New CCNA: What to Expect from 200-301
| CBT Nuggets - David Zomaya

New CCNA: What to Expect from 200-301

12/20/2019 update: We now have two new Cisco courses to help you prepare: Cisco DEVASC 200-901 DevNet and the CCNA 200-301.

In order to keep up with the fast-paced IT world, Cisco is restructuring their certs. These changes are coming in early 2020, so it's a good idea to start preparing for them.

While all Cisco's offerings are affected, we will be focusing on CCNA in this piece. With any change comes questions and uncertainty, and we'll help fill in the gaps here. At a high level, Cisco is making their certification landscape less complex and more modern. This is a good thing. You can take a look at our new CCNA 200-301 training, and see for yourself how its changed.

However, if you're actively working on a CCNA, you'll also need to understand what these changes mean for you.

Let's dive into the current state of the CCNA.

The CCNA Today

The CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) is a certification program offered by Cisco that enables you to demonstrate your knowledge of IT fundamentals. Completing the CCNA will allow you to better market yourself in the very competitive IT industry. Under the CCNA as it currently stands, you can specialize in a certain area by following the program that best fits your needs or interests. CCNA currently offers the following paths:

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

This means that even someone at the associate level can specialize. This is great for expanding knowledge. A potential downside, however, is employers looking for someone at the associate level might not plan on putting these people in these roles right away.

Let's take CCNA Routing and Switching as an example. Right now, you can ease your way in by getting your CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) certification, which counts halfway toward your CCNA Routing and Switching. This also puts you on a path where you could eventually move on to a CCNP in the same area.

As we mentioned before, the problem with this method comes from what employers are actually looking for at this level. Specializing might be better when you have more experience and find out what role you're better suited for.

Feb. 24, 2020: A New Era of Cisco Certification Begins

Starting Feb 24, 2020 the CCNA certification program will see a ton of changes. For starters, the following certifications will be replaced by the new CCNA:

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

Most of the CCNAs listed above required multiple exams to complete. To earn the new CCNA, you only need to complete one exam, due to go live on Feb 24, 2020. This new exam (200-301 CCNA) will cover a wide range of networking, security, automation, and programmability topics.

Under the soon-to-be-antiquated CCNA program, choosing to go down the path of CCNA Security leads to CCNP Security. However, that will no longer be the case after the new cert sequence. At that point, you will begin to specialize when you decide to go for your CCNP.

Students may look at the current list of CCNA offerings and requirements, only to get intimidated by all the information. Under the new program, the path's a lot easier to follow. With this in mind, it seems like Cisco's new program could encourage more people to take the first step toward earning CCNA.

The Fate of the CCENT

The CCENT currently counts as one of the two required exams for several CCNA certifications. You can pass the ICND1 (100-105) exam and earn your CCENT. You then could take the ICND2 (200-105) exam at a later date to earn your CCNA.

Again, to earn the new CCNA, you will only be required to take one exam. However, the CCENT will not apply toward the new CCNA certification. This means if you wait until Feb. 24, 2020 you'll have to complete the new exam in order to obtain your CCNA.

If you fall into this category, completing your CCNA certification under the current program is your best option. You have until Feb. 23, 2020 to do so (we can't stress this enough!). If you do, you will receive a current CCNA certification and training badge related to the specific CCNA you were pursuing.

If you're working on a CCENT, don't let the news of these changes worry you too much. Your current efforts are not in vain. You still have until February 23, 2020 to earn CCNA certification. Just be sure to take both the ICND1 (100-105) and ICND2 (200-105) exams before the migration.

If you need help ramping up your CCENT or CCNA studies before then, check out our in-depth ICND1 (100-105) and 200-105 (ICND2) training courses. Of course, taking the 200-125 CCNA Routing and Switching composite exam (basically a 2-in-1 of the ICND1 & ICND2) is also an option up until the February deadline. Studying the ICND1 and ICND2 materials are helpful whether you split the exams up or go the composite route.

CCNA Prerequisites

Under the existing CCNA program, most CCNA certs didn't require any prerequisites. The ones that did could usually be met by completing the CCENT. To earn the new CCNA, you won't have to worry about any prerequisites. However, Cisco does recommend the following:

  • One or more years of experience implementing and administering Cisco solutions
  • Knowledge of basic IP addressing
  • A good understanding of network fundamentals

What's this DevNet Business?

The same day they announced the new CCNA, Cisco also unveiled its DevNet certifications. DevNet is a new realm for Cisco and will focus on DevOps, automation and development. Given where the industry is going, this makes a lot of sense. The DevNet cert that's comparable to the CCNA is the Cisco Certified DevNet Associate. Like its counterparts, the DevNet exam will go live with the new CCNA exam on February 24, 2020.

The Bottom Line

It's not uncommon for Cisco to make adjustments to their certification programs, but this announcement was huge compared with previous ones. While there are pros and cons, condensing the CCNA into one certification really makes the most sense at this level. At this point in a cert-seeker's career, it's best to display a good foundation and move toward specialization afterward.

If you're working toward a current CCNA certification, make sure to complete it before Feb 23, 2020. Otherwise, you'll have to take the 200-301 exam instead — especially if you already have your CCENT because you're already halfway to getting your CCNA.

Even if you haven't started, but are interested in going for your CCNA, there's no reason to hold off at this point. The changes are still over eight months away; that's plenty of time to study and complete the requirements before the change.

While certification changes can be intimidating, changes like these show the ability to adapt with the times. In IT, where big changes come practically overnight, it's important to be as flexible as possible. The best investment you can make is in yourself. Make sure it's a good one.

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