should go about selecting a course, and then looking into some of the Cisco courses we offer here at ITonlinelearning, this post will help you select the best course for you.
Why is this important? Choosing the best Cisco Certification can essentially affect your career. As selecting the right course is an important step, we want to make sure that you make the right choice that’s best for you!
The Answer Depends On the Candidate
Here at ITonlinelearning, we often have students asking, “Which certification is right for me?”. To be able to safely say which certification is right for whom takes some serious research into who is asking the question.
To be able to say exactly which course is best for whom is tricky as there are many factors to consider. Some of these factors include:
- Personality traits
- Career Goals
- Strengths and Weaknesses
These are only but a few of the factors you need to consider before you even begin to do research on the course you would like to take. Therefore, the answer to choosing the best certification, lies with the candidate.
Before you sign up for any certification, you need to consider:
Which path are you passionate about?
Many students consider earning potential and career opportunities when selecting a course. This is not wrong, and of course it’s important to consider. However, it’s important to study something that is related to your interests and passions.
According to Chandan Takuli from Cisco, “As the competition in the job market gets tougher day-by-day, in my view, it’s safe to choose that technology which really excites you rather than choosing the technology which is in-demand. Nowadays recruiters are looking for candidates who are passionate about learning and improving themselves. So choose the track in which learning is fun and you feel more comfortable, so that you can run long-term with the same passion you have at the start.”
Therefore as you can see, before you select a learning path it’s important that you know what excites you and what you are interested in learning about. A little piece of advice from my own experience, is to get to know yourself.
Get To Know Yourself
In order to understand yourself better, it can be helpful to do a few tests to see what kind of person you are and where your interests lie. These tests can’t accurately tell you what career to pursue, but it can guide you in the right direction. A popular personality test, that’s quick and easy to complete, is called 16 Personalities. Tests like this will give you an indication of your personality type and could help you with the certification decision making process.
This test will by no means give you a clear definition of who you are, but hey, it could help you decide which career path to decide on. According to Business News Daily, “Part of the reason you’re drawn to a certain line of work could simply be that it aligns with who you are.” Therefore getting to know yourself better, could help you understand why you are drawn to certain careers and not others.
Once you feel better acquainted with yourself, it’s time to consider the options available for study. As there is an endless amount of courses available, I’ve decided to focus on Cisco Certifications.
However, in order to choose the right Cisco certification it’s important that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. To make the right decision, you need to consider your options. Before we talk about what options are available with Cisco, let’s quickly go over what area Cisco specialises in and what a Cisco certification is.
According to Cisco, “We have shaped the future of the Internet by creating unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers, employees, investors and ecosystem partners and have become the worldwide leader in networking – transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate.”
What area does Cisco specialise in?
Cisco offers internationally recognised certifications to all levels of networking professionals. Therefore, if you are interested in a networking certification, or a career in Networking, then Cisco is the best place to start.
What is a Cisco Certification?
A Cisco certification is your first step towards a professional career in Networking. Cisco offers five levels of network certification: Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert, and Architect.
Within these 5 levels are what Cisco calls a ‘learning path’ or ‘certification tracks’. In order to select the right certification, you need to consider the level of certification you are at. For example, if this is your first course with Cisco then you will probably consider an entry level course such as CCENT. Once you have established your level, you then need to consider the learning path or certification track you will take. The certification track you decide on can be affected by a number of factors, such as the ones we previously discussed like interests, strengths etc.
Below we will discuss some of the certification tracks that are available. These tracks can be considered different areas for study and we will go into some detail as to what each area is about.
To help you get a better understanding of all these levels and paths, I’ve included this table that you can find on Cisco’s website. In this Certification Path Poster you will be able to see which certifications are relevant to which fields. For example, if you are interested in Security, your first certification to complete will be CCENT, and then move on to CCNA Security.
Essentially at the end of the day, you need to ensure that the certification you select is in line with your career goals. Therefore as you can see from the table above, the certification you select will as a result lead to a certain career path. Now I’m going to take you through the steps of selecting one of the certifications that you can see on this table.
First Things First
When you land on the Cisco Training and Certifications page, the first step according to Cisco is, “Identify Path”. This may seem like a trivial first step, but it can be one of the most difficult decisions to make and can affect the rest of your professional career.
For those who are new to Networking, the jargon associated with this topic can be perplexing and puzzling to say the least. This can make it difficult to know which path is appropriate. If your not new to Networking, and your looking for some specific information on the actual courses that are available, you can skip this section and head straight to the section titled,“Cisco Certifications”.
For the Noobs, here is some information on the four paths you can select from and what they mean:
The path of “Design” is for those who require an understanding of network design. This path is for those who are interested in becoming a network professional and will become someone who can design network infrastructures and services for business and organisations.
- Routing and Switching
The path of ‘Routing and Switching’ is for those who seek the ability to work with routed and switched networks. According to Cisco , “The overwhelming majority of today’s Internet traffic travels over network pathways built with Cisco infrastructure products”. This path is for those who seek to understand network infrastructure and protocols, and how they work together.
- Network Security
The ‘Network Security’ path is for those who have an interest in securing Cisco networks. If developing security infrastructure, being able to recognise threats and vulnerabilities appeals to you, then this is the right path.
- WirelessThe ‘Wireless path’ is for those who have an interest in working with LAN configuration, troubleshooting and support for Cisco Wireless Networks. If you’re interested in managing a wireless LAN configuration across all access points, then this is the path for you.
Once you have decided on a learning path, it’s then time to consider some of the certifications that are available in these paths. To help you decide on the best certification for you, we’re going to look at some of the Cisco certifications that we have on offer here at ITonlinelearning. It’s important to note that this list is in no particular order and is not the official ranking order of “best certifications” either. There isn’t an official order.
Instead, this is a list of some of the Cisco certifications available to students at ITonlinelearning. The Cisco certifications we will be considering are namely Cisco CCENT, Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching, Cisco CCNA Security and Cisco CCNA Wireless.
By considering the following Cisco certifications you will be able to understand more about the certifications, who they are for and what career opportunities lie ahead as a result of completing these specific courses. By considering this information, you will hopefully be able to make a decision on the best certification for you!
- Cisco CCENT
The Cisco CCENT course is the first step in the Cisco Certification path. It is a prerequisite for many of the Cisco certifications available. This course was designed as a starting point and foundation for those who are going into networking.
Who Is This Course For?
This course is for those who wish to begin their career in networking and is a prerequisite for most of the associate level courses. This course is for those who wish to be able to install, operate and support small branch networks.
As you can see from the table above (Set a Path to Success in IT Networking), the career opportunities are limited as you still need to select another Cisco course before you can specialise in an area. However some job titles such as 1st Line Support, Network Technician and Analyst are available for those who have completed the CCENT.
- Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching
The Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching certification covers the installation, configuration, operation and troubleshooting of medium-sized network as well as teaching the fundamentals of working with WAN (Wide Area Networks), wireless concepts and network security.
This course is on the second level or associate level of the Cisco certification track.
Who is this course for?
If you have completed the CCENT certification and are considering the Routing and Switching track, then this is the right course for you. This course is for those who would like to work with routed and switched networks.
For those that enter the routing and switching track, there are various career opportunities available. With a CCNA Routing and Switching certification, candidates can expect to find work as a Network Engineer, Support Engineer, Network Analyst and more.
- Cisco CCNA Security
The Cisco CCNA Security course is an internationally recognised certification for those who wish to validate their knowledge and skills in securing Cisco Networks. After completing this course you will be able to develop security infrastructure, recognise threats and vulnerabilities to networks, and mitigate security threats.
Who is this course for?
This Cisco CCNA Security course is for those who are interested in the Security certification track and would like to develop a career in network security.
For those that are entering the Cisco CCNA Security track, the career opportunities are numerous as the field of network security is one of the fastest growing fields to date. Candidates who hold a CCNA Security certification can expect to apply for roles such as Cybersecurity Analyst, Cybersecurity Engineer, IT Security Analyst and more.
- Cisco CCNA Wireless
The Cisco CCNA Wireless course provides candidates with the knowledge and skills to correctly configure monitor and support wireless networks.
Who is this course for?
The Cisco CCNA Wireless course is for those who are entering the Wireless certification track. It is for those who wish to work with WLAN security methods, WLAN architecture, centralised wireless networks as well as converged wireless networks.
If you’re considering the Wireless track, once you have certified you can consider roles such as Network Engineer, Security Engineer, Support Engineer and more.
After considering multiple factors I hope that you are closer to making a decision on which Cisco Certification is the best choice for you. By considering your own interests, how the Cisco certification track works and what courses are available, you should be one step closer. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, deciding on a certification is not easy. So spend as much time as you can doing research on the courses that interest you. Don’t forget, at the end of the day, this is your life. Make sure you choose a certification that will not only offer amazing job opportunities, but will lead you to a career that you are passion about.
For those who have already completed some of the Cisco courses, what advice can you give to our readers on choosing the right certification?