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What you need to know about Cisco's new CCNA specializations

Cisco's most popular certification is the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). Recently, Cisco announced a number of new specialized CCNA certifications. What are these specializations, and should you be considering one? David Davis discusses each of these new certifications in more detail.

What are the new CCNA specializations?

David DavisTo become a specialized CCNA, you must first be a "regular" CCNA, and then pass a single certification test in your specialist area.

There are three new CCNA specializations:

  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Voice
  • CCNA Wireless

Each of these is an area of technology in which Cisco is pushing for a very strong presence.

What do I need to know about these specializations?

CCNA Security

The CCNA Security grounds you in core security technologies that every Cisco admin should know and use to secure the network. To pass the certification test, you need to demonstrate that you have the knowledge to set up a security infrastructure that will defend your network from outside threats. For example, you will be tested on security threats, securing a Cisco router with the IOS, implementing AAA, ACLs, the IOS Firewall, and IOS IPS features. This specialization became available on June 24, 2008, and is valid for three years. The prerequisite is a valid CCNA. The exam number and name that you will need is 640-553 - IINS (Implementing Cisco IOS Network Security). To learn more about this specialization, please see the official CCNA Security page.

CCNA Voice

The CCNA Voice certification ensures that you have the skill set to perform installation, operation, and administration of VoIP solutions. In preparing for the certification, you will gain a solid foundation in voice applications and their concepts, including Cisco Unified Communications architecture. This specialization became available on June 24, 2008, and is also valid for three years. The prerequisite is a valid CCNA. The exam number and name that you will need is 640-460 IIUC (Implementing Cisco IOS Unified Communications). To learn more about this specialization, please see the official Cisco CCNA Voice page.

CCNA Wireless

This is the "wave" of the future. You will be able to support wireless LANS in your network, as well as be able to configure, monitor, and troubleshoot any Cisco WLANS, which can be of great benefit to you on your Cisco career path. This specialization will be available on July 25, 2008, and is also valid for three years. The prerequisite is a valid CCNA. The exam number and name that you will need is 640-721 IUWNE (Implementing Cisco Unified Wireless Networking Essentials). To learn more about this specialization, please see the official CCNA Wireless page.

Should you consider a CCNA specialization?

While you may have your own reasons for pursuing these certifications, here are the reasons that I came up with:

  1. Career opportunities -- I don't think you have to look very far in the want ads to discover that the workplace is not only looking for people who have a broad range of skill sets, but they are looking for people who have skill sets that fit a special niche. These specializations could give you an edge up on other candidates.
  2. Confidence -- Obtaining a new certification always helps you to build confidence in your skills. Additionally, when you are interviewing for a new position, management feels much safer knowing that someone who knows how to secure a network from Internet attacks is in charge of their network.
  3. Capability for advancement -- Although you have to be CCNA-certified to obtain any of these specializations, they will broaden your understanding of specific areas and make you a more rounded and confident Cisco admin. Also, it is a good next step in your career path initiative to the CCNP or CCIE.

Conclusion

What do you think of Cisco's new CCNA specializations? These three specializations are a newly available stepping stone in the certification ladder. Which, if any, will you choose? Do you feel that new CCNA certification levels were necessary?

For more information on this article, please see the Cisco IT Certification career path.

David Davis has worked in the IT industry for 15+ years and holds several certifications, including CCIE, CCNA, CCNP, MCSE, CISSP, VCP. He has authored hundreds of articles and numerous IT training videos. Today, David is the Director of Infrastructure at Train Signal.com. Train Signal, Inc. is the global leader in video training for IT Professionals and end users.

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15 comments
bingo101101
bingo101101

I have been in the telco business for 12 + years but I do not have any Cisco Certs. I read that I should start with the CCNT first then my CCNA. I have a good understanding of networks etc.. can you advise me to use this route or just skip the ccnt. D

cbader
cbader

I think adding specializations can be a good thing, and its good to have more associate level certifications. I want to go in to the security arena so I was already planning on adding the security specialization to my CCNA, especially considering its a pre-requisite for the CCSP now.

ddavis
ddavis

As you all are interested in getting a CCNA specialization, I wanted to let you know that my good friend Chris Bryant has just released a new 13 hour video training course covering the CCNA Security specialization (test IINS 640-553). You can watch a demo of the course and learn more at: http://www.trainsignal.com/Cisco-CCNA-Security-P61.aspx Thanks, David Davis, CCIE TechRepublic Cisco Networking Blogger

brian.jonson
brian.jonson

Let's not forget that Cisco is being consistent with this new offering. They introduced the CCENT some time back so that the CCNA would be no longer be considered an entry-level cert. I got my CCNA in September and am glad they enhanced the program. I think it's the right move.

Howard.Hooper
Howard.Hooper

Hi, I'm a CCNP currently studying for my CCIE R&S, does anybody else think that by Cisco introducing a further step before the CCSP, CCVP and the CCDA already existing for the CCDP that employers may look upon the CCNP now as 'not as hard' as there is only one prequalification required (CCNA) compared to the other professional certifications and therefore devaluing the CCNP certification? Howard

sonooonline
sonooonline

that is excess with all cisco lover because the fee has been rapidly increased from US$ 150.00 to US $ 250.00 thats too much

anjan.sys@gmail.com
anjan.sys@gmail.com

after 3 years geeting a CCNA certification what wiil be validation with CCNA certification?

jdwood78
jdwood78

Will taking one of the CCNA specialist exams re-certify the base/required CCNA? Will an exam in a peer specialist exam such as Voice re-certify the Security cert?

Timothy.Fernandez
Timothy.Fernandez

I think its a logical evolution. The need to support these technologies is very great. Typically its going to be CCNP level or higher and there are just more CCNA out there in the positions to support these technologies.

james.craig
james.craig

I got my CCNA in February and have recently begun studying for the BSCI (step 1 of 4 towards CCNP). I consider myself an experienced, capable network engineer but find the exams a chore. The release of these new CCNA certifications has not changed my mind towards getting the CCNP certification. I feel it's a hell of a lot more valuable than having even all the CCNA specialisations. On top of that, studying for any Cisco exam is a time consuming process. I do think the security specialisation covers topics sorely missing (edit: from vanilla CCNA). Maybe that's because that is where my experience is lacking (as opposed to VoIP or WLAN).

iaingeddes
iaingeddes

Hi Howard, I don't really see how the new CCNAs would be seen as devaluing the CCNP. Sure they're targetted at a strange point in the Certification "pyramid" but the reality will always be that the certifications are more affected by 1) Perceived value and 2) Demand. For 1), most vendors offer a certification programme but Cisco are a long way ahead in brand recognition 2) ironically is the "problem point", the greater the population carrying certification XYZ, the more it becomes an "expected" rather than an "exception". This is clearly seen with the use of degrees for example, a Bachelors degree used to be something exceptional ... now it's an entry requirement. CCNA is pretty much the same for an IT position. The greatest threat to the value of the CCNP is the availability of engineers holding CCIE!! When comparing the tracks though, it really does all come back to the good old rules of supply and demand. CCNP is "worth less" than CCSP or CCVP because there are fewer CCSP/VPs in the market. CCVP skills however aren't really relevant if your need is simply for an experienced IP engineer to support various routing protocols in your switched IP network.

AressIndia.com
AressIndia.com

I think CCNA is the base exam and beyond that you can have additional papers. Some of them are optional and doesn't need to pass a CCNA exam also. But for CCNP it shold be must. Although CCNA and CCNP are enough hard exams which are testing true knowledge of a student and these exams may think as necessary to gain base knowledge.

brian.jonson
brian.jonson

Yes, passing one of the specialty exams will recertify the base CCNA. I asked this question of Cisco this week and they confirmed it. Of course, you need to have a valid CCNA first...

iaingeddes
iaingeddes

Hi James, I completely agree with you and am also working towards CCNP. However, what you will see is that the requirements for CCSP and CCVP are changing to include the appropriate CCNA specialisation. As for CCNA Security, if you look at the security component of ISCW you'll see that there's a not inconsiderable overlap! Whilst working towards CCNP, CCNA Security might be worth considering simply because it's another certification ... and you've got to study the subjects covered anyway!

Cincinnerdi
Cincinnerdi

After getting my CCNA, I went for the first CCNP (BCMSN). Working with small / medium sized business, I found much of the stuff too esoteric; not much need for clustering 6500 switches in a place with 35 workstations. So maybe this CCNA specialization is a good thing. FWIW, I think they DO need certs on getting SMB routers (like the 1800's) and switches to do tricks. That was never in any class / course I took.

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