Year-end is a great time to start working on goals for the new year. If you are thinking about starting or advancing your IT career, this year could be promising if you get your CCNA certification.
The US Department of Labor listed Computer and Information Technology Occupations as its strongest areas for career growth. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), IT employment is expected to grow at a rate of 12 percent per year over the next decade. The average annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $86,320 as of May 2018, and that’s only growing with demand. The BLS expects strong growth in IT jobs fueled by “greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.”
While there are many options for pursuing an IT career, few offer better opportunities than the Cisco® Systems Certified Cisco Network Associate (CCNA) certification.
CCNA Career Prospects
With its emphasis on areas like cloud computing, network security and supporting and managing data centers, the CCNA fits perfectly within the areas of opportunity identified by the BLS.
According to Cisco statistics, at any given time there are almost 2 million job openings for IT professionals. And network administrators are among the hardest jobs for employers to fill.
Is a CCNA for you? If you enjoy challenging work that merges software and hardware, keeping data secure and keeping businesses running, CCNA could be a great match.
Changes to CCNA for 2020
If this is your first time thinking about becoming an IT professional, your timing may be perfect. In June of 2019, Cisco announced a complete overhaul of its certification programs, including the CCNA.
As a network infrastructure provider, Cisco has become known for making the equipment and software that runs the internet.
However, with the spread of wireless, the accumulation of data and the proliferation of applications, Cisco sees all of IT converging into a seamless user experience.
To reflect that convergence, the company has revamped its approach to the CCNA.
The current – soon to be former – CCNA is built around a series of individual certifications, each with its own path to completion. However, as of February 24, 2020, CCNA certification will be consolidated into one exam along with a single training path to completion.
The exam will be challenging, of course, and will cover all of the areas formerly addressed by individual certifications. However, your new path to CCNA certification will require just one comprehensive course.
If by chance you are currently studying for a CCNA exam, Cisco encourages you to press on and pass your exam by February 23, 2020. Your certification will be valid and you will receive a training badge for any specialized individual certifications you may earn between now and then.
Getting CCNA Certified in 2020
The path to CCNA certification involves six steps:
- Review the CCNA Exam Topics
- Select a CCNA Study Course
- Practice Hands-On Skills at Home
- Schedule Your Exam
- Take the Exam
- Plan Your Future
1. Review CCNA Exam Topics
The CCNA 2020 Exam, formally known as CCNA 200-301, tests your knowledge in the following areas:
- Network Fundamentals – 20% of the exam content
- Network Access – 20% of the exam content
- IP Connectivity – 30% of exam content
- IP Services – 10% of exam content
- Security Fundamentals – 15% of exam content
- Automation and Programmability – 10% of exam content
2. Select a Course of Study
The CCNA exam covers each of the six topic areas in detail. To become CCNA certified you will need to be well versed in each area.
Your study process should involve two components:
- Theory and conceptual information
- Hands-on practice
If you are already familiar with networking and IT terminology, a self-guided study program might be a good match for you. There are many study guides available, including the Authorized Self-Study Guide: CCNA Preparation Library authorized by Cisco.
Be careful to choose study materials and a study path that is updated for the upcoming changes in the CCNA exam. If you choose the self-study route, you will also need to develop a practice lab to prepare for the hands-on component.
Most CCNA candidates choose an organized training course that provides a schedule, materials, specific learning objectives and practice questions.
Whether online or in-person, high-quality CCNA training courses will also provide guidance for setting up a home lab for hands-on practice.
The Cisco Learning Network also offers useful resources and a network of learners and mentors who can help and encourage your study.
3. Practice Hands-On Skills at Home
CCNA exams include real-life challenges that require hands-on solutions. The idea is to simulate the real-world problems you will solve as a successful CCNA.
You will need access to either virtual or actual networking hardware as you prepare to take the CCNA exam.
Many training courses include access to a virtual lab. However, for many CCNA jobs, nothing beats experience with real equipment.
If you anticipate working with physical network components, you may want to order a home lab kit. A good kit will include all of the hardware you need to set up a network on your home computer.
Because hardware can go out of date quickly, be sure to review suggestions on the Cisco Learning Network before you purchase a kit or individual hardware components.
4. Schedule Your Exam
Pearson VUE administers CCNA certification exams in cooperation with Cisco. Pearson VUE administers exams in secure, proctored testing centers all over the world.
Exams may be scheduled up to five weeks in advance or as late as the date of the exam, pending availability. For CCNA 2020, scheduling will begin five weeks before the February 24 initial exam date.
5. Take the Exam
On the appointed date, visit the Pearson VUE testing center near you and sit for the exam.
As your exam date nears, be sure to practice good exam-taking habits:
- Get a good night’s rest the night before.
- Eat a light, balanced meal before your exam.
- Bring your required, government-issued ID to the testing center.
- Book enough time for travel.
- Plan for your exam to take its full allotted time.
- Believe in yourself. If you have made the preparations, you are about to launch your future.
6. Plan Your Future
Once you have passed the exam and become a CCNA, you have opened the door to a nearly unlimited future in IT.
It is time to start looking for that first great job. Or perhaps you want to earn a more advanced Cisco certificate.
In any case, as you prepare to take get CCNA certified in 2020, your future is looking bright!
Start your prepping for the CCNA exam today!
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