I’ve noticed quite a few people lately on the cyber security job boards and forums asking the question “Can I get a job with only the Cisco CCNA certification?” That is an interesting question because the CCNA is not an easy exam to pass and usually isn’t the first certification that people go after. Either way, it does bring up a good question, and that is “Is the CCNA enough to get a job in IT or cyber security.” Let’s take a look.
So, can you get a job with only the Cisco CCNA certification? Many employers will hire someone with only the Cisco CCNA certification for a lower-level or entry-level IT or cyber security job, however the chances of being hired increase greatly if you can combine your CCNA with a second skill, such as technical experience, another certification, or a soft skill like customer service.
Let’s dive in a little deeper to take a look at what our chances are to find a job with just a Cisco CCNA certification, and what else we can add to our resume to increase our chances of job search success.
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Jobs You Can Get With The CCNA
The Cisco CCNA (also known as the Cisco Certified Network Associate) is a certification designed by Cisco as an advanced entry-level (or what they call associate level) designation that indicates an understanding of layer 2 and layer 3 switching and routing concepts, and how they apply to Cisco equipment. The Cisco CCNA has been around for over twenty years, and has remained popular throughout that time.
Cisco has also developed other CCNA certifications, including CCNA Wireless, CCNA CyberOps and CCNA Security. These certifications are similar associate level credentials in the Cisco lineup, however when anyone says CCNA, they are almost always are refering to the CCNA Routing and Switching mentioned above, because it was the first and remains the most popular.
The CCNA is intended to lead to any number of entry to mid-level networking based career options. These include positions such as network technician, network administrator, network engineer, network analyst, or possibly even network security analyst. These positions are given different names at different companies, so keep in mind that not all network engineers do the same thing, and a network administrator at one company may do the same thing as a network technician at another.
Regardless, the Cisco CCNA is designed to verify you are prepared for networking based positions that are responsible for wiring networks, installing and configuring routers and switches, and performing basic troubleshooting. Most employers may not be willing to turn you loose on a network and perform more risky configurations, such as configuring routing protocols or access control lists with the CCNA until you prove your ability, but they may be willing to bring you on board to test your knowledge out and give you more basic tasks to complete.
If you hold the Cisco CCNA without any other technical experience, certifications or college coursework, you can still find a technical job, however things will certainly be a little more difficult for you. If you only have the CCNA, you probably shouldn’t expect as high of a salary as you otherwise would get if you were able to demonstrate more expertise or experience on your resume.
The CCNA Can Get You In, But It Won’t Keep You There
We’ve already identified that the CCNA is enough to get you hired at some companies for a networking based position, even if you don’t have anything else to show on the resume, but it isn’t likely to keep you there, and certainly won’t help you advance.
If you are able to get a job with only the CCNA, your first order of business should be to begin supplementing your knowledge and skill set with other abilities beyond the CCNA certification. One of the most important things for you to do is to build experience. You can build experience while working by looking for any additional projects to complete and take a daily assessment of new things you learn. Build the habit of documenting new skills you pick up, which if you’re in a technical position, should be at least one new thing every day.
Use any downtime to study up on new skills that will help you be better at your job. This may be learning about the operating system your company is using on the network, such as Windows Server or Linux, or it may be learning about network security. Try to learn something new every day that can go on your resume and supplement your CCNA certification.
Supplement Your CCNA With Technical Skills – If You’re Not Working
I’ve just laid out that if you are able to get a job with just your CCNA, your first order of business should be to supplement your CCNA with technical experience that you are gaining on the job. But what about if you haven’t gotten a job yet. In that case, building technical experience is still your first order of business, but you’ll need to be more creative to do so. Here are a few ideas to get you going.
- Buy your own networking equipment for home. Oddly enough, a very common question in technical interviews if to ask if you have a network at home. Employers know that if you’re serious about cyber security or IT, you probably have some set up at home, or at least you should. Look into getting some hand me down or used equipment that you can set up and learn from at home. This will help you get experience, and a job much faster.
- Ask around about unpaid internships. Internships are often hard to find online, but you may be surprised how successful you can be if you ask around about unpaid internships. Small companies are often willing to give a CCNA certified person a shot if they offer to do a temporary, unpaid internship. Give it a shot.
- Volunteer somewhere. Brainstorm where you can volunteer to provide technical assistance. Some non-profit somewhere near you can use technical assistance. Helping them helps you get experience.
- Create a YouTube channel. I like this one a lot. YouTube is easy and free. If you have the CCNA, than you know Packet Tracer. Record video tutorials of you teaching CCNA concepts in Packet Tracer on YouTube. Include the YouTube channel link on your resume. Any employer that looks it up will be impressed that you’ve done that.
Supplement Your CCNA With Soft Skills
Soft skills are the easiest to document, so they’re something you should consider as your building the rest of your resume around your CCNA certification. The good news is, for most people, they already have other soft skills experience that they can list on a resume. Many just don’t realize how valuable some of their prior experience really is.
Have you worked in a retail environment where you were able to develop and demonstrate good customer service skills? Did you work in another job where you had to work within a team, which gave you teamwork or leadership experience? Have you had a job where you were on the phone a lot, which perhaps gave you sales or cold calling experience.
Think through all of your other work experience to see what skills you can pull out and document, especially the soft skills that an employer would appreciate and want. These soft skills combined with the CCNA can really open doors for you. It’s all in the way that you present it.
Supplement Your CCNA With Another Certification
Another option, albeit my least favorite, it to work on another certification. Would it benefit you to get back to studying and get the CCNA Security or CompTIA Security+? Would a Linux certification or a Windows Server certification help you? Certifications are always beneficial, but you should be weary of adding another certification without adding technical experience, because at some point it probably weakens your resume.
If you are determined to keep going with certifications, the most popular that follow the Cisco CCNA are the Cisco CCNP and the CCNA Security. The CCNA Security is a nice choice because it gets you into the security side of networking and only requires one exam.
Armed with the information we’ve covered here, you should feel confident that you can get a job with your CCNA certification, and if you haven’t gotten a job yet, how you can do so pretty quickly. Good luck!
How long is the CCNA good for? Cisco states that their CCNA certification is valid for three years before it must be renewed or leveled up to a higher certification.
Should I take the CCNA Security or CCNA Routing and Switching exam? Both certifications are valued in the marketplace by employers. Some people choose to earn both certifications, or branch out to another area, such as wireless or collaboration.