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What Types of Jobs Can You Get with a CCNA?

Whether you’ve recently passed a CCNA certification, you’re obviously ready to take on more responsibility in a networking role — or maybe specialize. As you start your job hunt, there are specialized job titles associated with the specialized CCNA exams.

Cisco offers 10 CCNA certifications that each validate different skill sets:

  • CCNA Routing and Switching
  • CCDA
  • CCNA Cloud
  • CCNA Collaboration
  • CCNA Cyber Ops
  • CCNA Data Center
  • CCNA Industrial
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Service Provider
  • CCNA Wireless

It’s common to find these certifications folded into the “preferred certifications” sections of a seemingly generic network administrator position. More often than not, job titles aren’t what they seem. Network admin or network engineer are catch-all terms that sometimes belie their specialization. Sometimes, however, employers make it easy to spot a specialized job. In those cases, they’ll use a more precise job title.

Here are a few of those specialized job titles broken out by their required CCNA certification.

CCNA Routing and Switching

The CCNA R&S validates the knowledge and skills an entry-level networking professional would learn in their first couple of years on the job. During that time they’ll usually be in support, help desk, or even performing some system admin functions. The most common job you can get with a CCNA R&S is network administrator.

Job titles associated with CCNA R&S:

  • Network Administrator
  • Network Analyst
  • Systems Administrator

Network administrators are responsible for the so-called pipes of a company’s infrastructure. They’re usually working behind the scenes making sure everything is operating smoothly. System admins deal with computers, operating systems, and people. Network admins deal with routers, switches, and servers. In smaller companies, network admins might be designing networks. But mostly they’ll be managing all the devices that pass traffic around the office and to the outside. In many instances, you’ll see systems positions that also require the CCNA, as well.

CCDA

The Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) is an entry-level certification for design engineers and support technicians who are involved in the design of Cisco networks. The CCDA covers methodologies and considerations to design and secure new networks and to extend existing ones. The CCDA is the initial network design certification step, followed by the Professional (CCDP) and Expert (CCDE) certs. The typical job for a CCDA is a network engineer for a user organization, although the cert is also applicable to sales and systems engineers who work with networking resellers and consulting firms.   

Job titles associated with CCDA:

  • Network Design Engineer
  • Solutions Design Engineer
  • Infrastructure Engineer

It’s also common to the CCDA in the list of preferred certifications for senior networking positions. Network design engineers deal with setting up and managing the performance and security of the organization’s networks. The design engineer specifies the equipment, software, and connections. Network engineers then work with the network admin and support personnel who actually install and operate the network on a day-to-day basis.

CCNA Cloud

As companies increasingly adopt cloud strategies, network and data center professionals must show that they have the knowledge and skills to work with both private and public clouds. The CCNA Cloud certification is related to Cisco-based private and hybrid cloud environments that are based on their cloud infrastructure technologies — Cisco InterCloud, Unified Compute, Unified Fabric, and Unified Storage.

Job titles associated with CCNA Cloud:

  • Network Administrator
  • Cloud Engineer
  • Cloud Architect

It’s not uncommon to also see architect and security positions that prefer a CCNA Cloud certification. The CCNA Cloud certification will validate your cloud skill set to help you get a foothold as a cloud engineer or administrator.  You’ll start by handling basic provisioning and support of your Cisco-based cloud solution. You’ll be expected to monitor utilization and performance and — as you gain experience — recommend steps to improve cloud efficiency, security, and resilience. Because of the prevalence of hybrid cloud setups, CCNA Cloud certification may also be required or preferred for jobs such as network and data center administrator.

CCNA Collaboration

The CCNA Collaboration certification covers Cisco’s primary collaboration solutions — their Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony and video conferencing offerings. These solutions can operate standalone — it’s not essential that they work in conjunction with a Cisco LAN or WAN.  You don’t need your CCNA R&S in order to sit for the CCNA Collaboration cert. Sure, it would help — but it’s not required. You just need to understand the basics of IP networking, as well as the fundamentals of video conferencing and streaming.

Job titles associated with CCNA Collaboration:

  • Collaboration Engineer
  • VoIP Engineer
  • Telecom Engineer
  • Unified Communications Engineer

CCNA Collaboration certification is primarily for VoIP telephony engineers who have to design and operate IP telephone and video conferencing systems. Other common job titles for this cert are Unified Communications Engineer and Collaboration Engineer.

In order to acquire your CCNA Collaboration, you’ll need to pass two exams, the first covering Cisco Unified Communications telephony solutions, the second covering the characteristics of Cisco voice and video over IP solutions, and the practical implementation of a Cisco video conferencing system.

CCNA Cyber Ops

We’re all familiar with the news reports of disastrous IT security breaches. It’s not surprising then that cybersecurity professionals are in-demand. Cybersecurity is a hugely complex field, so organizations are deploying teams of specialists to protect against and detect breaches and respond to incidents. The CCNA Cyber Ops certification will prepare IT professionals such as network and system administrators to get an associate-level job on a cybersecurity team.

Job titles associated with CCNA Cyber Ops:

  • Information Security Analyst
  • Security Engineer
  • Network Security Engineer
  • Cybersecurity Engineer

With security as a key role for most networking positions, CCNA Cyber Ops shows up as an optional certification for more generalized postings. Cybersecurity is a broad and complex topic, so job titles and responsibilities can vary. Roles will be distinct and specialized in large organizations, whereas in small shops, both the analyst and responder roles might fall to a network administrator.

The US Department of Defense (DOD) has approved the CCNA Cyber Ops certification for their CSSP Analyst and CSSP Incident Responder cybersecurity job categories. The security analyst role is focused on the tools, procedures, and controls that need to be in place, whereas an incident responder’s job is to use those tools to recognize and counter threats as they occur.

CCNA Data Center

Today’s data centers are not your father’s data center. Technologies and strategies such as distributed computing, servers and storage virtualization, software-defined networking, automation, and cloud computing have driven massive changes from the modern data center’s mainframe-centric ancestors. The typical data center now is a hive of servers, switches, and software — tightly networked and demanding data center professionals with a broad range of skills.

Job titles associated with CCNA Data Center:

  • Data Center Manager
  • Data Center Network Engineer
  • Data Center Technician

Unlike the CCNA Cyber Ops, Security, and R&S, CCNA Data Center is specialized for a certain environment. The CCNA Data Center certification helps prepare systems and networking admin professionals for a role in a data center. Job titles vary — data center technician is one, but generic titles such as network engineer and systems analyst are also often used. It also helps to earn other certifications for these roles, like VMware, CompTIA, and the CCNA R&S.

As with cybersecurity, data center design and administration covers a wide set of topics — from installation and configuration to maintenance and ongoing operation of the data center infrastructure. The CCNA Data Center cert will help validate your understanding of data center infrastructures, data center networking, storage networking, Unified Computing, network virtualization, data center automation, and Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

CCNA Industrial

When IT enters the realms of factories, chemical plants, oil and gas facilities, laboratories, and the like, you’ll see connections to different kinds of technologies — process control, Internet of Things (IoT), and manufacturing tools. The CCNA Industrial certification is for manufacturing engineers, process control specialists, and plant administrators, as well as traditional network and systems engineers who work with these industrial networks.

Job titles associated with CCNA Data Center:

  • Industrial Network Specialist
  • Industrial Network Engineer
  • Industrial Controls System Engineer

The job titles for these roles vary tremendously, but some quick job-site searches pick up titles such as Industrial Network Specialist and Industrial Network Engineer. The certification assumes a level of expertise in network fundamentals and switching and routing technologies, so the CCNA Routing and Switching is a prerequisite. The CCNA Industrial is a logical progression for certified network admins who want to work with industrial networks.

The jobs are similar to network and systems admin jobs in the front office, but in the plant, you’ll be dealing with a converged network with hardened terminals, process sensors, and smart machines. You’ll also be configuring and troubleshooting the specialized network protocols that are used in controlling industrial equipment.

CCNA Security

CCNA Security is the certification that validates the skills necessary for entry-level security jobs. It’s fair to say that while the CCNA Cyber Ops certification is focused on securing the complete IT environment, the focus of CCNA Security is on the Cisco network.

Job titles associated with CCNA Security:

  • Information Security Analyst
  • Security Engineer
  • Network Security Engineer
  • Cybersecurity Engineer

In small and medium-sized organizations, security will probably fall on the network admin’s plate, whereas larger organizations will most likely have cyber ops teams, with specialist security administrators.

In the public sector, this security role would fall to Information Assurance Technicians, who perform the network admin tasks related to security.  CCNA Security is a DOD-approved certification for Level I and Level II Information Assurance Technicians (IAT), while the professional-level cert (CCNP Security) is approved for Level III technicians.

Consulting and services firms are also in the market for security professionals. In their case, you’ll see job titles like security analyst and security engineer.

Security administrators (for the want of a better name) are the people who handle the day-to-day tasks related to the system and network security. They configure and manage security tools such as firewalls and anti-virus software and also make sure that network and information security policies are followed. They are also — for you Game of Thrones fans — the “watchers on the wall” who monitor for, defend against, and repel external threats.

CCNA Service Provider

Cloud services as a business model have exploded over the past few years. Nowadays, it seems as if everyone and their brother are providing on-demand information services over the internet.

Cisco has responded by introducing an open architecture that allows service providers to deliver on-demand cloud-based apps and services to their customers. The Cisco infrastructure provides the underlying support as needed, including mobile access, video streaming, collaboration, business-wide area networking, and support of Internet of Things (IoT). The CCNA Service Provider is the certification that supports this thrust. It’s directed to network professionals who work for companies that are pursuing a service provider strategy.

Job titles associated with CCNA Service Provider:

  • Network Engineer – IP Designer
  • Backbone Support Engineer
  • Network Infrastructure Engineer

Professionals in the service provider space often have titles like Network Engineer, but don’t be fooled. Cisco’s service provider technology is significantly different than what you’ll find in a regular enterprise network.  

CCNA Service Provider certification requires that you pass two exams. The first exam covers the networking concepts that underlie the service provider architecture. The second exam covers Cisco’s IP Next-Generation Network (NGN) architecture and the design and construction of a service provider network

CCNA Wireless

Nowadays, it’s common for organizations to have wireless LANs to support their employees, as well as visitors. Flexible work arrangements and approaches such as hot-desking are rendering traditional wiring obsolete. In spaces open to the public — malls, hospitals, trains, buses, hotels, and even coffee shops — people are becoming accustomed to wireless connectivity.

Our final certification — the CCNA Wireless — is for network admins who have to design and support a Cisco wireless LAN. Although this is an associate level certification, candidates are expected to be networking professionals with a practical understanding of Cisco routing and switching.  

Job titles associated with CCNA Service Provider:

  • Wireless Network Administrator
  • Field Network Engineer
  • Mobility Engineer

Typically, the folks with wireless responsibility will carry a generic networking job title — such as network engineer — sometimes with the words “wireless” or “mobility” tagged to it. As with the other certs that we’ve discussed, with scale comes specialization. With a large wireless installation, that may be your only role, whereas, in a small shop, you’ll take care of the wireless LAN in addition to basic network responsibilities.

Wrapping Up

Job titles and responsibilities are not uniformed and can depend on things such as the size of the organization, whether they are businesses or government agencies, and what technologies and IT strategies they are employing.

While we’ve flagged some job titles for each certification, your best bet is to take a close look at the required certifications for even generic network admin and engineer positions. The certifications often dictate the type of work you’ll be expected to perform, even if the job title does not.

 

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