Network Engineering Certs: Associate Level

The Cisco Certified Network Associate certification was my first certification for networking. Like its reputation, I still hold it in high regard as it helped me land my first role along with empowering my work efficiency. I’m going to dive in for the CCNA, what it’s done for me, comparing the others, and its perks. Check out their track from the CCNA upwards.

The CCNA today has evolved since I last sat for mine in 2018 in order to reflect what Network Engineers do today which is more of an IT Generalist. Covering wireless topics, OSPFv2, FHRPs, DHCP relays at the switch level, a bit more Security, and now…Network Automation!

Cisco Systems Certification and Training Paths

Cisco CCNA meets Aruba ACSA
When I got my CCNA in November 2018 literally a few days before my birthday, I took a break for a month after going hard in achieving it. A month hiatus from studying and labbing before I professionally put myself out there internally and externally and seriously started to job hunt and figure out what to do next. A month passed and I did three things: Networked within my job, updated my resume and started applying externally and purchased the CCNP R&S OCG bundle (now called CCNP Enterprise after the 2019 revamp). My goal was to get my first networking role, master it, then work on the next mountain: the CCNP R&S. May 2019 rolled around and I got my first role as a Network Technician from being a Workstation Support Technician. Everything the CCNA taught me directly transferred to my day-to-day skills as far as the networking fundamentals, routing, VLANs, and more. The twist was, I was entering a networking environment where everything was a different vendor, Aruba Networks (HPE) including the wireless infrastructure, Aruba AirWave and their line of WAPs. Which goes into another perk: Cisco’s iOS syntax helped me understand HPE’s Comware OS, Aruba’s ArubaOS, then later the shiny new ArubaOS-CX. In addition, there are helpful guides that list the syntaxes like these:

If you’re in an environment that’s Aruba Networks-heavy and your company encourages getting certified, maybe even offer incentives then give Aruba Networks ACSA cert track a peek. Much like the CCNA, the ACSA teaches you networking fundamentals then introduces you to the Aruba syntax and their portfolio. If you’re coming from a CCNA or the JNCIA (you’ll read about this one later), you’ll immediately notice key differences and similarities. Check out some of their trainings and join their Aruba AirHeads community.

Aruba Networks Certification and Training Paths

Juniper Networks
I don’t personally hold any Juniper certifications (yet) but I love their free training curriculum which covers all Associate levels and now their Professional levels. In addition, they offer a 70% cert voucher which lowers the initial cost of investment in getting certified with them, check it out! That being said, it’s a platform I definitely plan on learning and holding a cert while I’m at it. It honestly interests me and I love being adaptable to any environment especially if my boss were to tell me, “Hey, for the next refresh we’re changing out X vendor and going full Juniper.” Finally, no fanboyism here like you would see with the typical “Console Wars” in the video game realm haha. At the associate level, we’ll focus on the Juniper JNCIA-Junos. This certification serves as a prerequisite for their Enterprise Routing & Switching track and their Service Provider Routing & Switching track, so you can sway either way depending on your environment and where you’re at in your career. Or if you’re like me: Want to to learn it all and learn both. Just like Cisco and Aruba, they too teach networking fundamentals before getting into Junos CLI, their portfolio, and how they work. Definitely gives these two a follow as they’re both extremely knowledgeable and so far amongst my fav in the Juniper realm: Yasmin Lara and Christian Scholz

It’s good to note that Juniper has been growing in popularity over the years with different companies adopting them or having a mixed environment. The number of job postings have been including JNCIA-Junos in their requirements alongside the CCNA has been increasing which is a good sign.

Juniper Networks Certification and Training Paths

CompTIA Network+
If you know about the CompTIA A+ for desktop support, then you likely heard about the CompTIA Network+. This certification is great for those brand new to networking and don’t want to focus on any particular vendor or even the ins and outs of configurations. Or perhaps tackle the Network+ as their prerequisite before diving deeper in the networking realm. I’ve held an A+ certification that I passed both exams in one day in order to first get my position in the Public Sector. The Network+ also has two exams in order to satisfy all the requirements in order to achieve the Network+

I’ve taken a course in college for the Network+ and received a 3-day training for the Network+ that my previous employer in the Public Sector paid for. It’s undisputable how much and how well you learn whether you self-study or take a paid training or even take CompTIA CertMaster options. It provides a solid foundation before starting work on the CCNA, ACSA, or JNCIA-Junos should you want to go all the way!

That’s a wrap! Obviously there are other associate-level networking certifications in the field but these are the ones I feel confident in giving a quick overview. Likely these top 4 you’ll see and hear about when starting out or venturing up. Happy studies!

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