As a Techie: Difference Between CCNA and CCNP
As an aspiring technician you already have an idea of the technical differences between the CCNA and the CCNP. You’re probably wondering what the difference is for your career. When I was starting out in the technology world, I new I wanted to level up with certifications. It was only in hindsight when I realized the real value of what certification is best suited for your IT path.
The difference between the CCNA and CCNP is the amount of content involved. Where the CCNP expounds upon routing and switching technologies, the CCNA provides the fundamentals of interconnectivity. They are sequenced to be taken in order to emulate a network career path. The CCNA is best suited for the early technologist to later take the CCNP for the more advanced technologist.
When I first got my CCNA, I was enthusiastic because of the opportunities it would give me. I was surrounded around people certified with CCNPs as well, I knew the next step up would be to take the CCNP. It was a perfect opportunity to learn about new concepts as well as talk the same language as the people around.
5 Distinctions Between the CCNA and CCNP
There’s technical differences you can read about online, and there are also differences you can only know about through experience. I thought I’d also give you a bit of my perspective in what differences I’ve seen in these certifications.
- Technical Difference – A quick Google search will show you that the CCNA is the primary certification that prepares you to install and configure medium sized environments. Whereas the CCNP is an intermediate certification that expands the configuration environment to more than 500 network devices.
- Stepping Stone – If you’re moving up the network career path, you’ll need to walk before you run. The CCIE is the ultimate example of running. But you’re probably not there yet. Start with the CCNA to get a basic primer of this network world, then get the CCNP. With job experience, you can better understand the material covered from one certification to the next.
- Job Opportunities – Guess which certification has more opportunities? Surprising enough, it will be the CCNA. As of the time of this writing, an Indeed search of CCNA provides a count of 8,016 jobs. The CCNP only outputs a count of 3,623 jobs. However don’t let that fool you, the concepts in the CCNP fits you into a more elite pool that can demand higher salaries and qualify for CCNA roles.
- Dedicated Study Time – The new CCNA is one exam. It goes over more abstract concepts now like network programmability and automation. Even though it has expanded, it won’t take as long to study as the CCNP. The CCNP is a two part exam. You’ll have to separate study sessions before you take the exams for the CCNP, which means more study time.
- Experience – Finally is the experience. I would recommend taking the CCNA and getting some IT experience under your belt before the CCNP. Getting the CCNP before the CCNA without experience, will make interviews more difficult and longevity at a CCNP job short lived. You’ll need the experience with the CCNA first.
Your probably also wondering the difficulty lessons in these two certifications. I covered some of that in the dedicated study time point above, but I’ll go over it in more detail. There’s more to be said in difficulty levels than the amount of time it takes to get the certification.
Difficulty Between the CCNA and CCNP
If you’ve read my other articles, you’ll see a trend where I talk about the A+ being one of the most difficult certifications I’ve taken. It’s not a common point of view because it covers the most simplistic technology concepts. The point of my opinion is being accustomed.
Something new is strange, something strange is scary. And that can be difficult. Kind of like the dread of jumping in a cold river for the first time. After a few plunges in, you get used to the experience. The temperature of the water hasn’t changed, but your mindset has.
The same goes with the CCNA and the CCNP. I do want to provide a disclaimer, I’m only CCNA certified but I have studied for the CCNP. Personally, I think the CCNP has been easier to study for. There is more to cover to get these certifications, but the ideas in it are something I have become used to – partly because I already have a CCNA, but mostly because of the experience I have had.
I found the CCNA a lot harder to study for because at the time, my network experience was limited. There was so much theory to learn without being able to relate to it in a useful way.
For someone starting a network technology career, the CCNA may get you a job where you have ‘imposter syndrome.’ But don’t worry, over time you’ll get used to the job and the concepts in the CCNA will become more concrete.
Let’s Talk Salary for the CCNA and CCNP
I have had coworkers with a CCNP who I knew made significantly more money than I did. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t comfortably since I was in the six figure salary club as well. They were just on another level.
My experience is anecdotal at best. So let me provide you some data I’ve found. According to InfoSec Institute, someone with a CCNA can start with around a $66,000 annual salary. On PayScale the data shows $96,000 for someone with a CCNP.
That’s not enough though. Don’t interpret this data as blanket statement. As someone with a CCNA can be working a help desk job that has nothing to do with network technology.
I have know a CCNA and CCNP certification to command double that what is showed in the statistics found online. You can even find this to be the case among the anecdotal stories of Redditors and forum posters who are in an actual network related role.
I am an outlier, but I say this to provide an example. With a CCNA, I was able to command around a $200k annum package. The data around the CCNA and CCNP salary always requires interpretation.
But my experience has shown that the CCNP has commanded higher salaries than that of the CCNA. Even with my income being an outlier.
My CCNA Experience
I have been studying for the CCNP as this is the next career progression. Previously my goal in IT was to make six figures. I was able to do that. My expectations with the CCNP is to push me higher into the six figure range. I’ve learned the tools and the secrets of this industry to command a very high income.
In my years in IT, I’ve learned that there are differences in what your next steps are. For instance from an A+ you can take the step to the Network+ to level up. Same goes for the CCNA to CCNP.
If I knew earlier in my career, what I know now, I would have studied harder for the Cisco certifications much quicker. This is not necessarily the case for everyone though. My advice is to look at your experience, and see what the best opportunity is to pivot into.
For more information into navigating the technology world, feel free to check out my e book. At the price of the cup of coffee, you can help support my writing as well as get insights into my thoughts of the IT industry in a “6-Figure Guide to Info Tech.“