Whatís Next After CCNA?

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Published: 23rd May 2013
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Youíve received your CCNA certification and now youíre questioning what to do next? To begin with, congratulations! Youíve got a few choices on what you can do next. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is a pretty popular certification and it results in you open to various areas of the IT world. Your primary choice relies on two words - specialize or diversify?

Certifications - Specialise or Diversify?

The next phase after accomplishing the CCNA is for you to figure out. Do you need to specialize in a certain area of networking? Or, do you wish to diversify and generalize your understanding? It is a tough question and is the topic of many discussions in the IT world. If you want to answer this, have a take into consideration what your passion is, as well as what your interests are. In the event you decide youíre interested or excited about a particular area of networking, then you may move in the direction of certifications in that area. If youíre unsure about specialization, thatís OK, there are other options as well.

Which Certifications Can I Specialise In?

Cisco offers quite a few certifications for those who have achieved the CCNA. There are nine different specializations currently offered by Cisco. Some of them have more related certifications than others. They are:

Routing and Switching - This is a preferred specialisation in the industry, as itís strongly related many companies and it can be used on all infrastructures.
Design - Based on the design and layout of networks and network components.
Network Security - A continuously changing field, and is helpful for those hoping to operate in government departments.
Wireless - A specialisation in wireless networking technologies and just how they relate to organisations.
Voice - Similar to the routing and switching specialisation, but it has more connection with employees as itís centered on telephone technologies.
Service Provider & Service Provider Operations - The two of these are new and quite similar, and they are linked to the specific skills and operations of service provider organisations.
Data Centre - Networking, storage and servers as well as how they are utilised and optimised in a data centre.
Storage Networking - Consists of working with storage solutions and large-scale networks.

The majority of certifications have a progression - from CCNA to CCNP to CCIE. The two exclusions are Data Centre and Storage Networking. This means you can select one of these specializations and have a defined certification path set out for you. To illustrate, if youíre considering Voice, after the CCNA you can elect to specialise in Voice by getting the CCNA Voice, and then the CCNP Voice, and perhaps even the CCIE Voice. This will give you a good understanding and level of knowledge on Cisco Voice technologies! This plan does apply to most of the certification specialties mentioned above.

If youíre undecided what you would like to specialize in, you can look to the CCNP certification. Itís a phase up from the CCNA and isnít within the specialization paths as yet - so you're able to obtain that and find out how you feel after.

What If I Want To Diversify My Certifications?

One other option is to diversify your certifications. This means you can be knowledgeable in many subject areas. It is for you to decide the number of certifications or how broad you wish to go. Some individuals decide on two certifications or paths to have, and others look to get a number of CCNA certifications, or perhaps multiple CCNP certifications. Thereís no harm in acquiring many certifications at the same level - it will just set you back more time and money, but you could possibly make that back with your job.

It provides benefits to employers as youíre more versatile and qualified to complete more tasks or job roles adequately. It may also help if you wish to move into a different role.

What About CompTIA Certifications?

Other options open to you are qualifications from CompTIA. Some of these options are

Network+ - The Network+ is another lower-level networking qualification. Having said that, itís recommended that you have this before the CCNA. If you donít have it already, you may find it a bit repetitive to the CCNA, yet it does include some vendor-neutral areas.
Security+ - This certification is ideal for people that wish to move into the security field. Pairing this with the CCNA Security is a great way to start out a career in the IT security field.
Server+ - If youíre hoping to move into server administration or support, this may be a certification to get. There can be some overlap with the CCNA but there would also be some vendor-neutral areas too.

Well, I hope this has helped you make a decision on which certification to get after the CCNA. The main question to answer is specialization or diversification, and when you know that, it can help you choose your next step.

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