CCNA, CCNP and CCIE are formal certificates to prove the holder’s competence at specific Cisco-related tasks.
CCNA – Cisco Certified Network Associate: This certification covers skills necessary to administer devices on small or medium-sized networks. It is a prerequisite for higher levels of Cisco qualifications.
CCNP – Cisco Certified Network Professional: This is a step up from CCNA. This validates the ability to plan, implement, verify, and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks and work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless, and video solutions.
CCIE – Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert: This is a step up from CCNP. This certifies the skills network engineers require to plan, operate and troubleshoot complex, converged network infrastructures on a wide variety of Cisco equipment. “This is the most prestigious networking certification in the industry???, claims Cisco. Very few network professionals achieve this standard. It requires at least 18 months of study.
It is a very sensible career approach to gain a formal certification to establish competence at networking before seeking work as a network administrator. However, some advanced certifications will expect you to have completed considerable on-the-job training as a prerequisite to sitting the exams. So you might want to gain CCNA, get a job, and then ask the employer for assistance to gain CCNP. This will definitely show the employer that you are keen to progress.
Which pays more?
Good network engineers can earn AU$80 – 100K as can advanced website programmers and developers. If you are starting from the bottom of the career ladder, it may take some time before you reach that level.
Which promises a better career?
This is a tough question, because both types of job are very interesting. The choice is really up to you.
If you enjoy playing with hardware, maybe being a CCNA is for you. Many companies use Cisco networking equipment and having Cisco certification will stand you in good stead in the job market. You will be able to get a good job as a network engineer. If you continue to learn on the job, maybe progressing to CCNP or CCIE levels, eventually you may become a team manager.
Conversely, if you prefer to design and program websites, start off as a web developer. You might progress more into customer-facing roles, such as defining design specifications, and maybe later you will become a team manager or website design consultant. The more senior you become, the more remote you may be from the actual programming tasks. You need to weigh up the benefits of a senior job against the tasks you really like doing. In fact, some people prefer to remain a programmer because they really enjoy doing just that!