Is the CCA-N Worth It?
| technology | networking - Josh Burnett

Is the CCA-N Worth It?

Last year, the Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA-N) made Global Knowledge's Top 15 list of the highest paying certifications in IT. Bringing with it an average salary of more than $125,000 the CCA-N has consistently demonstrated its merit in validating networking knowledge and ability, particularly when it comes to Citrix products.

There’s no doubt that Citrix certifications are objectively valuable and that the CCA-N, in particular, is a worthwhile target. However, if you’ve done any research into the CCA-N lately, you’ve likely discovered a lot of dated, conflicting, and confusing data.

Citrix has recently made substantial changes to what was formerly the Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA-N) accreditation. As of 2021, the CCA-N has been renamed Citrix Certified Associate – App Delivery and Security (CCA – AppDS), and its corresponding certification path at the Professional (CCP – AppDS) and Expert (CCE – AppDS) levels has also changed.

What is the CCA – AppDS?

The CCA – AppDS is really two different certifications with the same name. Citrix has two distinct pathways to earn the CCA – AppDS, including separate recommended training courses and unique exams. Although there is significant overlap, each of these targets a different group of professionals, allowing both to achieve the CCA – AppDS while focusing on their core strengths. The exams are:

Throughout the rest of the article, we’ll discuss how these exams are similar and highlight where they are different. Both share approximately 60 percent of the material, with the remaining 40 percent unique to each exam. Citrix outlines the intended audiences in the exam prep guides, and there’s a noticeable difference between the two tracks. Which exam you take will depend on your current role, knowledge and experience, and desired career path.

What Does the CCA – AppDS Test?

When it comes to testable material, Citrix breaks everything down into three areas:

  1. Recommended knowledge and skills
  2. Recommended product experience
  3. Sections and weighting

You’ll begin to see the difference in the exams starting with the very first section. Both 1Y0-241 and 1Y0-230 require an understanding of basic networking and Windows & Linux Server administration. Beyond this, 1Y0-241 is more concerned with general networking principles and how they interact with Citrix products. On the other hand, 1Y0-230 focuses on specific products (mostly Citrix, but not exclusively) and how they work, discussing general networking principles as a secondary concern.

Here are the recommended skills for the 1Y0-241 exam:

  • TCP/IP, HTTP protocols, and the OSI model
  • Server load balancing and content switching concepts
  • Web server software
  • DNS, SSL, and compression concepts
  • Network security threats and site protection concepts

Here are the recommended skills for the 1Y0-230 exam:

  • Experience with Citrix virtualization technologies, such as Citrix Virtual Apps/Desktops and StoreFront
  • Experience with Microsoft SQL Server or enterprise database servers
  • Experience with Active Directory and Group Policy
  • Basic understanding of Microsoft Remote Desktop Services
  • Basic understanding of VPN concepts, including SSL encryption and certificates

As you can see, the material for each exam is loosely related but takes a unique approach toward the training and abilities they prioritize.

The next section is Recommended Product Experience. It's interesting to note that you'll only find one actual product named under 1Y0-241's list: Citrix ADC. The rest of the "Recommended Product Experiences" focus far more on "experiences" than they do on "products."

  • High Availability
  • Load Balancing
  • SSL Offload
  • Securing the Citrix ADC
  • Troubleshooting Citrix ADC
  • Default Policies
  • Rewrite, Responder, and URL Transform
  • Content Switching
  • Traffic Optimization
  • Global Server Load Balancing

Although you could clearly see 1Y0-230's focus on specific products in the previous section, this trend deepens in Citrix's Recommended Product Experience section. Unlike 241's focus on "experience," 230 dials in on the "product" part of the phrase.  In addition to Citrix ADC, 1Y0-230 looks for you to be comfortable with the following.

  • Citrix Gateway
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
  • StoreFront
  • ShareFile
  • Receiver

The final area revolves around the section titles that divide each exam and how heavily they are weighted in their respective tests. The first eight sections in both exams have identical titles, although what Citrix looks for in those areas will differ slightly in alignment with the distinct perspectives you've seen above.

Both the 1Y0-241 and 1Y0-230 share these exam objectives:

  • Getting Started: 6-7%
  • Basic Networking: 8-9%
  • Citrix ADC Platforms: 5%
  • High Availability: 6-7%
  • Load Balancing: 8-9%
  • SSL Offload: 7-9%
  • Securing the Citric ADC: 8-7%
  • Troubleshooting: 9%

Where things start to change is in Section 9. The overall trend continues, with 1Y0-241 evaluating your networking abilities and 1Y0-230 examining your understanding of Citrix products.

These are the exam objectives unique to the 1Y0-241 exam:

  • Default Policies: 11%
  • Rewrite, Responder, and URL Transform: 11%
  • Content Switching: 5%
  • Optimization: 3%
  • Global Server Load Balancing: 11%

These are the exam objectives unique to the 1Y0-230 exam:

  • Citrix Gateway: 3%
  • AppExpert Expressions and Policies: 5%
  • Authentication, Authorization, and Policies: 9%
  • Managing Client Connections: 7%
  • Integration for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops: 9%
  • Configuring Citrix Gateway: 7%

As you can see from the above breakdown, approximately 60 percent of the material on both exams will be similar, with around 40 percent consisting of unique information.

How Much Does the CCA – AppDS Cost?

The exams themselves are very affordable at $200 each. Both are 90 minutes long with a 30-minute extension for non-native English speakers. Each question bank is comprised of 64 questions, although some of these are not scored and used by Citrix for research purposes. The passing score for 1Y0-241 is 61 percent, while 1Y0-230 has a slightly higher threshold at 64 percent.

Where things really get pricey is with the recommended training. If you're going to sit for 1Y0-241, Citrix suggests taking CNS-225: Deploy and Manage Citrix ADC 13.x with Traffic Management as a prep course. If you opt for the 1Y0-230 test, Citrix advises you to take the CNS-222: Citrix ADC 12.x Essentials and Citrix Gateway class. While each of these is a high-value course packed with helpful information, the price tag certainly reflects that. Taking either CNS-225 or CNS-222 will run you $5,000.

These courses aren’t required, and at a $200 exam fee, it’s probably a smart idea to sit for the test first to see how it goes before shelling out five grand.

Who Should Take the CCA – AppDS?

The two CCA – AppDS exam guides specifically identify the IT professionals each test targets. Both 1Y0-241 and 1Y0-230 are useful for network administrators, network engineers, Citrix administrators, systems administrators, and systems engineers. This casts a pretty broad net, and if you have one of these job titles and work with Citrix products, taking one of the CCA – AppDS exams is likely a smart career move.

The 1Y0-241 test is also listed for three types of jobs that don't appear on the 1Y0-230 list: operations engineer, cloud administrators, and cloud engineers. This reflects the makeup of the exam and its focus on networking principles and execution. The 1Y0-230 exam’s sole unique job target won’t be much of a surprise, either. With its emphasis on Citrix products, the 1Y0-230 text is ideally suited for Citrix engineers.

CCA – AppDS for Network Administrators

Because of its focus on networking principles and Citrix's networking equipment, earning a CCA – AppDS is a wise choice for any net admin. The primary decision for you isn't whether to get a CCA – AppDS, but which exam track to pursue in getting there.

Since most certifications rely on a single exam and targeted set of knowledge and abilities, your job title is often sufficient to tell you whether you should sit for that particular test. In this case, you'll need to rely more on daily duties than a cert title. If you have extensive experience with Citrix equipment, 1Y0-230 is likely a better fit. If you're more of a generalist when it comes to networking or specialize in another vendor's products, 1Y0-241 makes more sense.

CCA – AppDS for System Administrators

Sysadmins would greatly benefit from earning a CCA – AppDS. However, which exam you pursue is more likely to be determined by your background than your job title. If you've had a lot of exposure to Citrix systems, then 1Y0-230 is probably more up your alley. If you've had limited experience with Citrix products or have only experienced a few, then studying for 1Y0-241 will likely be a more efficient use of your time.

CCA – AppDS for Network Engineer

The CCA – AppDS is an ideal certification for a network engineer, almost regardless of your exposure to Citrix products. Eventually, you'll deal with them, so earning one of the most widely-recognized and valuable certifications in IT certainly won't hurt. You'll likely advance beyond the associate level to at least the professional level eventually, so getting the first level down is a wise investment.

For network engineers, 1Y0-230 is likely a better fit regardless of your current role. The 1Y0-241 exam focuses more on networking basics that you will have mastered by this point, so the real value in the certification for you would be mastering a broad base of knowledge regarding various Citrix products.

Is the CCA – AppDS Worth It?

Most IT pros who possess a CCA – AppDS (or have a CCA – N) have been in the industry for quite a while. The typical certification holder is around 42 years old and has half a dozen other certifications under his belt. The CCA – AppDS isn't a cert you earn right off the bat, but if your career has led you to a point where you have a solid networking background and some exposure to Citrix products, studying for this certification should be high on your priority list.

Using the CCA – AppDS to learn skills

Citrix intentionally created two separate exams to play to the strengths of networking pros whose careers have developed along different lines. By this point in the article, you've almost certainly identified which of the exams is more appropriately suited to your strengths.

However, depending on your timeline and where you are in your career, consider studying for the other exam. You'll already have 60 percent of the material down, and learning the 40 percent you're not as comfortable with will only benefit your career by teaching you new skills.

Using the CCA – AppDS to validate skills

Regardless of which exam you sit for, earning a CCA – AppDS is widely recognized as a reliable validation of your networking skills within a Citrix context. Employers will know that you have a firm grasp of networking principles and can find your way around a Citrix product, which is almost certain to open doors down the line.

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