How Long to Study for CCNA? [2024 Exam Prep Guide]

How Long to Study for CCNA

CCNA is a highly coveted entry-level IT networking certification.

Since employers want to see CCNA on an applicant’s resume for entry-level IT and networking positions, it makes sense that you’re considering taking this exam.

As you research the exam and look for the best resources, you might also wonder how long to study for CCNA. However, the time it takes to master the material you’ll be tested on depends on several factors that we’ll explore in this article.

This CCNA study guide will also examine what you’ll be tested on, discuss the best ways to prepare for CCNA, and address your most frequently asked questions.

If you’re ready, let’s start.

About the Cisco Certified Network Associate

To determine how long it’ll take you to study for CCNA, you first need to familiarize yourself with the material you’ll be tested on.

CCNA is a vendor-specific exam that tests your ability to manage and optimize computer networks. It was created by Cisco, so you must familiarize yourself with Cisco networking hardware.

The CCNA test is comprised of six knowledge domains, which are:

  • Network fundamentals: Basic networking equipment and configuration. You’ll also be tested on common networking connectivity issues and have your troubleshooting skills put to the test.
  • Network access: Configuring VLANs, Interswitch connectivity, configuring and verifying Layer 2 protocols, and understanding Cisco-specific wireless architectures and AP modes.
  • IP connectivity: Interpreting, applying, and verifying routing table components.
  • IP services: Showcase your mastery of a range of network services pertaining to IT networking and IP addressing as it relates to Cisco-specific architecture.
  • Security fundamentals: Understanding network security principles, policies, wireless security protocols, and IPsec.
  • Automation and programmability: Using automation to optimize network management and understanding how to automate and program Cisco architecture.
CCNA Exam Domains

Exam Details

CCNA is a 120-minute test made up of 100 multiple-choice questions and a handful of performance-based lab questions. To pass, you’ll need a score of 825/1,000. 

Cisco doesn’t require test takers to have formal prerequisites. However, it urges test takers to have one to two years of experience working with Cisco systems. That being said, if you don’t have hands-on experience, you can prepare for the exam through diligent study.  

Certification Roadmap

CCNA is what we consider to be a Tier Two exam. This means having a foundational knowledge of IT before taking it would help.

To gauge your understanding of IT skills, we recommend obtaining CompTIA’s A+ certification.

Skipping this exam can lead to knowledge gaps that may make passing the CCNA challenging for you. If you don’t already have a foundational IT certification prior to taking CCNA, you must at least feel comfortable with the information covered in exams such as CompTIA A+.

CCNA Roadmaps

Factors Affecting How Long to Study for CCNA

How long it takes you to prepare for the exam depends on a variety of factors. Let’s take a look at those factors to help determine how much time you’ll need to invest in preparing for this networking certification.

1. Prior Knowledge

Take note of your prior IT and cyber security knowledge. Compare it to the knowledge domains above to see if your previous knowledge and what you’ll be tested on align.

To create a baseline, you may want to go through the exam objectives in more detail taking note of information you’ve already mastered. If you have prior networking experience, you may also consider taking a CCNA practice test to gauge your understanding of the test material.

2. Previous Experience

What hands-on experience do you have with the material you’ll be tested on?

Look back at the topics covered to recall if you’ve ever performed some of the networking operations in the past. Do you have experience with VLANs, networking protocols, IP services, automation, and consolidating networking security?

Think back to internships, jobs, and personal labs that may have provided the hands-on skills you’ll need to ace this exam.

3. Other Certifications

One way to gauge your knowledge of similar IT topics is to take propaedeutic certifications. Two certifications, in particular, provide a strong foundation for Cisco CCNA certification topics.

CompTIA A+

CompTIA A+ is an entry-level IT certification administered by CompTIA, a non-vendor-specific IT certification organization. A+ is comprised of two exams that test you on a wide range of IT topics. A large portion of the exam is dedicated to computer networking.

Cisco Certified Support Technician (CCST)

Cisco itself advises taking CCST as a way to prepare you for the CCNA certification. To be clear, there are three CCST certifications. If you are to take a CCST exam, be sure you sign up for the CCST networking certification.

This entry-level networking certification will test you on a range of entry-level networking concepts and topics. Obtaining this certification means you’ll have a very solid grasp of how networks operate.

While this certification is not a prerequisite, passing it will undoubtedly provide you with a grasp of some of the knowledge the CCNA will test you on.

How Long Does It Take to Study for CCNA?

How long it takes to study for the Cisco Certified Network Associate depends on a few things, and to give you a more realistic timeline and start creating a CCNA study guide, let’s look at a few things.

With Prior IT Knowledge

If you’ve taken exams such as CompTIA A+ or CCST, chances are you already understand certain networking topics that will be covered on CCNA.

A+ and CCST both dedicate large portions of the exams to networking. Having recently obtained one of the aforementioned certifications demonstrates your understanding of networking concepts and skills you’ll be tested on in your upcoming exam.

You may also have obtained CompTIA Network+, a popular networking certification that covers many of the same materials as CCNA. Once obtained, you only need to brush up on networking topics and better understand how Cisco architecture comes into play when networking.

Work experience in IT is also a major factor impacting how long you’ll need to study for CCNA. With prior IT knowledge, you may require as little as 100-150 hours of study time to pass the exam.

Without Prior IT Knowledge

If you have little to no IT knowledge, you’ll need to invest a decent chunk of time studying for the CCNA certification.

While this is an entry-level networking certification, aspiring test takers must devote a sizeable amount of time to preparing. If you truly have no prior IT knowledge, jumping from zero experience to mastering the intricacies of computer networking may feel like you’ve missed a step.

In this case, you should consider obtaining CompTIA A+ or CCST prior to taking CCNA.

Also, remember that CCNA is vendor-specific. This means that even if you’ve taken CompTIA Network+, you’ll still need to learn about Cisco-specific networking hardware and architecture prior to taking the exam.

If you have no prior IT knowledge, expect to spend 200–300 hours of study time to adequately prepare for the exam.

Everyone Is Different

Remember that these are only estimates. How long it’ll take for you depends on your previous IT knowledge and study habits.

If you pick up new networking concepts easily and have a couple of weeks to drill down and study for a few hours every day, this alone may be enough prep time for the exam. You know yourself better than anyone.

How to Study for CCNA

How long it takes to prepare for this exam also depends on how you go about it. The resources you use and the time you devote to studying are two variables you can control, and both of them play a role in preparing you for the exam. Let’s have a look at the best way to prepare for CCNA.

1. Identify What You Don’t Know

There are two ways to do this.

One way is by browsing the exam topics and identifying networking concepts that you’re unfamiliar with. Highlight these areas so you can do some focused preparation on them.  

The second way is to take a practice exam. Take two CCNA practice exams to gauge your current grasp of test material. From here, identify the areas you need to study.

We recommend only taking these practice tests if you already understand some networking concepts. You're not ready to take these practice tests if you have little to no IT or networking background.

This will give you a starting point and a blueprint for what you need to study and even how long it’ll take.

2. Establish Foundational IT Knowledge

This CCNA study prep tip won’t apply to everyone—only those with limited IT understanding.

Going from knowing nothing about IT to learning about networking will feel like skipping a step. It’ll be more difficult to grasp networking concepts if you don’t have a foundation to build on. That’s why it might be worth pursuing CompTIA A+ or CCST before taking the CCNA.

Even if you don’t take lower-level IT exams, you’ll at least want to master the material they cover.

3. Set A Realistic Schedule

How will you make time to study for CCNA?

You may have to study hundreds of hours to prepare for the exam. If that’s the case, you need to ask yourself how you’ll juggle studying with your other responsibilities.

You also need to ask yourself how many months you’re willing to devote to this.

If you aim for 100 hours of study time and want to take the exam within a couple of months, you’ll need to devote a little under two hours every day to studying.

4. Use Quality CCNA Study Material

Don’t use just any study resources to prepare for CCNA. We recommend using courses that those who’ve already aced the exam have used.

By joining the StationX Accelerator Program, you gain access to over 1,000 courses and labs. Many of these courses teach foundational IT knowledge, computer networking skills, and CCNA-specific prep courses.

5. Find a Supportive Community

Finding the motivation to study every day can be difficult. Joining a community that supports you in your endeavor to learn the ins and outs of Cisco-related networking architecture will increase your odds of passing the exam.

StationX has a community of cyber security and IT professionals who support one another. Joining will allow you to find peers to hold you accountable, join study groups, and interact with mentors who’ll guide you and answer your networking questions.

Conclusion

Cisco’s CCNA is an entry-level networking certification worth pursuing.

But just because it’s an entry-level certification doesn’t mean it’s easy to obtain. The amount of study time you need to become CCNA certified depends on your prior knowledge, study habits, and the resources you decide to use.

You can join the StationX Accelerator Program to access 1,000+ courses and virtual labs to help you prepare for your upcoming exam. Here are a few courses that’ll help you prepare for CCNA:

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  • Spencer Abel

    Spencer is part cyber security professional and part content writer. He specializes in helping those attempting to pivot into the vast and always-changing world of cyber security by making complex topics fun and palatable. Connect with him over at LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with his latest content.

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