In this article, I will discuss the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification and the value it provides to both employers and employees.

Cisco created the Cisco certifications in late 1998 to give administrators a set of skills and to give prospective employers an authenticated way to measure those skills. Becoming a CCNA can be the initial step of a successful journey toward a new or refreshed, highly rewarding, sustainable career. Although the certifications have a Cisco product twist, passing the Cisco certification exams provide people with a basic understanding of networking, regardless of the brand of routers and switches. This adds value to any IT employee.

The CCNA program was not only created to provide a solid introduction to the Cisco internetworking operating system (IOS) and to Cisco hardware, but also to internetworking in general. This makes it helpful to you in areas not exclusively Cisco-related. It’s hard to say at this point in the certification process, but it’s not unrealistic to imagine that future network managers, even those without Cisco equipment, could easily require Cisco certifications of their job applicants. So, if you make it through the CCNA and are still interested in Cisco and internetworking, you’re headed down a certain path to success.

The test
The first certification in the Cisco certification track is the CCNA. The CCNA consists of one written exam, which can be taken at any Sylvan testing center. The exam takes about two hours at most and is mostly multiple-choice questions, with a couple of fill-in-the-blank ones thrown in for good measure. If you pass this exam (passing score is about 82%), you will be crowned a CCNA. After signing a nondisclosure agreement, you will then receive a certificate in the mail.

To meet the CCNA certification skill level, you must be able to:

  • ·        Provide an understanding of the OSI model and hierarchal networking.
  • ·        Configure a Cisco router with basic configuration options such as hostnames, passwords, banners, and interface descriptions.
  • ·        Understand basic IP routing including IP addressing, subnetting, and configuring Cisco routers with IP addresses.
  • ·        Understand basic IPX routing including IPX addressing and configuring Cisco routers with IPX network addresses.
  • ·        Describe layer-two technologies.
  • ·        Back up a router configuration and IOS.
  • ·        Telnet in to multiple routers simultaneously and resolve hostnames with a hosts table.
  • ·        Filter a network using Access lists.
  • ·        Understand basic WAN topologies such as PPP, HDLC, Frame Relay, and ISDN.

Once you can install and configure Cisco switches and routers in multiprotocol internetworks using LAN and WAN interfaces, you are then ready to get a job! A CCNA should possess the skills to handle the following jobs:

  • ·        Help desk engineer
  • ·        Field technician
  • ·        Level 1 systems engineer

As you study for the CCNA exam, it’s critical that you have some hands-on experience with Cisco routers. If you can get your hands on some Cisco routers and switches, you’re set. But if you can’t, try a router simulation software package such as RouterSim for a Cisco router simulator that provides the hands-on experience you’ll need to pass the Cisco certification exams at the fraction of a cost of real Cisco equipment. Study guides are also found to be very helpful in your pursuit of Cisco certifications. There are dozens of such guides available in most any bookstore. My book titled CCNA: Cisco Certified Network Associate Study Guideby Sybex Computer Books is one of the more popular Cisco study guides available.

Exam tips
Many questions on the exam will have answer choices that at first glance look identical, especially the syntax questions! Remember to read through the choices carefully, because a close answer won’t cut it. If you choose an answer in which the commands are in the wrong order or one where there is even one measly character missing, they’ll count the question wrong. So to practice, find some practice exam questions (over 500 are in my book or try the Boson practice tests). Read each exam question carefully. Don’t jump to conclusions. Make sure you’re clear on exactly what the question is asking.

Where to take the exam
You may take the exam at any one of the more than 800 Authorized Sylvan Prometric Testing Centers around the world. For the location of a testing center near you, call 800-204-3926. Outside the United States and Canada, contact your local Sylvan Prometric Registration Center. Tell them you want to take CCNA exam number 640-507.

Good luck!