The scent of coffee was enough to wake me as I drove to the eye doctor. I didn’t have an eye appointment. It was my first hands on experience with Cisco hardware. With coffee fueling my blood and a wide eyed excitement, I knew I needed to study for a networking certification during my off hours.
Cisco CCNA is advantageous to candidates as it teaches both vendor specific and general network technologies to make them job ready. Although the CompTIA Network+ derives from the Cisco landscape, it only prepare candidates for computer networking without vendor specificity.
With coffee beside me, my off hours would be filled with countless hours of studying about network technologies. The dialogue of CompTIA vs Cisco became irrelevant as I decided to to do both. But I’m glad I took the CompTIA Network+ first.
CompTIA Network+. Fundamentals First.
CompTIA Network+ is known for not choosing a side when it comes to vendors. In reality, you can’t work in networking technologies without vendor partiality. This is why you’ll see overlap between networking technologies mentioned in CompTIA found in Cisco.
Because of this lack of vendor specificity, Network+ leads in understanding computer networks in general. It finds the middle ground that many vendors have about networks, and teaches that.
For instance, how data travels through an ethernet cord is basically done in the same way with all vendors. Light or electricity is sent out in a pattern that will be recognized at the end of the cords. And there you have it folks, you have what’s called computer networking.
My technology career started with a process. Tech support to engineer. The same goes with my certifications. In networking, I started with CompTIA Network+. It was considered the easiest networking certificate you could take. From there, I took the CCNA.
Looking back, this really helped me solidify my knowledge about network technologies. These stepping stones allowed me to understand the fundamentals of network technologies. From an explicit perspective, I have seen it help in the work place, because theory comes into play when you have to complexity to troubleshoot.
I would suggest anyone starting a networking career to start with CompTIA Network+ and then work on a vendor specific certification. Because Cisco is the industry standard, that would be generally advised as a next step.
Fundamentals of CompTIA and Cisco
CompTIA is a vendor neutral education facilitator. I know that’s a mouthful, but that’s the best way I can describe it. They facilitate careerists in learning something useful for their career. The focus is mostly in tech or tech adjacent industries.
For examples, below are a list of certifications available by CompTIA:
The list goes on. These are the ones I recognize the most in my IT experience. As you can see they are mostly technically inclined certifications. Project+ is the exception, but it is technically adjacent as it teaches project management with the IT perspective.
You can also note that they are not specific to computer networking education. For instance, Network+, will be the certification heaviest with network technology based concepts.
Cisco is all network technology based concepts. It not only provides education for careerists, but it is also a leader in practice. They are the pioneers of computer networking, and thus their technologies become standard for many other vendors.
In simpler terms, Cisco commonly creates protocols that becomes standard in IEEE. Other vendors will then take this protocol and adopt it into their own tech as to not fall behind in the networking industry.
A lot of the ‘fundamentals’ in computer networking is because Cisco has implemented it into practice. Their influence is so great that it must either become standard with other vendors, or other vendors will have to create derivatives of the technology.
As far as certifications go, Cisco also has a list. All of them are based specifically for computer networking. Each certificate has a specialty in the subcategories of network technologies. Here are some of the certifications in their list:
- CCNA Routing and Switching
- CCNA Data Center
- CCNA Security
- CCNP Routing and Switching
- CCNP Data Center
- CCNP Security
- CCIE Routing and Switching
- CCIE Security
- CCIE Data Center
The list goes on. As you can see, the certifications start with a CCNX or CCIE: CCNX Security, CCIE Security, etc. The CCNX stands for Cisco Certified Networking X, where the CCIX stands for Cisco Certified Interoperability Expert. This just goes to show the breadth of computer networking focus Cisco has.
When it comes to popularity, CCNA Routing and Switching is their most prized certification. This is the allure that brings most technologists into their fold.
Cisco Certified Networking Associate – Routing and Switching
The Cisco Certified Networking Associate Routing and Switching is more commonly known as the CCNA. When people say “I have my CCNA” they don’t mean CCNA Data Center or CCNA Security, they are referring to the CCNA with a focus on Routing and Switching. This is because it is the most fundamental certification with Cisco that provides and overall view of how communication works on any network.
If you have a future in computer networking, you will likely end up having this certification first before pursuing any other certification.
As I’ve already mentioned, the Network+ isn’t as vendor specific as Cisco’s certification, it does derive many of it’s technologies from Cisco’s hegemony.
It’s possible to completely bypass the Network+ and go straight into a CCNA. It seems if you know the CCNA, you will know the Network+. If you’re employer requires the Network+, it’s a good idea to take it too. As it’s a good stepping stone to the CCNA. There is a degree under Western Governors University that will require the Network+ and the CCNA. It’s advised to take the Network+ first.
Network+ vs CCNA
I think I’ve been pretty thorough comparing these to certificates. But as a refresher, I’ll summarize it through bulleted points.
- A great first step into a vendor specific certification
- Provides a general understanding of computer networking
- Vendor neutral
- If you understand the CCNA, you will understand Network+
- Specific to Cisco technologies
- Provides leading guidelines for all network technologies
My First Steps into Network Tech (Plug)
Before I found myself sipping coffees to install Cisco hardware at offices for eye doctors, I delivered pizzas.
In the time between these professions, I attempted and did not succeed at going to a local state university.
Despite a complete pivot from the food industry followed by a failure in traditional education, I became successful as far as an IT career goes.
Certifications like the Network+ and the CCNA played a big part in helping me climb up the IT ladder.
I have been in moments that would have amazed me when I first started out in IT. For example, I have turned down a $200k yearly package. I never thought I would ever have made it to that point, but I did.
In 5 years, I was able to make six figures in IT. I could have done it faster looking back.
If you’re interested in the insights I’ve had along the way, please consider supporting my writing for the price of a coffee.
My years of experience have been condensed into a few tips with an e-book I’ve created, a “6-Figure Guide to Info Tech.”