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Cisco speaks on  CCNA - responses from Don Field, Director of Certifications at Cisco

Cisco's CCNA certification (Cisco Certified Network Associate), the most popular Cisco certification is an entry-level certification. 

The CCNA can be used as a starting point for higher level certifications and "indicates a foundation in and apprentice knowledge of networking".

Since it was first introduced the CCNA has gone through quite a few changes. The last change included the introduction of a two exam path (INTRO and ICND) an alternative to the one exam path (CCNA).

Don Field, Director of Certifications at Cisco, responds to questions on Cisco's CCNA program. He provides unique insights on CCNA and other critical issues relating to Cisco certifications.

He explains the reasoning behind certification concepts used by Cisco as well as the two-step approach introduced in the CCNA program. 1. What led to the development of the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) program and who is the target audience? What level of experience and knowledge should prospective candidates have?  

CCNA was developed as a result of a need felt in the industry for Cisco to offer stepping-stones for candidates to work towards the CCIE certification. As the entry-level certification of the Cisco Career Certifications Program, CCNA represents a strong foundation and understanding of IP networking and troubleshooting. The CCNA Certification can be challenging, as it is typically an entry point for those individuals new to IP networking. No preliminary knowledge or experience is expected for the certification; however, candidates should be prepared with hands-on networking skills and networking know-how according to the exam requirements. 2. What is the exam focus of the CCNA certification? What capabilities should one expect of a CCNA certified professional in terms of specific knowledge and skills? 

The CCNA certification (Cisco Certified Network Associate) indicates a foundation in and apprentice knowledge of networking. CCNA certified professionals can install, configure, and operate LAN, WAN, and dial access services for small networks (100 nodes or fewer), including but not limited to use of these protocols: IP, IGRP, Serial, Frame Relay, IP RIP, VLANs, RIP, Ethernet, Access Lists. 3. Cisco made major changes in the CCNA when it introduced the CCNA 640-801 exam as well as the new approach including the INTRO and ICND exams. Can elaborate more on how to presently get CCNA certified and the essence of these changes?  

The enhancements were based on customer feedback, the need for an accessible entry path into the certifications and upgrades to the exam for addressing emerging networking technologies. The revised CCNA 640-801 exam is designed to better assess the networking skills needs in today's industry of entry-level candidates. 

The two-step approach introduced in the CCNA program offers candidates the ability to certify at their own pace and skill levels. The two step approach does not replace the existing one exam option, but enables candidates to achieve the certification in two stages by passing a new Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies (INTRO) exam and a new Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices (ICND) exam to achieve CCNA certification. 4. Can candidates use 640-607 materials to study and pass latest CCNA exam versions?

Cisco recommends pursuing training that is relevant to the exam. Although no specific training is a requirement, however, candidates should ensure that they are preparing according to the current exam objectives and not past ones. 5. Why does Cisco incorporate hands-on labs and simulations in the CCNA exams even though it is still regarded as a foundation level certification?

For all its certifications, Cisco ensures that candidates possess the ability to perform on the job. Having hands-on tasks and simulations on the exam reflects more accurately what the candidate knows. So having those hands-on items on the exam serves to strengthen the reliability of the certifications. 6. "Cisco's tests are extremely difficult, even the "entry-level". To Cisco difficulty seems to mean competence and desirability." How fair are these comments?   

The purpose of creating exams is not to make them "difficult" or "easy" but to test skills that are needed in the marketplace. It may be said that the industry demands more complex and diverse skills today than ever before and the Cisco certification exams reflect that complexity and diversity of content. 7. Sometimes the latest dumps contain over 65% CCNA questions. What is Cisco's policy towards brain dumps?

Securing certification exams is an issue faced by all of the organizations that offer such exams.  We're actively working independently and with others in the industry in efforts to assure exam integrity.  As a result, we're confident that our exams do a very good job of separating those who have the requisite knowledge, skills, and understanding from those who may still have a way to go. 8. Cisco is acknowledged for its strong official press but candidates complain that certain CCNA exams topics such as OSPF are not well treated in Cisco press books.

Sometimes the publishing schedule lags behind an exam release. Cisco attempts to bridge the learning gap of all course and curriculum changes through associated websites, links, or documentation on an ongoing basis. 9. What is the essence of the CCNA recertification policy since it is a foundation level certification?

A sound recertification policy allows Cisco to recognize those who have committed to the networking industry for education and development versus those who have quit the industry altogether and moved on to another profession. Without a recertification program, it is hard to determine whether someone is still practicing in the networking industry and current with the technical skills and knowledge. 10. Why is the CCNA credential so highly respected and popular in the Cisco and Networking fields? How many people have achieved the Cisco CCNA certification?  What is your current estimate of number of people attempting the CCNA exam every month?

Overall, more than 700,000 certifications have been issued by Cisco since the inception of its program. 11. How does the career opportunity landscape look for CCNA certified individuals? Can you give examples of possible career opportunities? 12. In view of the uncertain economic climate and rising unemployment numbers, many are investing in IT certifications to create opportunity for themselves. Quite a few in this category are unemployed graduates with no work experience. What's your advice for people with such backgrounds? Will CCNA provide opportunity for them?  

As in any field, training and development comprise a major component of an individual's development effort. However, experience and interpersonal skills are also key components of career development. 13. After getting CCNA certified, what is Cisco's relationship in terms of professional development with the certified professional?

Cisco Systems has put together a lifelong learning or knowledge sharing community: Cisco Certifications Community ( The purpose of the community is exclusive access to certified individuals to offer them free advice, guidance, information, and input in the area of Cisco networking. Cisco certified individuals may benefit from the expert advice, web casts, games, discussion forums, learning samples, and technology exposure offered free of cost for further career development free of cost. 14. What trends do you see in networking with regards to skills, products and services? And does CCNA fit in?

CCNA will continue to reflect the need of the networking marketplace and offer relevant exam topics to meet today's emerging needs in the networking industry. 15. What plans does Cisco have for CCNA? What does the future hold in terms of updates and related issues?

CCNA is continually being reviewed by experts and developers to stay current with the market needs. 16. Last word: What other tips and advice would you have for students, who are working to get their Cisco CCNA certification?  What would you encourage them to do?

We would encourage them to visit our newly created CCNA Prep Center. This web site can be accessed free of charge by visiting:

The site has been created for those candidates who are not currently certified and seeking to pursue the CCNA certification. It offers free sample questions, expert advice, practice items, tutoring and other engaging content for the benefit of CCNA candidates.  

..... thanks Don  Field, Director of Certification at Cisco Systems for his time as well as for the great work he is doing with Cisco certifications. We also thank Gary Bryd of Cisco Systems and Cara Sloman of Nadel Phelan for making this possible.



The interview was conducted through's IT Resource center:

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COMMENTS for "Cisco speaks on  CCNA":


December 24, 2008


Hassan Oluwaseun Mahmoud  NYSC serving in National Trucks Manufacturers Ltd Kano says:



Thanks very much Jidaw for all this information, It's really helpful for knowledge seekers. You've awakened the giant in me. Keep the good work going. The sky is your starting point!


Felix from Kaduna says:


Another great scoop from jidaw with tremendous insight. I love the part where he says: "The purpose of creating exams is not tomake them "difficult" or "easy" but to test skills that are needed in the marketplace". Ride on Cisco! Ride on Jidaw!




More on Cisco and Cisco Certifications:

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Cisco CCNA Training With this training program Jidaw has taken the Mystery out of CCNA by offering the most affordable, highest quality, Cisco certification training in the industry. To succeed with Jidaw and in your IT Career you must possess the Drive and Motivation to achieve and advance -commitment plus effort.


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