1. Why do you want a CCNA?
The key reason to obtain a CCNA qualification is to gain a better career prospect in terms of salary, job mobility etc. Some professionals who are interested to work in computer networking area will find having a CCNA is helpful. This certification also enables one to move from existing job into computer networking job. Other reasons such as want to prove oneself, self-interest is not the major reason as the certification cost time and money to study.
2. Basic Confusion
In any certification, the training and the actual certification exam must be separated. Otherwise, the certification will merely be awarded to those who can afford to pay for the training rather that actual exhibition of knowledge and skill. Even though you have attended CCNA, CCNP etc training, you will only be given the certificate of attendance and not the actual CCNA certification itself. To obtain the actual certification, you need to sit for the exam in Prometric or VUE test center.
3. Actual Certification Exam
Firstly, any individual can register for the exam at www.vue.com . The current examination code is 200-125 and the cost is US$295.00. The certification cost was US$100.00 in year 2001. You need a credit card to register online. Once you register online with vue.com, you can schedule your exam at various test-center online. You shall turn up at the test-center to take your exam as scheduled. The exam duration is 2 hour, the passing mark is 849/1000 and you will know your result immediately after the test.
The test I gone through consist of 60 questions. The questions consist of MCQ (multiple Choice Questions), MCMA (Multiple Choice Multiple Answer), router simulation (correct the router in a network with some configuration error, the IOS does not have any help function), drag and drop and fill-in the blank. Once you proceed to the next questions, you cannot go back to the previous question.
Once you pass the certification, you may need to login to Cisco certification website to validate your name (first name, last name issues). In few weeks time, Cisco send you a hardcopy of your CCNA Certificate along with a small card stating your CCNA certification. You can also login to certification website to generate a URL link and attach it to your email to show to someone else that your are CCNA certified. The CCNA will be valid for 3 years from the date you pass your exam. After that you can re-certified your CCNA by taking any CCNP exam or a CCNA re-certification exam.
4. Problems in Getting CCNA
Wherever you work, you begin to realize how sincere your colleagues in embarking their knowledge to you in your daily work or for your career advancement. There may be very few person out there who are going to teach you the important networking skill as their very position, salary etc depend very much on it as well. If you found one, it is important for you to leverage on him/her. Therefore, it is important to learn via own initiative, passive self-observation, asking question and most important taking up the challenge yourself (Take the router and lock up yourself in a room until certain things is done etc).
5. Options to obtain your CCNA certification.
The first option is via own self-study. You can either borrow some books from the library to study for 1-3 months before taking the exam. From what I heard, this approach seems to be working for some candidates in 1997 – 2001. However, it may be difficult to do it on the current certification 200-125. In case, you have decided to use this approach make sure you read the latest version of CCNA books. It is recommended that you have some router practice before taking the test. For most people, when they saw the thick textbook, their mood was gone. Some started to fall asleep once they flipped through the first few pages. Books are difficult to read, outdated quickly and mainly meant for dedicated people who intend to pursue their certification. If you are an average intelligent person, books are not that helpful.
The second option is to leverage on existing spare equipment in your company along with self-study on the theory, using books. Try to configure the spare Cisco router in your company, this will improve your hand-on knowledge. It is much easier if your company is a service provider, university or vendor selling Cisco product. Those who have done sufficient hand-on should be able to pass the exam.
The third option is to attend some training. There are 3 options in attending a training session.
Cisco Training Partner,
Cisco Online Training Partner,
Cisco Networking Academies
5.1 Training Partner.
As far as I know there are few certified Cisco Training Partner in Malaysia. There are IMS Asia, Global Knowledge and DimensionData. The 5 days course fee is about RM4000 – RM5000. You can check their course fee at the following website www.globalknowledge.com.my. Other institutions (non-certified) may be offering Cisco course on their own. They developed their own curriculum, course material etc. The course fee for attending CCNA may be as low as RM800/= or RM1500/=. Some of the things you should ask before attending the course are
No of days for theory and practical
Equipment available for practical. Is it actual router or router simulation software
If some training center advertise that they have achieved very high passing rate for their CCNA attendee. You should ask whether the exam is the actual certification exam or a practice certification exam?
Is there any certificate exam voucher given to the candidate
Basically, the training is targeted at experience people who need to know some Cisco specific IOS command before attempting their certification exam.
5.2 Online Training Partner.
I have heard some form of self-study via Web subscription to Cisco Online Training Partner. I’m not very sure about the details of these self-study training.
5.3 Cisco Networking Academy
You can also enroll in networking academy program to study for CCNA. The chances of obtain an actual CCNA certification is much higher compare to other options. However, the main issues with the networking academy program for working professional are depth and long duration of the course
There are 4 semester
Each semester there are 300 MCQ and MCMA of online exam and 1-2 skill-based exam
Minimum duration to complete the 4 semester is 6 months
We found from our APEC-CCNA program that many working professional may not have the time and the mental endurance to complete the whole program.
If you are still studying and your university happen to be a Cisco Networking Academy, you may contact the instructor in your university to enroll you into the program. Upon enrollment you will be given access to Cisco Networking online CCNA curriculum. The curriculum is very good and it is much better than any CCNA textbook I have seen. Each academy is equipped with a bundle of 5-6 routers and 2-3 switches. The hardware is sufficient to perform most of the required experiment at CCNA level. From our experience with MMU student, it will take roughly 10 days full-time (teaching & lab practice) for an average student who knows nothing about Cisco Router to learn up the basic IOS command, configure and do some troubleshooting. Topics covered include basic router configuration, password recovery, serial link configuration, RIP and ACL (up to CCNA semester 2 level).
6. How do you go from here?
6.1 If you are still studying in university
It is known that student take CCNA course to enhance their job prospect upon graduation. However, if you are a first class student. The job may be waiting for you even before you graduate. Therefore, you may not want to take CCNA as it cost you time and money. However, you can still take it if you are very interested in networking and intend to go into that field upon graduation.
For average student, if you have the time to study CCNA, try to enroll in the networking academy program. Upon completion of your studies, I would recommend you to go for the actual certification exam. Once you graduated and you already have the actual CCNA certificate, it is much easier to negotiate for a job, salary etc. Once the employer sees the actual certification, a lot of the unnecessary questions disappear. Some may just bring you to their lab and ask you to configure the router straight away as a proof of your skill.
After graduation, the main issues (“salary”) pop-up. Let say you got a job as an analyst programmer RM2500/= per month versus a network engineer RM1800/= per month. Which job will you choose? What is your objective in the first place? How do you compromise financial rewards with your career interest? That is something, I cannot answer. I have seen my CCNA student end up doing J2EE for extra 300 – 400 bucks.
If you are really interested in networking field, you might need to wait for the right job to come by even if the initial salary is much lower than other job. Working on a job that you are passionate about will greatly advance you in your career as time goes on.
If you really have the time and money, you may want to go for CCNP. However, your first few job may not be related to networking at all. Therefore, it may be prudent not to invest your time and money on CCNP unless you are certain on your return of investment.
6.2 If your are working already
You should know that not all jobs need CCNA. If you are currently working in an environment where required you to understand the Cisco routers, a CCNA will be helpful in your career. Otherwise, it may be just a matter of self-interest or since the company is paying for the training, then there is nothing to lose. Once you are certain that you can get a better salary, prospect or career in networking line with Cisco equipment, then you may want to pursue your CCNP. Otherwise, it may be difficult to justify the money and time you spend on CCNP course. The certification exam course US$600/= and the course fee may be anything between RM5000 to RM20000.
After searching through the internet and talking to some people in the industry I come up with the general monthly salary figure for CCNA, CCNP and CCIE holder.
CCNA Holder : RM2000 – RM4000
CCNP Holder: RM3500 – RM7000
CCIE Holder: RM8000 – RM15,000
The salary shown is just an estimate, it may be more for those in management and sales position.
8. Certification Statistic
I think the certification statistic is confidential. Despite searching for so long, until today, I don’t know the passing rate for CCNA, CCNP, CCIE and the number of individual with CCNA and CCNP. Please let me know if I’m wrong. Email to (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All I know is there are about 100 CCIE holders in Malaysia, on average a CCIE holder takes 2-3 time to pass their exam. There is no other way then to predict. So, I have done a simulation on number of CCNA, CCNP holder.
9. Job Market.
Compare to last decade, the number of position for network engineer is lesser. In the early 90s, before the “COINS” comes into the picture, “Telekom” use to sell only raw connectivity. Each bank, MNC will have to maintain their own networks. They need to purchase their own routers, hire their own engineer, have a network manager etc. When COINS came into the picture, the number of routers need in each banks, MNC is greatly reduced by using Frame-Relay DLCI. With less equipment to be sold lead to less System Integrator, resulted in less people to be hired. The number of networking vendors also had reduced from 1990s. Now the market is reduced to few vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, Huawei etc.
For small to medium size companies, it may be easier and cheaper to outsource their network or e-commerce operation to an Internet Data Center or Managed Service Provider than to maintain their own network. Instead IDC will managed the network, web-site for many companies. They have the economy of scale to hire good networking staff. The only network that left in the company will be purely for Internet access. Internet access can be achieved via reliable low cost DSL solution. Little or no configuration is needed for Internet access. Configuration can also be bundled as an integrated solution along with a medium size purchases of tens of PCs and few Intel server. Therefore, higher productive has lead to less job opportunities in networking field. There is a good book on “Strategies for Web Hosting and Managed Services” by Doug Kaye published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. You may want to refer to it for more information on IDC.
We are not sure about the yearly market size for sales of data networking equipment in Malaysia. Some said it is about RM500 million. If you do know, please email us ( email@example.com). To some extend that will determine how many job opening available.
10. Job Spec
In the end-user environment how often your router, switches hang once the network is configured properly. (Once a month or once every 3 month). Compare this with your Windows 2003 server and other Operating System. It seems that network equipment have a high reliability than Operating System and Application. Therefore, it may be concluded that there is less job for networking side but more jobs in Operating System and Application side. What jobs are you going to do once the network is functioning properly? Wait for the network to hangs. Well, you can always do some network performance monitoring, auditing on the IDS log or firewall log, preventing DDOS attack, planning for the next phase of network infrastructure. For how long you can keep doing or saying this I ‘m not sure. Unless your company network is very big (2000 – 5000 nodes) or your network company is expanding so quickly that a dedicated networking staff is needed to monitor the network from time to time.
The main question remain, what incentive does your boss get by keeping you in his/company payroll when you are no longer useful? What is your promotion prospect? Therefore, you should supplement your networking skill (CCNA) with Microsoft platform or Unix platform. By doing so, the number of jobs you can apply to is larger. Every 2 weeks, there is virus attack, some new employee come in, new email account has to be created etc. There is job for you. Once the network is functioning properly, you can also do some other Operating System job such as system administration etc. This will keep you in payroll especially for end-user or small system-integrator environment. In the case of system-integrator, there will be more jobs when there is new building or infrastructure coming up. The conclusion is you don’ t have the privilege to know only computer networking unless you are working with big companies.
11. Interesting Questions
I have some doubts with the following things
- You just need to pass the certification once. After that from end user company perspective, you are knowledgeable enough. The end user is quite forgiving in term of expiry of your certification. Answer: True/False/Depends.
- Your actual job spec may be using 20 – 30% of the whole CCNP syllabus.
- Re-certification is extremely difficult after a long rest without practice.
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