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Roadmap to Success: Cisco CCDA

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Roadmap to Success is a series of posts designed to help learners better understand certification pathways, career opportunities associated with those certifications, and next steps beyond certification.

The Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) is designed as a certification to affirm a learner’s fundamental network design skills. These design skills are crucial in enterprise network environments where performance, availability, and scalability with flexibility to meet constantly (and rapidly) evolving demands are a necessity. Typically, job roles for which this certification is intended include network engineer, systems engineer, network architect, and more.

Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)
The Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) certification is focused on design methodologies and objectives, addressing and routing protocols, and network expansion considerations within basic campus, data center, security, voice, and wireless networks. The CCDA is an entry-level certification. However, we recommend that learners have 1-2 years of networking experience, and/or consider pursuing the CCNA Routing and Switching certification prior to embarking on the design path.

The CCDA is made up of two exams, both of which are covered by CBT Nuggets training:

*Please note that either the CCENT or CCNA Routing and Switching can satisfy the prerequisite for the CCDA certification. Learners who have earned their CCNA Routing and Switching certification need only take the CCDA 200-310 DESGN exam to complete the certification.

Exam Details
Each exam required for the CCDA certification is detailed below.

Time allotted for exam: 1.5 hours (90 minutes)
Number of questions:45-55 questions per exam
Passing score: Cisco does not publish the passing score for its exams
Question types: Multiple choice/single answer; Multiple choice/multiple answer; Drag and drop; Fill-in-the-blank; Simulation; Testlet; Simlet
Exam registration:Pearson VUE
Exam cost: $150 (USD)*
*Learn more about exam fees from Pearson VUE
Exam topics: Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (100-105) (free resource)

Time allotted for exam: 1.25 hours (75 minutes)
Number of questions: 55-65 questions
Passing score: Cisco does not publish the passing score for its exams
Question types: Multiple choice/single answer; Multiple choice/multiple answer; Drag and drop; Fill-in-the-blank; Simulation; Testlet; Simlet
Exam registration: Pearson VUE
Exam cost: $250 (USD)*
*Learn more about exam fees from Pearson VUE
Exam topics: Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions (200-310) (free resource)

Cisco’s Associate-level certifications, including CCDA, are valid for three years from the date of certification. Learners can recertify by passing any current Cisco Associate-level exam,  642-XXX or 300-XXX exam, any CCIE written exam, CCDE written or practical exam, or the CCAr interview and the CCAr board review.

The Next Step
Many learners who earn their CCDA certification will choose to continue to advance their careers in network design, and within the Cisco universe. Therefore, many will choose to pursue the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) certification, made up of three exams, two of which are currently covered by CBT Nuggets training, with the third coming soon!

Some learners may choose to go even further, pursuing the CCDE certification. Unfortunately, CBT Nuggets does not currently provide training for the CCDE exams.

Some learners may choose to diversify their certification vitae/resume by pursuing certifications that fall outside the scope of Cisco products. The most popular network design certifications pursued by CBT Nuggets learners often include:

Career Considerations provides a helpful salary guide to help learners determine appropriate pay scales for job opportunities associated with the CCDA. Depending on professional experience, an employee who holds a CCDA certification can earn, on average, $71,000. reports a range of salaries for employees holding the CCDA certification between $39,732 and $142,980. Roles that are common for those holding a CCDA certification include network engineer, senior network engineer, systems engineer, senior systems engineer, solutions architect, and more.

Cisco Certifications
Cisco certifications are layered, with each layer building upon the knowledge and skills developed at previous layers — structurally designed as a pyramid. The layers are Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert, and Architect. Associate-level certifications include Cloud, Collaboration, Data Center, Design, Industrial, Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, and Wireless.

Once a learner has earned an Associate-level certification, they are eligible to pursue Cisco Certified Network Professional-level certifications. Cisco offers a variety of Professional-level certifications, including Design Professional (CCDP), Cloud, Collaboration, Data Center, Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, and Wireless.

Finally, learners can choose to pursue Expert-level certifications, which include Design Expert (CCDE), Collaboration, Data Center, Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, and Wireless.

Cisco provides an excellent certification pathway document that succinctly outlines each certification, its prerequisites, and related careers. Please note that the most recent version of the document does not include the recently released Cisco Collaboration certifications, but you can learn more about the Collaboration path from our previous blog post.

Concluding Thoughts
As networks and workplaces continue to evolve, IT professionals who can deliver well-designed, flexible networks that ensure performance, availability, and scalability, are increasingly in demand. The CCDA demonstrates your ability to design an effective network, which is a critical skill for any networking professional. Design the career of your dreams with the CCDA to create exciting professional opportunities!

Watch. Learn. Conquer the CCDA!


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