A CCNA can work in a wide variety of industries—virtually every company has at least a small computer network, and some have extensive wired and wireless networks. Think about it: Banks, car manufacturers, telecommunications companies, law firms, government agencies, all branches of the armed forces, retail chains, restaurant chains, energy and utility companies, real estate companies, colleges and universities, transportation and shipping firms, libraries, software design companies—and of course computer hardware manufacturers—including Cisco Systems and its competitors all use computer networks. The list is almost endless!
Computer networking is also a growing industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of computer network, systems, and database administrators will grow by somewhere between 20% and 30% between 2008 and 2018. The growing need to be globally connected and protect against increasing information-security threats will fuel this growth.
Achieving a CCNA certification can help you enter this exciting and burgeoning IT industry, as well as demand a higher-than-average salary. For some jobs, however, a CCNA might not be enough—you may need higher-level certifications such as a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), and/or an associate’s, bachelor’s, or even master’s degree.
In general, any certification can increase the likelihood of you making more money per year. According to a February 2010 CIO Insight article, “IT certification holders made 7.46% more than average IT workers in the fourth quarter of 2009.”
For CCNA certification, the PayScale Index reports the following salary information associated with job titles for IT professionals with CCNA certification (as of mid-February, 2011):
- Job Title Annual Salary Range
- Network Engineer $50,724 – $74,963
- Sr. Network Engineer $72,556 – $98,252
- Information Technology (IT) Manager $61,606 – $93,799
- Network Administrator, IT $40,347 – $60,845
- Senior Systems Engineer $70,662 – $100,114
(Computer Networking / IT)
Other sources provide slightly different data. For example, the CareerOneStop Web site, sponsored by the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration, cites the median annual salary for computer network administrators (certified as well as noncertified) as $67,700, and the median hourly wage as $32.55. However, these are national figures. Location, industry, and years of work experience can significantly affect the exact wage an IT professional with a CCNA can expect.
Location: The CareerOneStop Web site states that in California, the median wage is $10,000 higher than the national median, but in Kansas, the median annual salary drops to $58,000. The South’s average salaries are even lower, with Mississippi’s average network administrator yearly wage being only $49,800.
Industry: According to the PayScale Index, CCNAs working for the federal government make an average of $64,700 per year, whereas those working for a college or university make only $53,800 per year. In contrast, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the average wage for computer network administrators (not necessarily CCNA certified) working for the Central Bank, Securities and Commodity Exchange, and investment brokerage industries is from $84,000 to almost $90,000 per year. Salaries are also high in the furniture-product manufacturing and rail-transportation industries, followed closely by software publishers and information services, and oddly enough, dentist offices.
Years of Experience: According to the PayScale Index, a person with a CCNA certification but only one year of work experience can expect an annual salary of a little more than $44,000, whereas someone with up to nine years of experience to back up his CCNA certification makes well over $63,000.
How do the salaries for network careers compare with salaries for other IT professionals? The 2010 IT Skills and Salary Report, published in cooperation with TechRepublic and Global Knowledge, revealed that for all types of IT professionals, salaries stayed approximately the same from 2009 to 2010. Here is some data from that report:
- 2010 2009 2008
- Avg. Base Salary $82,115 $81,600 $73,900
- Received a Raise 43% 70% 80%
- Raise/Increase 10% 6% 4%
- Received a Bonus 39% 46% 49%
- Average Bonus $8,654 $8,575 $3,937
Overall, 43% of respondents received a raise; however, the report states that systems engineers, information-security professionals, and technical analysts were significantly more likely to receive raises than other types of IT professionals.
A CCNA certification may be all you need to satisfy many job requirements. But more commonly, employers look for job candidates who have more education than that. According to a 2010 study published by TechRepublic and Global Knowledge, requiring IT professionals to have a four-year degree is an increasing trend. In 2009, 59% of study respondents had at least a four-year degree; that figure grew to 69.7% in 2010.
For computer network administrators in particular, the CareerOneStop Web site, sponsored by the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration, states the following:
- Type of Education Percentage of Workers
- Some college but no degree 25%
- Associate’s degree 15.5%
- Bachelor’s degree 39%
- Master’s degree 10%
- Doctorate degree 1%
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2002 report, “The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings,” states that the more education you have, the higher your annual salary. The data from this report is for all types of jobs, not just computer networking jobs. However, the trends are the same no matter the industry. Some of the highlights from the report (all earning figures are in 1999 dollars) include:
- High-school graduates have an average annual income of $30,400, whereas those with an associate’s degree can expect a 25% increase over that—$38,200.
- Those with a bachelor’s degree have an average annual income of $52,200—slightly more than a 36.5% increase over those with just a two-year associate’s degree.
- Workers with a master’s degree make an average of $62,300 per year.
- A Ph.D. can boost average annual income to $89,400.
It may seem unfair that you have to spend at least two, and maybe four to six more years gaining a college degree in addition to your CCNA certification. After all, early pioneers in the computer industry didn’t have computer science degrees. In fact, U.S. colleges and universities didn’t offer degrees in computer science until 1962. The good news is that some colleges give you college credit for your CCNA certification—sometimes up to about 25% of the credits you need to obtain a bachelor’s degree. But whether it takes you two years or four, you will be much more likely to succeed as a computer- network professional if you complement your CCNA certification with a relevant college degree.
It may surprise you to know, however, that a “relevant college degree” may not be a degree in computer networking. Instead, in addition to gaining your CCNA certification (and probably higher Cisco certifications and possibly other types of computer-related certification, such as project management), you may want to investigate a busines degree or a degree related to the industry in which you will be managing networks.
It is true that from cars to cardigans to cardiology, data is simply bits and bytes traveling through a labyrinth of coaxial and twisted pair cables, but a network administrator that understands the type of data being transmitted over the network, has some knowledge of the particular industry, and comprehends the specific challenges of information security for that industry will be far more valuable to the company for which he or she works.