CCNA vs CCNP. Which certification is best for you?


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Software and Networks are becoming more interconnected every day. Technological advances are connecting people, devices, machines, and applications. With intent-based networking, organizations are taking advantage of automation to scale and secure their businesses to capitalize on this opportunity. To do so, organizations are looking for network professionals with knowledge and skills in the networking domain. And what better way to showcase your knowledge and skill than showing certification in the networking domain. Here are some facts you must know, 78% of technology executives and managers consider technical certifications a critical success factor, 99% of organizations use certifications to make hiring decisions.

There are multiple networking certifications out there, and in this blog, I will be talking about two very popular certifications – CCNA and CCNP. These certifications help you position yourself for advancement in the fast-paced world of information technology. CCNA is a mid-level networking certification, and CCNP is a professional networking certification, both offered by Cisco. Both the certificates have a validity of three years, after which you must recertify.


CCNA stands for Cisco Certified Network Associate. CCNA is a mid-level certification from Cisco, and it has many different areas within the actual certification line. As enterprises migrate towards controller-based architecture, the core network engineer plays a vital role in any organization that can assure a secure and fast network. The CCNA 200-301 certification prepares you for this, as it validates the holder’s general ability to install, configure, secure, operate, and troubleshoot various aspects of a medium-sized enterprise network. A CCNA certified professional is an asset for the organization. They are able to give better ROI as compared to regular networking IT guys.

To get CCNA certified, you need to clear the 200-301 Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam.  This exam tests your knowledge and skills on network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security fundamentals, automation, and programmability. To give the certification exam, you need to log in at the Pearson VUE website, select the 200-301 exam and register. There were multiple CCNA certifications earlier, but after Feb 24th, 2020, CCNA has moved to one certification one exam, and that is CCNA 200-301.

So how much does a CCNA certification costs? It is about 300 US dollars as of today. CCNA is good for three years, so that means when your three years run up from the time that you got certified that CCNA certification, you have to renew it. One of the biggest questions that I always get is how much different jobs, certifications, and degrees will end up paying you. That will vary based on location and what the job actually wants to pay you for having a CCNA certification. So, there are actually a few variables that need to be taken into place.

If you are a female who is holding a CCNA certification, you can actually make more money based on research that I have looked up. The average salary for a female CCNA is between $55,000 to $90,0000 per year, and the average male salary is between $50,000 to $92,000 per year. Those are the kinds of just a broad range of different salaries that you can find with CCNA certification. There are other factors that come into place with the salary range, based on experience, additional certifications and maybe a degree.


CCNP stands for Cisco Certified Network Professional. This certification offered by Cisco comes under the professional certification category. To earn a professional certification, you need to clear two exams, one core exam and one concentration exam of your choice. Currently, there is five types of CCNP certifications – Enterprise, Data Center, Security, Service Provider, Collaboration.  CCNP Enterprise is the most popular certification in this professional category. This certification majorly concentrates on networking solutions of an enterprise. 

To earn the CCNP enterprise certification, you must pass exam one core exam that covers the core enterprise technologies that is the 350-401 ENCOR exam. The second exam is an enterprise concentration exam of your choice to help you customize your certification according to your technical area of focus.  Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies (350-401 ENCOR) core exams validates your knowledge of enterprise infrastructure including virtualization, architecture, security, network assurance, and automation. You also qualify for CCIE lab exams by passing CCNP core exams.

The 350-401 ENCOR exam’s recommended training is “Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies”. This training will provide you with the knowledge and skills required to configure, troubleshoot and manage enterprise wired and wireless networks. You will also learn the implementation of security principles within an enterprise network and the procedure to overlay network design by using solutions like SD-WAN and SD-LAN access. The 350-401 implementing cisco enterprise network core technologies ENCOR exam is also a part of CCNP Enterprise, CC enterprise infrastructure, CC enterprise wireless and Cisco Certified Specialist Enterprise core exams.

CCNA vs CCNP: Key Differences

Certification Type

CCNA is an associate-level networking certification by Cisco. IT professionals begin their networking certification journey with this associate certification, and by far, this is the most popular Cisco certification. So, if you are looking for an entry-level role in the networking domain, this is the certification for you.

CCNP is a professional-level networking certification by Cisco. This certification is more difficult to crack than CCNA and validates your more in-depth knowledge of networking concepts. If you are already in the networking domain with some experience, this certification is a suitable option.

Prerequisites / Eligibility

There is no prerequisite for the CCNA certification exam. If you have a good understanding of the exam topics, you can go ahead and attempt the CCNA exam. The candidates appearing for CCNA have a basic knowledge of IP addressing and network fundamentals.

Even CCNP also has no formal prerequisite, but since this exam is more challenging than CCNA, it is not suitable for beginners. The candidates appearing for the CCNP exam should be IT professionals with at least three to five years of work experience creating enterprise-level networking solutions.


Exam Blueprint

Below are the different topics covered and their coverage % in the CCNA certification exam.

Topics % in Exam
Network Fundamentals 20%
Network Access 20%
IP connectivity 25%
IP Services 10%
Security Fundamentals 15%
Automation and Programmability 10%


Below are the different topics covered and their coverage % in the CCNP certification exam.


Topics % in Exam
Architecture 15%
Virtualization 10%
Infrastructure 30%
Network Assurance 10%
Security 20%
Automation 15%


Certification Exam Details

The CCNA 200-301 certification exam is of duration 120 minutes which includes 100-120 questions. You need to score around 850 out of 1000 to pass this exam. 

The CCNP 350-401 ENCOR exam is of duration 120 minutes which includes approximately 100 questions. You need to score around 825 out of 1000 to pass this exam. 

Both the exams have the majority of questions as multiple choice. You can also find a different kind of questions such as fill in the blank, drag and drop, Testlet, Simulation, Simlet. 

Certification Cost

The CCNA certification exam costs 300 USD, this includes proctoring as well. 

The CCNP certification core exams with 350-xxx code cost 400 USD, and the concentration exams with code 300-xxx cost 300 USD. All the professional exams are also proctored.


The average salary of a CCNA certified network engineer in the United States is around $84,376. The salary also depends on the years of experience, so a fresher with just one year of experience and CCNA certified would earn about $58,945, whereas an IT professional with ten years of experience and CCNA certified would earn more than $95,000.

The average salary of a CCNP certified network specialist in the United States is around $107,293. Top earners with CCNP certification earn about $170,000, and the minimum salary with a CCNP certification would be approximately $65,000.

Career Path

Below are the career path options for individuals going for the CCNA certification path:

  • Network Support Engineer
  • Helpdesk Engineer
  • Service Desk Engineer
  • Network Associate
  • System Administrator
  • First and Second Line Support

Below are the career path options for individuals going for the CCNP certification path:

  • Senior Network Engineer
  • Senior Network Analyst
  • IT Team Leader
  • Network Specialist
  • Third Line Support engineer


Below is a summarized table that shows the key differences between CCNA and CCNP.

Comparison CCNA CCNP
Certification Type Associate Professional
Started In 1998 1998
Eligibility Criteria No mandatory eligibility, suitable for beginners No mandatory eligibility, suitable for network professionals with 3 to 5 years of work experience
Focus Area Network Fundamentals, Network Access, IP connectivity, IP Services, Security Fundamentals, Automation and Programmability Architecture, Virtualization, Infrastructure, Network Assurance, Security, Automation
Exams Only one exam to clear for certification Two exams, one core and one concentration exam need to be cleared for certification
Exam Duration 120 Minutes 120 minutes
Fees 300$  Core exam: 400$

Concentration exam: 300$

Career Paths Network Support Engineer, Helpdesk Engineer, Service Desk Engineer, Network Associate, System Administrator, First and Second Line Support Senior Network Engineer, Senior Network Analyst, IT Team Leader, Network Specialist, Third Line Support engineer


Key Differences

Skills and Training

Both CCNA and CCNP programs offer training for IT professionals. However, each program offers a different training experience. You can learn how small- to medium-sized routing networks and switches are installed, configured, and managed by a CCNA program. You might also learn how to troubleshoot problems and remove private security threats. A CCNA program will teach you how to connect with remote sites.

You can continue to develop your skills from your CCNA training by enrolling in a CCNP course. Your CCNP program will teach you how to troubleshoot, configure, and install networks. You might also learn how to manage switches and routers that form the core network. A CCNP program will teach you how to manage edge applications that integrate voice, wireless, and security into the network.

Education requirements

The number of exams IT professionals must pass to receive their certification is another difference between the CCNA and CCNP programs. To receive your certification, most CCNA programs require that you only pass one exam.

The CCNP certification requires more testing because it is more advanced than the CCNA. Depending on which area you specialize in, you might need to take three to four exams to earn your CCNP certification.

Cisco Certification Levels

Let’s first look at the Cisco credentials and the professional levels that they offer.

Cisco Certification Levels:

  • Entry Level

Two credentials are required for entry-level certifications:

  1. Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
  2. Cisco Certified Technician or CCT

These certifications are the foundation for a successful career as a networker.

  • Architect Level

The Cisco Certified Architect certification is the highest level of certificate. This certification will allow you to demonstrate your formal knowledge of Cisco technologies as well as infrastructural architectural design.

These are the two most sought-after certifications:

  1. Course certification for CCNA
  2. Course certification for CCNP
  • Associate Level

These are the Associate Level Certifications:

  1. CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Associate)
  2. CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)

These certificates will help you demonstrate the skills required to successfully manage state-of-the art network solutions.

  • Professional Level

These are the two professional-level certifications:

  1. CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional)
  2. CCNP is Cisco Certified Network Professional

These certificates are used to recognize the candidate’s skills and help them develop advanced networking skills.

  • Expert Level

Two expert-level certifications are available:

  1. CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert)
  2. CCDE, Cisco Certified Design Expert

These certifications will enable you to gain expert-level network design skills around the globe.

You may have noticed that certain certifications can be obtained at two levels. These certifications are used to test multiple skills that can be useful at different points in your career.

CCNA vs. CCNP – Which one should you choose?

When it comes to choosing which certification to pursue, it all depends on the professional’s career. CCNP certification is a higher-level than CCNA. You should first obtain CCNA certifications, then move on to the professional level CCNP certification to become CCNP. You can also gain experience in the field, and then try to get a CCNP certificate.

Final Thoughts

That was all that you needed to know about CCNA and CCNP certifications and their differences. With these high-value certifications under your belt, Show the world you know your stuff. It is needless to say that both the certifications are hot in the market and have an increasing trend year on year. Whichever certification you choose will help you make your career successful in the networking domain. The demand for networking experts is high, and this is the right time to get yourself certified in any of these two networking certifications.


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