Network+ or CCNA? Increase Your Odds with Network+
In my seven years of being an IT practitioner, I have been many things: An engineer, an administrator, an educator, and most of all I have been and continue to be a student. Learning to learn is probably one of the utmost skillsets to have in the network technology or IT space. You’ll see it first hand as you study for network certifications like the Network+ or CCNA. But when you’re first starting out, it’s important to have a good grounding in networks with the Network+.
Network+ is the vendor neutral network certification. It provides a foundation in the network technology space without going into detail on a specific company’s technology. Whereas the CCNA is a network certification that is specific to Cisco’s technology. For someone who is leaning into a new networking carer, it is important to have a good network technology framework by starting with the Network+.
To be honest, I was gung-ho about starting my networking career. I thought the sooner I get the CCNA, the faster I’ll climb the network career ladder and get that CCNA salary. After a few days of studying, it was obvious to me that there was basic knowledge I just lacked. I mean, it was OBVIOUS, in caps, I just didn’t have a clue what I was studying. There is simply no way to pass a more advanced network certification, without starting at the basics.
CCNA without Network+ is a Setup for Failure
Are you trying to pass the CCNA? Do you want to move up the ranks of networking world? My advice, don’t skip the first things.
The first things, are the basic concepts, that allow you to step into more advanced and abstract ideas. Like anything, you have to learn to crawl before you run marathons.
This is especially true in your network certifications. Before the CCIE, you have to have the CCNA. Before the CCNA, you need to get your Network+.
UNLESS… If you have a few years of network technology experience, you should be fine with jumping right into the CCNA.
If you jump directly into the CCNA without experience, or without having the Network+, you will spend a lot of time feeling overwhelmed. This overwhelm can become incapacitating. You’ll spend time learning both generic ports, protocols, and hardware like IPS, IDS, Switches, Hubs, Routers, and at the same time learning how they specifically work with Cisco. Trust me, it’s better off to start with the first things only.
interface range gig1/0/1 – 48
no switchport trunk
Yeah those above configurations are specific to Cisco. Do you know what a trunk is? What is do write? What’s going on with interface range there? The basics, the theory behind these configurations starts with a good foundation. How can you jump into configuring a Cisco Switch 9300 without knowing what you’re doing and it’s impact to the rest of the network.
With the Network+, you’ll learn the interoperability of network devices, and the environment they are in without going deep into how each thing works. So in a sense, taking the Network+ is an easier route. But it is necessary.
Network+ is Easier and Necessary
CompTIA has a good way of providing core concepts to people new to a particular field. The big field of network certification is not an exception. It takes the complexity of network technology interoperability and makes it more plain and easy to understand.
I know when you’re starting out int IT, it’s easy to be excited. Your eyes are wide and see the opportunities ahead. But you can’t skip steps. Gaps in your knowledge will show and impede you from good work, and getting into the next role. If you haven’t been humbled, you will be when you are trying to take a certification you are not ready for.
The good news with Network+ is that it can become job ready for a networking role and the certification is easier to take than the CCNA.
With the Network+ you’ll be introduced to technologies like switches, routers, hubs, IDS, IPS, firewalls and more. You’ll also see how they all play together. It’s a big picture kind of certification.
You’ll also be introduced to network ports and the OSI Model. This is a good time to memorize these concepts. Knowing these well, will give you a leg up before you start your CCNA. But it also comes in handy for success in real jobs. These technology introductions are tools you can use to help figure out problems you might face in a networking environment.
You Can Take Career Strides with Network+
Let’s say you have a few months experience in some sort of customer support role. Then you take the Network+. Can you get a network related job with the Network+?
You won’t be able to get a role as a Network Architect, but the good news is you can begin the journey. A lot of entry level networking jobs has a lot to do with support. You’ll be supporting at home customers, or even customers in an enterprise. The important thing is you need to just start somewhere. In each job you can find a specialty you can focus on, couple it with studies and slingshot your way into the next position.
But before you get to the next position in a network career. Let’s start at the beginning. Support is a big role in the early levels of your network technology career. You’ll have customers calling you, or you’ll get tickets in which you have to solve others’ problems. Sometimes these problems can be simple like turning their devices off and on again, and other times they will be more complex – in which case you’ll learn how to escalate the problem to the next level.
For an entry level network position, here are jobs you can get with just the Network+ certification:
- Network Support Technician
- Network Administrator
- Network Analyst
- Help Desk for Network Technologies
These will all have a learning curve for the first few months. You should also begin a higher level certification like the CCNA during this time. This is where you’ll begin to excel at understanding what you’re learning and it’s application in real time.
Because it’s an early level position, don’t expect a six figure salary from the start. Expect a conservative salary of $45,000. But, play your cards right, you’ll be able to double that in a couple of years. Probably less.
Field Engineer quotes someone with a Network+ at a salary of $62,000. This isn’t far fetched, but I like to be conservative. You might have to get a job at a bigger city to command this salary at the start.
Blast Off with the CCNA (And a plug)
In your first year of being in the network technology field, you should immediately go after the CCNA. Especially if you’re trying to climb the network technology ladder.
I was able to break $100,000 within 5 years being in information technology. I started denying $200k income packages in the 6th or 7th (I was abroad during this time too).
If I were to do it all over again to hit the six figure mark, I would do three things:
- Pivot quickly – Job hop every 6 months.
- Learn Faster – Use momentum from getting the Network+, to get the CCNA and CCNP in the first two years.
- Move – Then move to a city like Dallas, Denver, or somewhere in Silicon Valley. (Any big IT cities)
If I followed that plan, there would be no doubt in my mind that I would be able to land a six figure job in the first two years.
But before you start thinking so far ahead, you have to begin with first things. If this is something you want, then start with getting the Network+. It will increase your odds of success in cutting your teeth in the network technology career field, as well as getting the CCNA.
Here’s the plug: I created an e-book which I’ve put years of my technology career insights into. Feel free to support my writing at the price of a cup of coffee.