CompTIA vs Cisco: Which Is More Suitable for You?

CompTIA vs Cisco

If you want to enter or advance in IT and cyber security, getting certifications and more certifications is the way to go. Two major certifying bodies are CompTIA and Cisco. The question is: which certifications are more suitable for you in the pursuit of your IT career goals?

Look no further: we’ve got you covered. In this article comparing CompTIA vs Cisco, we’ll break down the roles of CompTIA and Cisco in the IT industry, their certifications, and the intended candidates for Cisco vs CompTIA certification exams.

Knowing which one to take is important to achieve your career goals sooner and prove to prospective employers you have the necessary skills to excel at your dream tech job. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

What Are CompTIA and Cisco?

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a vendor-neutral IT credentialing nonprofit organization providing education and training for aspiring and existing IT professionals.

According to CompTIA, “CompTIA certifications align with IT infrastructure and cybersecurity career paths, with each added certification representing a deepening of your expertise. Core certifications, like CompTIA A+, lay the groundwork for the specialized pathway certifications, and additional professional certifications cover necessary IT skills like project management.”

Well-known CompTIA certifications include:

  • A+
  • Network+
  • Security+
  • PenTest+
  • CySA+
  • CASP+
  • Linux+
  • Cloud+
  • Project+

CompTIA certifications focus on technological concepts and are vendor-neutral, which means they assess your understanding of general knowledge in IT fields such as networking or security, irrespective of any particular product or service. Training for these certifications enhances your ability to apply these concepts broadly to existing technologies.

On the other hand, Cisco is a multinational technology company that manufactures and markets networking hardware, software, and other telecommunications products and services. Therefore, Cisco certifications focus on Cisco networking equipment and are more hands-on—they test you on the capabilities of specific Cisco products at various levels.

The stated purposes of Cisco’s certifications are

  • Launching a new career in tech
  • Amplifying your current tech skills
  • Preparing you for a range of tech roles

Cisco certifications come in four levels: Entry, Associate, Professional, and Expert. The best-known among them are:

  • Cisco Certified Support Technician (CCST)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Cisco CyberOps
  • Cisco DevNet
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
  • Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)

CompTIA and Cisco offer training programs on all their certifications.

Who Are CompTIA and Cisco Certifications For?

Suppose you’re starting in IT or cyber security or want to prove your understanding of concepts for tech roles that span multiple disciplines, such as desktop support and cyber security. In that case, CompTIA is a good fit because it’s vendor-neutral and covers a broad scope. It gives you a solid foundation, especially for those wanting to work in cyber security someday.

Suppose you have a solid IT foundation and intend to dedicate yourself to the networking industry in networking administration and engineering roles. In that case, a Cisco certification is preferable because the ubiquity of Cisco systems makes Cisco certifications valuable to employers and essential for aspiring and current networking professionals.

Comparable CompTIA and Cisco Certifications

This section concerns the similarities and differences between major Cisco and CompTIA certifications.

CompTIA A+ and Cisco Certified Support Technician

The following table summarizes what each exam is about:

CertificationCompTIA A+Cisco Certified Support Technician (CCST)
DomainsCompTIA A+ consists of two exams, Core 1 and Core 2. You must pass both to get A+.

Core 1:
1. Mobile Devices
2. Networking
3. Hardware
4. Virtualization and Cloud Computing
5. Hardware and Network Troubleshooting

Core 2:
1. Operating Systems
2. Security
3. Software Troubleshooting
4. Operational Procedures
CCST consists of two concentrations: CCST Networking and CCST Cybersecurity. Unlike A+, passing either gives you a CCST certification but in the stated concentration, such as cyber security for CCST Cybersecurity.

CCST Networking:
1. Standards and Concepts
2. Addressing and Subnet Formats
3. Endpoints and Media Types
4. Infrastructure
5. Diagnosing Problems
6. Security
CCST Cybersecurity:
1. Essential Security Principles
2. Basic Network Security Concepts
3. Endpoint Security Concepts
4. Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Management
5. Incident Handling
PrerequisitesNoneNone
Target audience• Professionals who intend to start a career in IT

• Nine to 12 months of hands-on experience in technical roles in academia or industry or equivalent training
• Individuals interested in starting or shifting to a career in IT

• Late high-school, secondary, and immediate post-secondary students, technical schools, and entry-level IT and Networking professionals
How to take the examIn-person: Pearson VUE test centers
Online: OnVUE via Pearson
In-person: Certiport Authorized Testing Centers (CATCs)
Online: OnVUE via Certiport
Latest exam codeCore 1: 201-1101
Core 2: 201-1102
N/A
Exam cost$246 USD for each of the two exams$125 USD for each of the Networking and Cybersecurity exams
Exam time90 minutes for each of the Core 1 and Core 2 exams50 minutes for each of the Networking and Cybersecurity exams
Available exam languagesEnglish, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Thai, SpanishNetworking: English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese
Cybersecurity: English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Renewal requirements20 Continuing Education Units while the certification is still validNone.
Certification validityThree yearsLifetime
CompTIA A+ Exam Domains
CompTIA A+ Exam Domains

CompTIA Network+ and Cisco Certified Network Associate

The following table lays out briefly what each exam is about. Don’t forget to check out our in-depth comparison article Network+ vs CCNA.

CertificationCompTIA Network+Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
DomainsCompTIA Network+ is a single exam covering the following domains:

1. Networking Fundamentals (24%)
2. Network Implementations (19%)
3. Network Operations (16%)
4. Network Security (19%)
5. Network Troubleshooting (22%)
CCNA is a single exam covering the following domains:

1. Network Fundamentals (20%)
2. Network Access (20%)
3. IP Connectivity (25%)
4. IP Services (10%)
5. Security Fundamentals (15%)
6. Automation and Programmability (10%)
PrerequisitesNone.

CompTIA recommends that candidates hold CompTIA A+ or equivalent certifications and at least nine to 12 months of hands-on experience in a junior network administrator or network support technician role.
No formal prerequisitesAccording to Cisco’s in-house CCNA training page, you should have:

1. Basic PC operating system navigation skills
2. Basic Internet usage skills
3. Basic IP address knowledge

Cisco also recommends at least one year of experience implementing and administering Cisco solutions before taking up the CCNA certification.
Target audience• Professionals who want to develop their networking careers

• CompTIA A+ certification

• At least nine months of networking experience
• Early-career networking professionals

Those who want to build or support IT infrastructure
How to take the examIn-person: Pearson VUE test centers
Online: OnVUE via Pearson
In-person: Pearson VUE test centers
Online: OnVUE via Pearson
Latest exam codeN10-008200-301 CCNA
Exam cost$358 USD$300 USD or use Cisco Learning Credits
Exam time90 minutes120 minutes
Available exam languagesEnglish, German, Portuguese, SpanishEnglish, Japanese
Renewal requirements30 Continuing Education Units while the certification is still validPass another Cisco qualifying exam or earn 30 continuing education credits
Certification validityThree yearsThree years
CompTIA Network plus exam domains
CompTIA Network+ Exam Domains
CCNA exam domains
Cisco CCNA Exam Domains

CompTIA Security+ and Cisco Certified Network Professional Security

Here’s a table explaining what each exam is about:

CertificationCompTIA Security+Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Security
DomainsCompTIA Security+ is a single exam covering the following domains:

1. General Security Concepts (12%)
2. Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Mitigations (22%)
3. Security Architecture (18%)
4. Security Operations (28%)
5. Security Program Management and Oversight (20%)
CCNP Security combines two exams: a mandatory Core exam and the candidate’s choice of Concentration exam.

Core exam domains:

SCOR:
1. Secure Network Access, Visibility, and Enforcement (15%)
2. Security Concepts (25%)
3. Network Security (20%)
4. Securing the Cloud (15%)
5. Content Security (15%)
6. Endpoint Protection and Detection (10%)

Concentration exams:

SNCF: Securing Networks with Cisco Firewalls
SISE: Implementing and Configuring Cisco Identity Services Engine
SESA: Securing Email with Cisco Email Security Appliance
SWSA: Securing the Web with Cisco Secure Web Appliance
SVPN: Implementing Secure Solutions with Virtual Private Networks
SAUTO: Automating and Programming Cisco Security Solutions
SCAZT: Designing and Implementing Secure Cloud Access for Users and Endpoints
Prerequisites• A minimum of two years of experience in IT administration with a focus on security

• Hands-on experience with technical information securityBroad knowledge of security concepts
No formal prerequisites

• Candidates often also have three to five years of experience implementing security solutions
How to take the examIn-person: Pearson VUE test centers
Online: OnVUE via Pearson
In-person: Pearson VUE test centers
Online: OnVUE via Pearson
Latest exam codeSY0-701Core: 350-701 SCOR
Concentration: 300-710 SNCF, 300-715 SISE, 300-720 SESA, 300-725 SWSA, 300-730 SVPN, 300-735 SAUTO, 300-740 SCAZT
Exam cost$392 USDCore: $400 USD
Concentration: $300 USD each
Exam time90 minutesCore: 120 minutes
Concentration: 90 minutes each
Available exam languagesEnglish, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, PortugueseEnglish
Renewal requirements50 Continuing Education Units while the certification is still valid.
  • Earn 80 credits, or
  • Pass any professional Concentration exam and earn 40 continuing education credits.
Certification validityThree yearsThree years
Security Plus 701 Domains
CompTIA Security+ (SY0-701) Exam Domains
CCNP SCOR Exam Domains
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Security Core Exam Domains

CompTIA vs Cisco Certifications: Which One Is Best for Me?

Both organizations have well-respected certifications, so your goals are the most important determining factor when choosing between CompTIA and Cisco certifications.

What do you want to learn, and what IT careers are you aiming for?

CompTIA certifications demonstrate a high-level understanding of concepts broadly applicable to different areas of IT. This bird’s eye view is especially useful to those who want to work in cloud computing, cyber security, and IT consulting or auditing, as CompTIA certifications underscore the interconnectedness of IT disciplines.

Networking is the forte of Cisco certifications. Unlike CompTIA, which emphasizes the conceptual aspects of technology, Cisco is intensely practical and focuses on networking technologies developed by the parent company. Therefore, Cisco certifications are a hot catch for networking careers such as network engineers, architects, and administrators.

Lastly, look at tech job descriptions in the regions where you plan to apply. Most countries recognize Cisco certifications, while CompTIA certifications mostly appear in job requirements in the United States, Europe, and a handful of Asian countries.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in training for CompTIA or Cisco certifications and leveling up in tech, remember to check out our StationX membership, which includes thousands of relevant self-paced online courses and a thriving community of professionals, giving you the most up-to-date information in IT and cyber security certifications and careers.

We’ve highlighted the main similarities and differences of beginner- to intermediate-level Cisco vs CompTIA certifications, and we hope this article comparing the merits of CompTIA vs Cisco certifications has been helpful to you in your IT learning and career journey. We wish you all the best if you plan to gain their certifications.

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  • Cassandra Lee

    Cassandra is a writer, artist, musician, and technologist who makes connections across disciplines: cyber security, writing/journalism, art/design, music, mathematics, technology, education, psychology, and more. She's been a vocal advocate for girls and women in STEM since the 2010s, having written for Huffington Post, International Mathematical Olympiad 2016, and Ada Lovelace Day, and she's honored to join StationX. You can find Cassandra on LinkedIn and Linktree.

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