Can You CCNA Without a Degree?
A Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is important in your path to being a networking engineer. The exam prepares you for working with different technologies, network environments, and networking ideas.
The CCNA certification is administered by Cisco and you don’t need any formal prerequisites. However, to take the exam, you will need at least a year of experience implementing Cisco solutions and an understanding of networking principles.
For an entry-level certificate, the CCNA exam can be difficult to pass, even for degree holders. The key to passing is in making adequate preparations before you sit for the exams.
First Steps to a CCNA When You Don’t Have a Degree
If you’re considering studying for the CCNA exam but you don’t hold a bachelor’s degree, you could consider focusing on the following preparations. Frankly, these steps are valid for anyone studying for the CCNA certification exam, whether or not you have a degree in any field.
Start With a Basic Networking Course
If you’re new to IT and cybersecurity then you probably have no experience or knowledge in computer networking. Jumping right into studying CCNA content may become challenging if you don’t possess the basic knowledge.
To better prepare for the CCNA exam, start by studying some networking basics. With a basic networking course, you get to test your passion and aptitude for the field.
You may very well discover you have no interest in pursuing CCNA. If you still want to do the CCNA exam, you will have acquired the foundational knowledge to build upon on your journey to becoming a networking engineer.
Take the CompTIA Network+ First
CompTIA Network+ bears many similarities with CCNA. Except for CompTIA you don’t have to prepare so much nor do you need to have hands-on experience. Therefore you can quickly start building your certifications even as you prepare to tackle the CCNA exams.
Additionally, the CompTIA Network+ certification validates your networking skills and is evidence that you have successfully learned networking fundamentals. The CompTIA Network+ certification also makes a great first impression during job interviews and easily qualifies you for IT operational and technical support positions.
Download Cisco’s Packet Tracer
Your most impactful tool when studying for CCNA exams is the CCNA Packet Tracer. This software allows you to practice computer lab material using virtual equipment.
If you’re self-studying, download the software as early as possible. Even if you’re studying CCNA at an institution with instructors, your instructors are most likely using the software for guidance. Keep in step by having your own copy and regularly referring to it.
Even if you have access to a real networking lab with physical equipment, the Packet Tracer software will guide your self-study efforts.
The software is free for anyone to download and use. While the program has some limitations, it is a great tool for practicing with mockup network topologies and experimenting with different configurations.
Practice Configuring a Home Network
You can set up a Wi-Fi network or small-office wireless network without investing too much on new equipment. Modern devices and equipment are inexpensive and readily available. Plus, most gadgets already come with a wide array of in-built networking protocols and connectivity options.
For instance, most portable gadgets come equipped with switch ports, encryptions, firewalls, DHCP, routing, VLANS, NAT, and many other connectivity features. Trying out all these features will quickly gain you the knowledge and experience you need to understand CCNA study content and examinable concepts.
Experiment with Virtual Labs
As you study your CompTIA Network+ content and CCNA study material, you will come across many examples of computer labs. You can also find a seemingly infinite number of labs online and in the Cisco Packet Tracer. Go through the labs and set up as many as you can. You may also try designing your own labs to fit different networking scenarios.
The Packet Tracer has a wide variety of labs and instructions of varying complexity. The labs provide an exciting yet risk-free platform to practice at your own pace. The most successful CCNA students spend most of their time with labs more than any other type of course study material.
Practice with Real Equipment
As you become more adept at setting up labs and home or small office networks, you need to scale up. Look for opportunities to practice with actual equipment.
If you’re studying from a college or high school, the IT lab administrators may allow you some practice time. However, if practicing at a real lab isn’t possible you may have to invest in buying a few devices.
For your practice sessions, you can buy second hand devices online. Please note that during exams you won’t have to use real equipment. Actually, most CCNA exam takers go through the whole course without ever practicing on real equipment. However, if you have the opportunity to practice with real equipment, you are likely to gain more insights than anyone relying fully on simulation software.
Is CCNA without A Degree Enough To Get a Job?
Many companies still prefer hiring candidates with a computer science degree or related field in addition to CCNA qualification. However, the IT industry has always favored skill, talent, and experience over paper qualifications.
If you have relevant networking experience or have created an infrastructure of note, then you have an advantage over a degree holder who lacks hands-on experience.
Also, keep in mind that employers looking for a Cisco certification holder are likely looking for an employee with very particular skill sets. A degree holder would have a much wider knowledge range but may not have the skills to work with a particular system.
That said, if you have a CCNA without a bachelor’s degree, prepare to work harder and prove yourself more in order to attract promotions. A degree is in most instances a pathway to career success while CCNA gets your foot in the door at a lower position.
Even without a bachelor’s degree, you can study and sit for the CCNA exam. With the preparations outlined in this post, you can increase your chances of passing the exams the first time.
With regular practice, especially using real equipment and lab simulations, you can quickly learn the skills to become a networking professional. Many modern employers value skill and experience over academic qualifications, so practice hard and frequently.