CompTIA Network+ vs. Cisco CCNA: How to Choose

Taylor Karl
CompTIA Network+ vs. Cisco CCNA: How to Choose 4789 0

CompTIA Network+ vs. Cisco CCNA: How to Choose

Professionals with expertise across the information technology (IT) spectrum are in high demand. If you’re particularly interested in working with advanced technology and solving mission-critical problems, IT networking is an excellent option. Industry certifications can make your entrance into the field much smoother by bolstering your resume and demonstrating your IT knowledge and skills to potential employers.

CompTIA Network+ vs CCNA is a common matchup. They are two of the top networking-focused certifications offered in the IT industry. There are many similarities between the two, but there are also some important differences. For example, Network+ is vendor-neutral and aims to demonstrate an understanding of fundamental networking concepts, while CCNA focuses exclusively on Cisco tools and products.

While many IT professionals pursuing a career in network infrastructure will ultimately obtain both, knowing which to focus on first will increase your chance of success. Continue reading to learn more and find answers to commonly asked questions regarding these certificates.

What is CompTIA Network+?

For those aspiring to a career in networking, the CompTIA Network+ exam objectives delve deep into the intricacies of networking, covering topics such as network architecture, protocols, cabling, security, and troubleshooting. The Official CompTIA® Network+ certification will teach you the fundamental principles of installing, configuring, and troubleshooting network technologies and help you to progress to a career in network administration.

CompTIA Network+ is the first certification IT professionals specializing in network administration and support should earn. Network+ is aimed at IT professionals with job roles such as network administrator, network technician, network installer, help desk technician, and IT cable installer. Earning this IT credential requires completing the CompTIA Network+ exam.

CompTIA Network+ Exam Details

The CompTIA Network+ exam is 90 minutes long and has, at most, 90 questions. These include a combination of multiple-choice questions, drag-and-drop activities and performance-based items. Questions cover the following topics:

  • OSI and TCP/IP Models
  • Properties of network traffic
  • Installing and configuring switched networks
  • Configuring IP networks
  • Installing and configuring routed networks
  • Configuring and monitoring ports and protocols
  • Explaining application and storage issues
  • Monitoring and troubleshooting networks
  • Explaining attacks and mitigations
  • Installing and configuring security devices
  • Explaining authentication and access controls
  • Deploying and troubleshooting cabling solutions
  • Implementing and troubleshooting wireless technologies
  • Compare and contrast WAN technologies
  • Using remote access methods
  • Identifying site policies and best practices

Network+ Career Paths

This is the first certification IT professionals specializing in network administration and support should earn. Network+ is aimed at IT professionals with job roles such as network administrator, network technician, network installer, help desk technician, and IT cable installer. This CompTIA certification is also a stepping stone towards more advanced certifications.

A typical student taking the CompTIA Network+ course should have a minimum of nine months of professional computer support experience as a PC or help desk technician. To ensure your success in this course, you should possess basic Windows® and Linux® user skills and a fundamental understanding of computer and networking concepts.

What is Cisco CCNA?

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is a certification that evaluates a candidate's knowledge of implementation and troubleshooting skills associated with networking with Cisco equipment. The CCNA certification proves you have a broad range of knowledge fundamental for all IT careers. This industry knowledge includes understanding how to install, operate, configure, and verify a basic IPv4 and IPv6 network.

CCNA is a DoD standard certification and holds a high degree of respect in the IT industry because it evaluates not only a candidate's knowledge of IT principles but also their abilities and skillset in using Cisco networking equipment.

Cisco CCNA Exam Details

It costs $300 to take the Cisco CCNA certification exam. The exact number of questions on the Cisco CCNA can vary but is typically around 100 questions. You will have 120 minutes to complete the exam and must answer approximately 80% of the answers correctly to pass.

Passing this exam and earning the CCNA certification will require you to demonstrate comprehension of the following areas:

  • Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity
  • Network access
  • Network fundamentals
  • Security fundamentals
  • IP services
  • Automation and programmability

Accreditation holders must retest every three years to maintain certification.

Comparing the Certifications

Level and Difficulty

Comparative analysis of the difficulty level of both certifications

Ideal candidates for each certification

CompTIA Network+ vs CCNA

What are the Career Paths for each Certification?

A person's salary will vary based on their employer, experience, job title and duties. The CCNA certification provides an in-depth understanding of Cisco Systems and can specialize your career. As such, an IT professional with a CCNA certification often achieves positions with higher salaries. Here are just a few job positions held by those with these certifications and their median salaries, according to Salary.com and Glassdoor.

Network+

  • Network Administrator average $66,882 annually
  • Network Support Specialists average $53,530 annually
  • Network Analyst: average $65,527 annually

CCNA

  • Network Security Analysts average $87,000 annually
  • Security Consultants Average $103,000 annually
  • Security Engineers Average $116,000 annually

Cost and Investment

Participating in a preparatory course and successfully completing either exam requires time and money. The cost of completing the Network+ exam will likely feel more significant because it is designed for people with little to no IT experience. The Cisco CCNA exam is designed for experienced IT professionals who can likely better afford to pay for a class and the exam.

It costs $300 to take the Cisco CCNA certification exam. Students who want to take the Network+ exam must purchase an exam voucher for $338. This exam requires you to pay for another voucher if you need to retake the certification exam.

To make good on the investment, it is advised that you study thoroughly before taking the exam to reduce the likelihood of failing and needing to purchase a new voucher. There are packages of study materials designed to help you pass exams for credentials like CompTIA Network+. Take this additional expense into account if you decide to pursue the Network+ exam.

Which is more Practical?

It is easy to make the case for either certification being more practical. There are real-world use cases where one might apply better than the other.

Network+

  • Breadth: Network+ gives a broader, vendor-neutral introduction to networking. This means that the knowledge gained can be applied more universally, irrespective of the specific products or brands in use.
  • Foundational Knowledge: It covers fundamental networking concepts such as network design, configuration, troubleshooting, maintenance, and security.
  • Entry-Level Positions: The practical skills from Network+ typically prepare individuals for more basic roles, like help desk technicians or IT/network technicians.

CCNA

  • Depth: CCNA provides a deeper understanding of networking, especially in the context of Cisco-specific technologies and infrastructures.
  • Vendor-specific: Since Cisco is a dominant player in the networking industry (holding 41% of the enterprise network infrastructure market as of 2022), the skills learned in the CCNA are directly applicable to many enterprises using Cisco products.
  • Advanced Topics: The CCNA curriculum includes automation, network programmability, and configuration of Cisco hardware and software solutions. It also covers areas like routing and switching, security, and more.

Making the Decision

Both CCNA and Network+ allow you to study at your own pace or join preparation classes before taking the exam. Here are a few critical things to consider before deciding which certification to complete first.

Personal Career Goals: Are you just starting out in IT and want to ultimately specialize in networking? Whether you are new to IT or just want a broader understanding of this specialty before committing to it, Network+ might be the better choice. It provides a comprehensive introduction to networking without delving too deep into vendor-specific details. You can then potentially progress to CCNA if you decide you’d like to specialize in networking.

Industry Demand

Something to consider is the demand for IT professionals with skills and expertise related to emerging technologies. For roles that require an understanding of newer networking technologies, especially automation and programmability, CCNA would be more advantageous. This is due to its focus on automation, network programmability, and Cisco's proprietary technologies.

Long-term Prospects

CCNA will ultimately be more valuable to an enterprise network that uses Cisco technology. If an organization primarily uses Cisco products, a CCNA-certified individual would be better equipped to handle, troubleshoot, and optimize Cisco-specific equipment and technologies.

In businesses where there's a mix of different networking equipment from various vendors, someone with Network+ might have an advantage because of their vendor-neutral training. They would have a foundational understanding of networking that isn't tied to a specific brand.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a few key differences and similarities between CompTIA Network+ and CCNA. They are both valued throughout the industry, but they each hold more value depending on your career goals and experience level. Cisco CCNA is more advanced and designed for IT professionals with practical networking experience. It is better suited to those who want to work specifically with Cisco systems and products, while Network+ is an excellent starting point for more advanced study as a networking professional.

Both certificates can be valuable assets to validate your capabilities and open up new opportunities for your career. Before you choose which one to complete, be honest about what your experience level is and what type of position you ultimately want.

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