IT certifications are a great way to show potential employers that you have a competitive edge over your counterparts. By having a credible accreditor vouch for your competence within a domain, you can increase your chances of winning jobs at leading companies. There are certifications for almost every technological niche; for cloud computing, we have the AWS Solution Cloud Architect and the VMware VCP7; for distributed computing aspirants, HDP, and MapR are the go-to certifications; and for a career in data science, the Certified Analytics Professional and Dell Technologies Data Scientist Associate certifications are top choices. Similarly, if you explore the realms of computer networks, two names that are bound to pop up are the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician) and the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certifications. In this article, we will compare the two to see what value each offers.
Both CCENT and CCNA certifications are offered by Cisco; one of the leading names in the IT and networking infrastructure industry. Both require candidates to pass a rigorous exam and both are valid for 3 years. However, there are plenty of differences that separate the two. Depending on your experience level and career aspirations, you can decide which one to pursue.
First, the CCENT Certification:
The CCENT certification is the bedrock for a successful career in networking. It’s an entry-level certification that equips students with the fundamentals of installing, operating, securing, maintaining, and troubleshooting small-to-medium enterprise networks. CCENT has no prerequisites and requires candidates to pass the ICND1 exam.
The CCNA Certification:
The CCNA group of certifications is aimed at candidates who have a basic understanding of administering business networks, and want to expand on it. A CCNA certification holder knows how to manage, administer, troubleshoot, and secure medium-to-large enterprise networks, along with wide area networks (WANs). It represents the second tier of Cisco accreditations; the associate level. Here, aspirants can choose between different technological flavors for the certification: cloud, collaboration, switching and routing, security, service provider, data center, industrial, voice, and wireless. Aspirants also have a choice when it comes to taking the CCNA exam. They can either take the composite exam, which combines both ICND1 and ICND2 exams; or they can take them both individually.
Even though most students first pass the ICND1 exam to attain the CCENT certification, prior to passing the ICND2 exam and becoming CCNA certified; taking this route is not mandatory. You can simply take the composite CCNA exam, and forego the CCENT certification if you want.
Differences Between CCNA and CCENT:
Now that we know what the two certifications are all about, let’s take a deeper look at how they both differ:
As we saw above, the main difference between the two certifications is the depth of scope. The CCENT certification introduces you to the world of networking, whereas the more cumbersome topics and concepts are covered in the CCNA certification. If we get down to specifics, here is a non-exhaustive list of the topics covered in the CCENT certification:
- Connecting to a WAN
- Networking fundamentals
- Static routing and dynamic routing with RIPv2
- Routing and Switching fundamentals
- OSI and TCP/IP models
- IP Addressing
- WAN technologies, connections, and encapsulation.
- Configuring and operating Cisco routers and switches.
- Basic Security principles and best practices
- Basic Wireless Concepts
- Network Address Translation (NAT) and DHCP fundamentals.
And those in CCNA:
- Variable length subnet mask.
- Extending switched networks using virtual LANs (VLANs)
- Configuring, securing, and troubleshooting VLANs.
- IPv6 addressing.
- Dynamic Routing Protocols- Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP) and Open Shortest Path First (OSPF).
- Implementing, verifying, and troubleshooting NAT.
- Layer 2 Protocols- VLAN Trunking Protocol (VTP) and Rapid Spinning Tree Protocol (RSTP).
- Basics of VPN protocol.
- Troubleshooting of all the aforementioned protocols.
- Security with access control lists.
- Establishing point-to-point and Frame Relay WAN connections.
Level of Understanding:
As we can see in the breadth of topics mentioned above, the CCENT certification merely covers the nitty-gritty of the networking and routing world. You get to know the basics of the OSI model, the fundamentals of implementing network security, the basics of NAT and DHCP, and a bit about the routing and switching of data. However, in the CCNA certification, more complicated concepts like IPv6 addressing and dynamic routing protocols are introduced. You get to understand how VPNs work, and how you can restrict unwanted access using it. You are also educated regarding the importance of VLANs in the modern IT infrastructures. All in all, a CCENT certification guarantees an entry-level knowledge about the management of small-to-medium sized enterprise networks, whereas a CCNA certification ups the ante and equips a candidate with the knowledge to manage comparatively larger switched and routed networks.
The CCENT certification can be attained by passing one exam; the ICND1. Cisco recommends studying the “Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices Part 1” course. You get 90 minutes to attempt the exam, and there are between 45 to 55 questions to answer. The fee for appearing in the exam is $125.
Conversely, as mentioned above, you can become CCNA certified either by taking a composite exam (200-125 CCNA), or by taking two exams: the ICND1 and the ICND2. “Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices Part 1” and “Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices Part 2” are the recommended courses for this exam. In the composite exam, you get 50-60 questions and a time limit of 90 minutes. It costs $250.
On the other hand, if you choose to take two individual exams, you will basically be attaining the CCENT certification prior to taking the ICND2 exam. The ICND2 exam contains between 55-65 questions and runs for 90 minutes. The cost for appearing in the ICND2 is also $125.
Both CCENT and CCNA certifications can prove to be beneficial for candidates looking to excel in the world of computer networking. CCENT is perfect for people looking to win entry-level network management and engineering positions, and also acts as a stepping stone for the more advanced, CCNA. Whether you should clinch the CCENT certification prior to the CCNA certification depends on your self-evaluation and career goals.