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Pick Your Path to Networking Knowledge: CCNA or Network+

There are many different computer networking certifications, but two stand out as the most popular points of entry to a vital IT industry. Which one should you choose to launch your networking career?

Networking running man conceptNewcomers to the networking field are sometimes confused by the differences between CompTIA’s Network+ certification and a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification. While they look similar at first glance, they do have some differences that make each suitable for some networking engineers, but not for others.

 

Although both are leading foundational IT networking certifications, there is enough difference between them that choosing which to pursue depends on your career objectives. To help you decide which credential is best for starting your networking career, let’s take a brief look at their similarities and differences.

 

Similarities

 

Both CCNA and Network+ are considered industry-leading entry-level networking certifications. Both are intended for newcomers and neither has any prerequisites other than a basic understanding of how a computer system operates. Achieving either certification will require you to pass a computer-based exam that tests your knowledge of networking topics covered by the specific certification guide.

 

This is where the similarities end.

 

Differences

 

To better see the differences between the two certs, we will need to understand their learning content:

 

Network+ is sponsored by CompTIA, a leader in the field of IT certifications. It is a vendor-neutral certification, which means it doesn’t deal only with a specific vendor’s devices or technologies. Its focus is on networking theories rather than how they apply to vendor-specific devices.

 

Because Network+ teaches network fundamentals, without going into too much detail, there are no prerequisites. Also, as a vendor-neutral certificate, the topics covered by Network+ are more general than those covered in CCNA.

 

The credential comprehensively covers general networking knowledge including architecture, operations, and troubleshooting as, well as industry standards and best practices. Practitioners are well versed in the functions of different network devices such as routers, switches, firewalls, and wireless devices, as well as cable types and the various tools for installing and troubleshooting devices. Certified individuals know how to maintain a network using packet analyzers and other interface and device-monitoring tools.

 

Network+ also provides a solid knowledge base of network security covering different security devices — such as firewalls — and how to use them to construct a secure network as well as best practices to harden networks against threats.

 

In addition to a general explanation of networking architecture and operations, a good portion of the training is dedicated to troubleshooting network faults by following established methodologies that best identify network problems, and then fixing them. The certification exam will challenge you to diagnose network problems given different scenarios involving both wired and wireless network devices.

 

For the above reasons, Network+ is a very attractive certification for newcomers with little or no networking knowledge or experience. The credential is helpful for those working in technical support or as helpdesk engineers supporting computer end-users.

 

Network+ is considered a desirable first networking certification to build on before pursuing more advanced networking certifications. Unlike Cisco, however, CompTIA doesn’t offer any advanced networking certifications beyond Network+. This means that you will have to go to a different certification vendor for higher-level certs to advance your networking career.