Cisco Polishes CCNA Certification

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Cisco Systems will announce several enhancements to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) program tomorrow, June 24th. CCNA, Cisco’s most popular certification, was introduced in April 1998 and is the entry-level certification for the Cisco Career Certification Program. It requires base-level knowledge of IP networking and troubleshooting. Enhancements to the CCNA program include a new two-step exam path, revisions to content and a new recertification option.




“We’ve seen the content—the skills, knowledge and understanding—that someone needs to be a solid contributor at an entry level in an organization grow, since we introduced CCNA,” said Don Field, senior manager of certifications for Cisco, to CertMag EXTRA.




Candidates will now have two paths to approach CCNA certification: a single-exam path that includes exam #640-801 (which will be available June 30th) or a two-exam path that includes exam #640-821 (Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies, or INTRO) and exam #640-811 (Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices, or ICND). According to Field, the new option is similar to an option offered to candidates at the professional level.




“For those seeking CCNP, our professional-level certification, we’ve always had two exam paths—one for those who had really good mastery of routing, switching and remote access, and a suite of three exams that you could take if you wanted to validate your skills in stages,” said Field. “So this takes that same concept and brings it to the associate level. 




“For a lot of folks that are brand new to networking, internetworking, routing, switching, the types of things that Cisco does, the basics of networking on the Internet, it was a big jump to go from any starting point one might choose to being able to achieve CCNA status,” Field added. “We realized we needed the ability to prepare people for the more advanced topics in the CCNA program. That’s why we created the INTRO course.”




Field added that in addition, the new INTRO exam will allow experienced networking professionals to validate their level of knowledge and skills before moving to the more advanced ICND exam.




Nader Nanjiani, marketing programs manager of the Internet Learning Solutions Group at Cisco, added, “It is a smoother transition or entry point for someone who is currently in an IT-related role who may be thinking about expanding their skills base into networking because it gives them an easy entrance. The first exam allows them a good sense and understanding and rounding out networking basics and networking introduction and then gives them ample time to work their way to the next level. So we do hope and expect that there will be some increased interest among IT professionals to expand their skills base in the area of networking as a result of this option.”




The existing CCNA #640-607 exam, which retires on Sept. 30, 2003, is replaced by the new CCNA #640-801 exam, which includes updated technical coverage. Field said the new exam contains some additional routing protocols and switching configuration content for example. “The good news for many of our candidates is that the new content is new to the exams, but is not new to the training courses,” said Field. “For a year now we’ve been offering that new content in our mainstream ICND course, so it won’t be new to those who have been going through formal training.”




With the introduction of the new two-exam path, Cisco is offering a new recertification option as well. The new ICND exam qualifies as a recertification exam. CCNA certification is valid for three years. Candidates can recertifiy in several ways: through the new ICND #640-811 exam, the most current CCNA exam or by passing any exam at the Professional or Cisco Qualified Specialist level with the #642 prefix.




As usual, Cisco offers training for the new exams through its Cisco Learning Partners. According to Field, Cisco Learning Credits can apply to the new courses too. Cisco Learning Credits allow organizations to set aside funding for training when they purchase Cisco products or when they have the funding available. “Where that might be relevant is for those organizations that make an explicit choice to bring all of their folks in the network operations center to a CCNA level,” said Field. “They would be able to use those credits for any course, and that would include the new INTRO course as well as the latest version of ICND.”




For more information about Cisco certification, see


Emily Hollis is associate editor for Certification Magazine. She can be reached at

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