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Should You Study CCNA Before Pursuing CISSP for IT Career Growth?

CCNA Before CISSP: Essential IT Career Advice

Introduction

In the ever-evolving field of information technology, IT professionals constantly seek the best paths to advance their careers, especially those those that are new to the industry and looking to build their careers. Certifications play a crucial role in this journey, offering validation of skills and knowledge. Among the myriad of certifications available, the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) are two of the most renowned. However, a common question arises: Should you study CCNA before pursuing CISSP to enhance your IT career growth? This blog post will delve into this question, examining the roles of both certifications, and providing insights to help you make an informed decision.

Understanding CCNA and Its Importance

What is CCNA?

The CCNA certification is an entry-level credential offered by Cisco that validates an individual’s ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks. The certification covers a wide range of topics, including network fundamentals, LAN switching technologies, routing technologies, WAN technologies, infrastructure services, security, and management.

Where the CCNA and CISSP overlap is plain to see. You need the fundamentals of networking FIRST because without it, you won’t understand how all of this works.

Inside of the CISSP curriculum you will find the following 4 domains that overlap from CCNA:

  1. Domain 1: Security and Risk Management – This domain includes foundational concepts that influence network security, such as security governance and risk management.
  2. Domain 4: Communication and Network Security – This is the most relevant domain for network engineering as this domain covers several areas relative to network engineering such as network architecture and design, network protocols like TCP/IP, DNS, and HTTP, VPN’s, as well as network attacks such as DDos (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks and man-in-the-middle attacks.
  3. Domain 5: Identity and Access Management (IAM) – This domain includes topics on securing network access and implementing controls such as authentication and authorization mechanisms.
  4. Domain 7: Security Operations – This domain covers operational aspects that intersect with network security, such as monitoring, incident response, and disaster recovery.

So Why Pursue CCNA First?

It’s simple. 

The network and all of the underlying routing and switching hardware, is the foundation for how systems are accessed, and how data moves from one place to the next. Aside from things like social engineering, the Cybersecurity landscape encompasses a large area of domain expertise that relies on an IT Professionals understanding of the fundamentals of networking.

The following 3 points drive home why CCNA should come first.

  1. Foundation in Networking: CCNA provides a strong foundation in networking, which is essential for any IT professional. Understanding how networks operate, including the configuration and troubleshooting of routers and switches, is crucial for more advanced topics in IT security.
  2. Career Opportunities: Many entry-level and intermediate IT positions require or prefer candidates with a CCNA certification. These roles can provide valuable hands-on experience that is beneficial when pursuing more advanced certifications like CISSP.
  3. Skill Validation: Earning a CCNA demonstrates your commitment to the field and your ability to grasp fundamental networking concepts, making you a more competitive candidate in the job market.

The Role of CISSP in IT Career Advancement

What is CISSP?

The CISSP certification, offered by (ISC)², is a globally recognized credential that attests to an individual’s expertise in information security. It covers eight domains: Security and Risk Management, Asset Security, Security Architecture and Engineering, Communication and Network Security, Identity and Access Management, Security Assessment and Testing, Security Operations, and Software Development Security.

Why Pursue CISSP?

  1. Broad Scope of Knowledge: CISSP covers a wide range of security topics, providing a comprehensive understanding of information security principles and practices. This breadth of knowledge is essential for higher-level security roles.
  2. Career Advancement: CISSP is often a requirement for senior and managerial positions in IT security. It demonstrates a high level of expertise and a commitment to the field, which can open doors to leadership opportunities.
  3. Global Recognition: CISSP is recognized worldwide, enhancing your professional credibility and career prospects across different regions and industries.

Comparing CCNA and CISSP: Which Should Come First?

Building a Strong Foundation

Starting with CCNA can provide a solid foundation in networking, which is beneficial when moving on to more advanced security concepts covered in CISSP. Understanding network operations, configuration, and troubleshooting can make the security aspects of CISSP more comprehensible and manageable. For instance, the Communication and Network Security domain of CISSP relies heavily on networking knowledge that is foundationally covered in CCNA.

Career Path Considerations

Your career goals play a significant role in deciding whether to pursue CCNA before CISSP. If you aim to start your career in networking roles or as a network engineer, obtaining a CCNA first makes sense. It can provide you with the necessary skills and qualifications to land your first job in the field. On the other hand, if you are already in a mid-level IT role and are aiming for a senior security position, you might prioritize CISSP.

Time and Resource Investment

CCNA is generally considered less intensive and time-consuming compared to CISSP. It can be a quicker certification to obtain, providing an immediate boost to your resume. Conversely, CISSP requires a deeper understanding and often a more significant time commitment. If you are looking for a quick way to enhance your credentials and start gaining practical experience, starting with CCNA might be the more pragmatic choice.

The Synergy of CCNA and CISSP

Complementary Skills

Both CCNA and CISSP offer complementary skills that are valuable in the IT field. CCNA focuses on the technical aspects of networking, while CISSP provides a broader understanding of security management and strategy. Together, these certifications can make you a well-rounded IT professional capable of handling both the technical and strategic aspects of information security.

Employer Preferences

Some employers prefer candidates who have a strong networking background (CCNA) before moving into security roles (CISSP). This combination can demonstrate a comprehensive skill set, showcasing your ability to understand and secure complex network infrastructures. Employers value this layered expertise, which can make you a more attractive candidate for a variety of roles.

Conclusion

Deciding whether to study CCNA before pursuing CISSP depends on your career goals, current position, and the specific requirements of the jobs you are targeting. Both certifications offer unique benefits and can significantly enhance your career in IT. Starting with CCNA can provide a solid networking foundation and quicker entry into the field, while CISSP offers advanced security knowledge and opportunities for senior positions.

Ultimately, combining the strengths of both certifications can make you a versatile and highly qualified IT professional. We invite you to leave a comment below with your thoughts or experiences on this topic. If you found this post helpful, click here to learn more about the CCITL IT training program where we help individuals break into Tech.

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