CCNA certification has many advantages that make the time, money, and effort you spend preparing for and taking the CCNA exam worthwhile.
Enhanced employability: Increasingly, in this time of economic uncertainty, companies want to ensure they are hiring the best person who will give the mostvalue for the salary. One method of filtering job candidates is to require a certification that (at least theoretically) demonstrates that the applicant knows what he or she is doing. Listing CCNA certification on a resume lets hiring managers know you are serious about computer networking and have a basic knowledge of networking technology and concepts.
Wide range of career opportunities: Computer networks are ubiquitous—virtually every company is connected to the Internet, and wants its own computers interconnected. This means IT professionals with a CCNA certification can literally work anywhere, in almost any industry.
Part of a growing industry: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that computer network, systems, and database administrators will see 30% growth in employment between 2008 and 2018; network systems and data communications analyst employment is expected to rise by 53.4%. This means that achieving
CCNA certification and working with computer networks can help you achieve job security.
Higher salary and better benefits: Several studies indicate that IT professionals with a CCNA certification can leverage higher salaries than those without such certification.
You don’t have to work in the computer hardware or software industry to be a network administrator. Almost all other industry sectors have IT departments as well. With a CCNA certification, the military, government agencies, law firms, criminal justice, banks and investment firms, telecommunications, and education—just to name a few—are all possible fields of employment. After all, switches, routers, and cables work the same whether they are carrying data about geologic surveys or changes in Wall Street stock prices.
Here are a few details about how computer networks are used in various industries.
Military: The armed forces use computers in almost all aspects of operation. For example, computer models help military personnel model weather patterns; computers monitor and control air traffic as military aircraft come and go; computers provide access to personnel and financial records; tanks and other advanced military equipment are controlled by computers. Extensive wired and wireless computer networks connect all these computers.
Government agencies: At all levels—city, county, state, and federal—government agencies use computers for virtually every task, and they rely on computer networks to “glue” these computers together so they can share information. For example, a state department of labor and industry needs to be able to access data from the state department of revenue as it tracks which companies are still in business, which have paid their taxes, and so on. Similarly, a county parks and recreation department needs to be connected to the county financial data for budgetary purposes. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a huge computer network that is tied to other agencies’ networks, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Law firms: Much of what goes on at law firms involves reviewing previous case history to see what legal precedents have been set. In the days of Perry Mason, this was done by perusing books in a law library. Modern law firms also use computer networks to connect to digital versions of this information. Also, many law firms have attorneys in several states. With computer networks, one attorney can prepare a brief, and with a few keystrokes at the computer, send that brief to his colleague across the country.
Criminal Justice: It used to be easy for criminals to escape capture simply by moving to another state. Unless someone saw a Wanted poster at the post office, no one knew where the criminal came from. Computer networks have changed all that. A sheriff’s department in New Mexico can now connect with a police department in Wisconsin, exchanging data about car thefts, warrants, and more. Criminal investigators use computer networks to access databases that store fingerprint data, blood and DNA samples, conviction records, mug shots, and other types of criminal data. Computer network professionals working in this field are an important part of keeping our society safe and secure.
Computer repair businesses: Outsourcing noncore competencies is a popular way for many companies to increase their profits. A bank can focus on banking and let someone else focus on the bank’s computer network. Or in a law office, lawyers focus on the law and hire a computer expert to work on their computers. Therefore, a CCNA certification is very good to have if you want to work for a firm that fixes other companies’ computers and networks. With a CCNA certification, you will have the knowledge to step in and analyze a computer network, determine what the problem is, and then find and implement a solution.
Banks: In this age of mega-banks that operate in every state, computer networks are the life-blood of the banking industry. From Bank of America to Chase Manhattan to Morgan Stanley to Wall Street, numbers and information fly back and forth constantly. Not only do all these computers have to be connected, but the network needs to be fast and reliable, and information security is paramount. Therefore, IT professionals with a CCNA certification are very much in demand in the banking and finance industry.
Consulting: Having a CCNA certification does not necessarily mean you have to work for someone else nine-to-five. With the right background and personality, you can use your CCNA certification to become a networking consultant. In this role, you market your services to companies that need help with their computer networks. For example, you may be hired to analyze what a start-up company needs in terms of wired and wireless local area networks, or set up a virtual private network for them. Or perhaps a company is thinking of upgrading its network and isn’t sure what is the best course. Consulting can be lucrative and offers many advantages over “captive” jobs, such as the ability to set your own hours and choose your employer.
Telecommunications: Today, virtually all communication is done via networks. Computer networks power telephone companies, satellite companies, cell phone companies, and radio stations. Telecommunications companies need someone to keep their networks—whether they’re local area networks (LANs), wireless LANs, or wide area networks (WANs)—up and running smoothly.
Education: The field of education is rife with opportunities for computer networking professionals. Of the approximately 82,000 elementary and secondary schools in the United States and the thousands of technical schools, colleges, and universities, there probably aren’t more than a handful that do not have at least a small local area network. Large universities such as MIT and Harvard have huge networks.
Job Growth of IT Industry
According to the first-quarter 2011 Greythorn Newsletter (published by Greythorn Inc., an IT specialist recruiting firm), IT employment increased by about 100,000 jobs in December 2010, compared to the same month the previous year. This represents a 2.6% increase. As of December 2010, more than 3.9 million people were employed in information technology in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, continuing evolution of technology and companies’ desire to integrate new technology into their business processes will be the main growth catalysts for the IT industry.
The IT sector was not immune from the recession—the IT unemployment rate is about 5.7%, which is higher than historical averages for the IT sector. But compared to the average overall unemployment rate of 9.8% (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), it is quite low. And the unemployment rate has actually substantially declined for two groups of IT professionals—network administrators and database administrators. As an indicator of the prevalence of networking jobs—and the potential value of CCNA certification—a 2010 TechRepublic survey of 19,500 IT professionals revealed that “Network administrator” and “Network or LAN Manager” made up almost 10% of all the survey respondents’ job roles.
An encouraging sign of recovery—both for information technology in particular and for the economy in general—is that the number of advertised IT jobs rose by 31% in 2010 compared with the same period in 2009. Although it will take a while to regain pre-recession levels of IT employment and available jobs, the outlook is positive. A Gartner report released in April 2010 said that global IT spending would increase by 5.3% in 2010, reaching a total of $3.4 trillion, and would continue to increase by another 4.2% in 2011. (Gartner, Inc. is a leading information technology research and advisory company.)
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports the following employment growth statistics:
Projected Employment Growth, 2008 to 2018
Computer and Information Systems Managers 17%
Computer Network, Systems, and Database Administrators 30%
Computer Scientists 24%
Computer Software Engineers and Computer Programmers 21%
Computer Technology Trainers 12%
The same Greythorn newsletter referenced earlier indicated that network administration, wireless network management, and telecommunications support accounted for half of the top six skill sets in demand by employers.
The federal government recognizes the importance of the information technology industry, and has allocated funds to help support it. For example, the United States Department of Labor’s Education and Training Administration (ETA) has invested more than $8.5 million in the information technology industry, hoping to create high-skill, high-wage opportunities for American workers. This includes three High Growth Job Training Initiative grants totaling $7,816,982 and one multi-industry Community-Based Job Training Grant totaling $708,476.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2006-07 Career Guide to Industries, states that “for all IT- related occupations, technical and professional certifications are growing more popular and increasingly important.” A more recent study, the “2010 IT Skills and Salary Report,” confirms this statement. The study surveyed approximately 19,500 IT managers and staff and was published in cooperation with TechRepublic (an online IT community) and Global Knowledge (a worldwide leader in IT and business training).
According to the study, the majority of managers felt that job performance was the best predictor of salary increases for their staff. That is, if a worker is good at his job, he is more likely to receive a raise. In addition, 84% of managers who sent their staff to training, and 78% of the trained staff members felt the certification and/or training positively affected job performance. Therefore, it stands to reason that pursuing a CCNA certification can increase the likelihood of getting a salary boost.
It seems that the IT professionals who participated in the TechRepublic survey understood the intrinsic value of training. More than two-thirds of all respondents attended training in the past year. Of these, about half were preparing for various certification exams. According to the study, IT professionals who had earned an IT or project management certification during the past five years earned an average of $5,242 more than staff that did not pursue certification. That is, the average annual salary for professionals who had a certification was $85,628, compared to an average annual salary for non-certified staff of $80,386. In particular, the study revealed that the average annual salary for IT professionals with a CCNA certification (5% of respondents) was $79,695.
It is important to remember that salary can be affected by IT department size, geographic location, and specific industry. Among all industries specified by the respondents, government agencies, healthcare, and banking and finance were the top-paying industries according to the TechRepublic survey.
Since a CCNA certification is really fairly entry level, part of the value lies in its preparing you for more advanced Cisco certifications such as Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP), Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP).
CCNA certification can even help you make more money if you are not specifically pursuing a networking career. For example, system architects work with servers, virtualization, consolidation—and network components as part of the entire system. A CCNA certification can help you understand the networking portion of your job better—and the better at your job you are, the higher your salary tends to be.