IT Career JumpStart

Mar 26 2013   5:15PM GMT

Cisco Revamps and Rationalizes CCNA Program

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Starting today, there are no longer two classes of Cisco Certified Network Associates around. Why do I say this? Because until today’s announcement, parties interested in earning some CCNA flavors — such as Security and Wireless, for example — actually first had to earn a plain-vanilla CCNA, and then follow it up with another exam to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a technology area other than routing and switching. As of this morning, March 26, 2013, that is no longer the case.

For a short video on what's changed, watch this video.

For a short video on what’s changed, watch the video on the CCNA R&S home page.

Today, this is what the CCNA program looks like:

  • The old plain vanilla CCNA is being relabeled as CCNA Routing and Switching.
  • The requirements for CCNA Voice, CCNA Security, CCNA Wireless, CCNA SP Operations, and CCDA will be changed to — as Cisco states in its press release — “better align with industry job roles of today and in the future.”
  • For CCNA Routing and Switching and the predecessor cert, CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician), the training curriculum and exam content for the ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA Composite exams has been altered to put more emphasis on IPv6, updated Cisco IOS software versions, and on troubleshooting topics, tools, and techniques.

The simplest way to explain the change is to observe that all Associate Cisco credentials will henceforth require taking only two exams to meet requirements (no more extra exam for those who’d like to jump straight into specialty areas; this had already been foreshadowed with the CCNA Data Center, which has required two independent exams since its introduction late last year). The CCDA change going forward is to make the CCENT (which requires exam ICND1) a pre-requisite for that credential.

Except for the CCDA (which imposes the CCENT pre-requisite requirement effective October 13, 2013) the changes to the CCNA credentials are available today for those who wish to take the new or revised exams instead of the prior curriculum and exam elements. Three self-study products are already available in the online Cisco Learning Network Store for the revised Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching certification: Cisco Learning Labs for ICND1 v2.0, Cisco Certification Practice Exam for ICND1 (100-101), and Cisco E-Learning for ICND1 v2.0. Also, labs, practice exams and e-learning for ICND2 v2.0 are expected to be released at the Cisco Learning Network Store some time late in May, 2013. Check the CCNA page at Cisco Learning for all the details, which indicates that the old CCNA exams will no longer be available after September 30, 2013, and provides exam IDs for new versions of CCNA composite (200-120), ICND1 (100-101), and ICND2 (200-101).

Here’s what the new exam slate looks like, plucked straight from the slide deck Cisco used to pre-brief me on these changes last week:

New slate for two-exam-only CCNA versions.

New slate for two-exam-only CCNA versions.

This also explains why Cisco found it necessary to re-work the ICND1 and ICND2 exams: some important content from ICND2 had to make its way into ICND1, so that CCNAs in Security, Voice, and Wireless would still get the topical coverage on base technologies relevant to their workaday routine without having to take ICND2 any longer. Injection of IPv6 content and coverage of new IOS versions simply reflect ongoing changes to workplace networking that will likewise affect everyone who toils in this area. Individuals who already hold these certifications don’t have to worry about the new requirements until their three-year renewal cycle comes up. Then, those switching to the new curriculum for the first time will have the option of retaking the ICND1 or their specialty exam to re-up; after that it’s far more likely they’ll be asked to re-take the specialty exam instead (or meet continuing education requirements as another possible alternative).

This is big news, because it lets IT professionals interested in specializing in security, wireless,¬† and Voice obtain their CCNA certifications without first having to earn a plain-vanilla CCNA, and then take one or two additional exams in their specialty area. It puts them on the same footing as those who already sought to specialize in Data Center (and Data Center Operation) and Video, because they’ve always had to take and pass only two exams to earn their credentials. I think this change is very much for the better, and should¬† make it easier for more junior level IT professionals to start moving into their chosen areas of technical specialization more quickly, easily, and cheaply. Employers can’t help but like the shortened training and learning cycle this offers as well — with reduced time to certification and training/exam costs along the way, for those who subsidize employee certification and training.

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