Networking

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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