What Is the CCNA? An Entry-Level Networking Certification

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

The CCNA is an entry-level networking certification that can prepare you for networking roles in IT like network specialist, network administrator, and network engineer.

[Featured image] A woman looks up the CCNA certification at home on her laptop.

What is the CCNA certification?

The CCNA—which stands for Cisco Certified Network Associate—is an entry-level information technology (IT) certification issued by networking hardware company Cisco. The CCNA is designed to validate your knowledge on fundamental networking concepts often requested in networking roles in IT positions.

Here’s a quick rundown of key facts:

  • To get the CCNA certification you’ll have to pass one exam, the 200-301 CCNA.

  • Taking the CCNA exam costs $300 USD, plus tax.

  • There are no prerequisites to take the exam, but training and some experience with computer networks are recommended.

An online course like the Google IT Support Professional Certificate  can be a good starting point to learn broadly about IT and network fundamentals as you consider certifications such as the CCNA.

How much is the CCNA exam?

The CCNA exam costs $300 USD, excluding taxes. You can also use Cisco Learning Credits to purchase the exam. These are prepaid credits a company might buy so that their employees can tailor how to spend the credits on the Cisco platform to their preferences.

Trying to cut back on costs? If you think a CCNA certification can be beneficial to your employer, consider approaching your manager to see if the company will pay for the exam or exam training costs (or both).

What salary could I earn with the CCNA certification?

CCNA certifications can be useful in landing both entry-level and higher-level networking positions. Here are some of the job titles that can request CCNA certifications and how much they make on average in Canada.

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of October 2023

PositionAverage salary (CAD)
IT support specialist$55,019
Network specialist$74,270
Network administrator$68,704
Network engineer$78,756
Senior network engineer$102,042

CCNA vs. CompTIA Network+

Like the CCNA, the CompTIA Network+ is a certification that will test your networking knowledge and is often acquired by professionals hoping to advance their networking skills. There are a few key differences.

  • Unlike CCNA, the CompTIA Network+ certification is vendor-neutral. This means that it’s designed to prepare you to work with any network device or system, regardless of what vendor it came from. The CCNA tests you exclusively on Cisco products and tools.

  • The Network+ certification is considered by many to be more foundational than the CCNA. The CCNA is known to cover more topics and go deeper into network material than the Network+. 

So which should you choose? Many opt to take the CCNA despite it being vendor-specific to Cisco because Cisco products largely dominate the networking market. Many learners also find that the knowledge acquired by learning on Cisco products applies to networking products from other vendors.

That said, because the Network+ focuses on the basics, it can be useful for those completely new to networking or who find the CCNA too difficult or comprehensive for their needs. It’s completely possible to get the Network+ and go on to take the CCNA when you have more experience.

What other Cisco network certifications are there?

The Cisco Certification Technician (CCT) is another entry-level Cisco certification. The CCT is designed to equip you with the skills to do onsite support and maintenance of networking devices. It doesn’t delve into networking concepts, however, which is likely part of the reason why it tends not to be as requested as the CCNA, even for entry-level IT positions.

The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) is the next level above CCNA. CCNP further has several specializations you can choose from depending on your desired career path.


What’s on the CCNA exam?

The 200-301 CCNA exam takes 120 minutes and is offered in English and Japanese.

The CCNA exam breaks down as follows:

  • Network fundamentals (20 per cent): Network components like routers, switches, and access points; network topology architectures; physical interfaces and cabling types; IPv4 and IPv6 configuration; IP parameters; wireless, virtualization, and switching fundamentals

  • Network access (20 per cent): Configuring and verifying VLANs, interswitch connectivity, Layer 2 discovery protocols, and EtherChannel; Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol operations; Cisco wireless architectures, AP modes, physical WLAN components, AP and WLC management access connections, and wireless LAN access 

  • IP connectivity (25 per cent): Routing tables; router decision-making; configuring and verifying IPv4 and IPv6 static routing and single area OSPFv2; first hop redundancy protocol

  • IP services (10 per cent): Configuring and verifying NAT and NTP; describing DHCP, DNS, SNMP, and syslog features; per-hop behaviour; using SSH; describing TFTP/FTP

  • Security fundamentals (15 per cent): Security concepts like threats and mitigation, physical access control; password policies; access control lists; Layer 2 security features; wireless security protocols

  • Automation and programmability (10 per cent): Comparing traditional networks with controller-based networks; automation concepts; interpreting JSON data

How to get the CCNA certification

In order to become CCNA certified, you’ll have to take the 200-301 CCNA exam offered by Cisco. There are no prerequisites for the exam, but Cisco reports that CCNA candidates generally have the following experience prior to taking the exam:

  • At least one year of using and implementing Cisco products and solutions

  • Basic knowledge of IP addressing

  • Knowledge of network fundamentals

CCNA courses and training

There are many online courses you can choose from that will prepare you for the CCNA exam. There may also be in-person classes at your local community college that will do the same. 

  • Cisco offers an online course called Implementing and Administering Solutions that is designed to help you pass the CCNA exam. The course costs $800 USD [1].

  • You can take the Computer Communications specialization on Coursera for a full introduction to the world of networking, or take individual courses if you want to focus on specific skills, like TCP/IP, or packet switching networks. Though the specialization won’t explicitly prepare you for the CCNA, you’ll learn much of the fundamentals of computer networks.

  • If you need a quick refresher on networks, or are still deciding if networking is for you, you might consider completing the Introduction to Networks and Cisco Devices guided project on Coursera. The project can be completed in under three hours.

Next steps

If you’re just getting started in IT, it can be worth exploring other entry-level certifications like the Google IT Support Professional Certificate on Coursera to understand your options and round out your skill set. Don’t forget that there are other network certifications that you can get as well.

Article sources

  1. The Cisco Learning Network Store. "Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions (CCNA) v1.0, https://learningnetworkstore.cisco.com/on-demand-e-learning/implementing-and-administering-cisco-solutions-ccna-v1-0-elt-ccna-v1-023587." Accessed October 4, 2023.

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