Certifications / Cisco

Should You Skip the CCNA Before Earning the CCNP Service Provider?

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Published on July 20, 2023

If you are considering taking the CCNP Service Provider exam, do you need to take the CCNA first? 

In the past, you could only take the CCNP exam after passing the entry-level CCNA exam, but the rules have changed. Today, professionals at an advanced level can choose to skip the CCNA and take the CCNP Service Provider Concentration exam. But the question is should you skip it?

In this article, we will take a look at the pros and cons of jumping straight to the CCNP Service Provider certification. We will explore which types of professional skills and experience can make you a qualified candidate for skipping the CCNA, and we will investigate who will benefit most from this option. 

What is the Difference Between the CCNA and the CCNP?

Before we explore whether or not you should skip the CCNA on your way to CCNP Certification, let’s take a look at the general distinctions between the CCNA and the CCNP Service Provider Certification exams. 

The Cisco Certified Network Associate or CCNA is an entry-level exam that focuses on basic hardware and software installation, as well as troubleshooting, installing and configuring wireless networks and cloud configurations. Knowing how to properly configure cloud-based infrastructure and services is critical for ensuring compliance with numerous security standards, such as the GDPR or HIPAA. 

In contrast, the Cisco Certified Network Professional certification, CCNP, is an advanced-level exam geared towards high-level IT professionals seeking to advance their careers. This exam covers in-depth networking technologies and concepts, allowing certified professionals to plan, troubleshoot, deploy and maintain WAN and LAN networks. 

While the CCNA Exam is straightforward, with just one exam, the CCNP exam includes two levels. Candidates for certification must first pass the general core exam, and then select a secondary exam in a specific concentration. 

There are five options for this niche subject exam, including:

  1. CCNP Enterprise Exam

  2. CCNP Collaboration Exam

  3. CCNP Data Center Exam

  4. CCNP Security Exam

  5. CCNP Service Provider Exam

The CCNP exams are more intensive and subject-specific, enabling IT experts to specialize if they want to do so.

Benefits of Skipping the CCNA

Advanced-level IT professionals who already have three to five years of experience working with network engineering, can likely skip the CCNA. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of skipping the CCNA and going straight for CCNP certification. 

  • You can save money. Rather than take both the CCNA, which costs $195, and the CCNP, which costs $400 for the initial Core Exam, and then another $300 for the specialized concentration exam, you can choose to go straight for the CCNP

  • You can save time. Preparing for either exam takes time and careful preparation. If you want to save time and feel you are prepared to pass the CCNP, without needing to pass the general foundational knowledge tested in the CCNA, you can skip the CCNA altogether. 

Challenges with Skipping the CCNA

While you may be ready to pass straight to the CCNP, taking the CCNA first does provide some potential benefits, even for advanced-level IT professionals. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you might want to consider taking the CCNA before the CCNP. 

  • You can refresh your foundational knowledge. As you train and study for the CCNA exam, you will be refreshing your general basic knowledge of the foundations of network engineering. Even the most successful IT professionals sometimes need a refresher on specific basic knowledge that may have gotten lost over the years. 

  • You can add a lower-cost additional certification. Providing additional certifications to recruiters and potential employers is never a bad thing. Some organizations may appreciate the fact that you have taken the extra time and put in the extra effort to get all possible certifications in your field. And since the CCNA is a relatively low-cost exam, you can easily add another certification to your resume without too much additional cost, time or hassle. 

Who Benefits From Going Straight for the CCNP?

The CCNA is geared towards entry-level IT enthusiasts or professionals who have one to two years of experience working with Cisco systems and network engineering. For beginners seeking to attain an entry-level certification, the CCNA is an essential step toward advancement. 

For professionals who have ample experience working in the field of network engineering, with accolades, references and years of experience to prove it, taking the CCNA might be a repetitive step in their career journey. Going for the CCNP certification and passing it can qualify you for advanced-level careers such as:

  • Network Engineer

  • IT Team Leader

  • Systems Engineer

  • Network Analyst

  • Network Specialist

  • Third Line Support

For professionals ready to advance their careers toward positions that require demonstrated mastery of network engineering planning, deployment, implementation and maintenance, passing the CCNA as a preliminary step may not be necessary. 

Final Thoughts

Advanced-level IT professionals are in high demand, and the demand is predicted to keep growing over the years to come. Now is the right time to test up to the next level of professional capability. 

Taking the challenging CCNP Certification exam allows advanced-level IT professionals to prove their skills and abilities to potential recruiters, opening up new salary brackets and career possibilities. For IT experts who want to brush up on their basic general skills, taking the CCNA training is a great idea. But for professionals who are ready to advance straight ahead to the mastery level certification, skipping the CCNA makes sense. Instead, for these advanced-level IT professionals, going straight for the CCNP certification is a sensible and career-savvy option. 

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