If you're considering either the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) or Network+ certification to boost your career, it's crucial to understand the differences between the two.
Both certificates can be valuable assets to validate your capabilities and open up new opportunities in the industry. However, as much as they might seem similar, there are some major differences that you should be aware of before making the decision.
This article will provide you with a thorough comparison of the Network+ vs CCNA certifications, including prerequisites, content covered, cost, and job prospects.
We'll highlight the key differences between the two certificates and provide guidance to help you make the most informed decision on which one is right for your career goals.
What Are Network+ and CCNA Certifications?
Both certificates are among the most widely-recognized and sought-after entry-level networking certifications in the tech industry. Although both CCNA and Network+ aim to teach students introductory knowledge about networking fundamentals, they don’t exactly share the same curriculum, learning outcomes, and future development paths.
Therefore, in this section, we will provide you with an overview of both certificates and clearly define the objectives and target audience for both.
The CompTIA Network+ certification is an entry-level networking qualification designed to validate an individual's knowledge and skills in network technologies.
It is one of the core certifications administered by CompTIA, an IT training organization recognized worldwide for its certifications in various areas of IT, including hardware, software, networking, security, cloud computing, and project management.
Network+ aims to demonstrate an understanding of fundamental networking concepts and multi-vendor networking skills such as network design, configuration, troubleshooting, maintenance, and security.
The certificate is vendor-neutral, qualifying a candidate as having essential networking knowledge for entry-level network support positions.
CCNA is an enterprise networking certification provided by Cisco Systems, Inc.
It is designed for entry-level and junior-level network professionals to gain a relatively deep understanding of the network infrastructure and the technical knowledge necessary to install and maintain a Cisco enterprise network infrastructure.
Cisco is a global technology leader and manufacturer of networking and communications equipment, as well as a provider of cloud, security, and collaboration solutions. As of 2022, Cisco made up 41% of the enterprise network infrastructure market, followed by Huawei, occupying 10% of the market share.
The CCNA certification validates the candidates' proficiency in networking areas, including networking fundamentals, routing and switching, security, and automation, among others, as well as their ability to configure and manage Cisco hardware and software solutions.
The CCNA serves as the foundation for more advanced certifications, such as the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP).
Both CCNA and Network+ allow you to study at your own pace or join preparation classes before taking the exam. However, the covered material is different, as we have discussed earlier, hence their exam objectives. More details are below.
Network+ Exam Details
The Network+ certification process requires you to pass the N10-008 exam, which covers five major domains, as you can see below.
Each domain has different objectives designed to measure the candidate's knowledge and comprehension of the subject matter. You can learn more about each objective from the official CompTIA Network+ Certification Exam Objectives.
There will be a maximum of 90 questions, including a combination of multiple-choice and performance-based questions, and you'll have 90 minutes to complete the exam. The minimum passing score is 720 out of 900 points.
CCNA Exam Details
Similar to Network+, CCNA test takers must pass a single exam (200-301), the latest version of the CCNA certification exam, and part of the new CCNA certification path.
This exam also takes a similar approach to the Network+ exam. It consists of about 100 multiple-choice questions and simulation tests within 120 minutes.
The Cisco CCNA exam covers all the CCNA range of domains with the following percentages:
You will also need to demonstrate your ability to use Cisco IOS commands to configure Cisco equipment in a simulated environment.
Additionally, you will be expected to have an understanding of basic scripting languages and configuration management mechanisms for certain tools such as Puppet, Chef, and Ansible and how they are used in automation processes.
You can learn more about the exam and each section from the CCNA’s official exam description.
Both CCNA and CompTIA certifications allow you to either take the exam in person or through an online proctored exam administered by Person VUE.
Both certificates allow you to study and take the exam at your own convenience. However, in terms of substance, the CCNA program would cover nearly all of the essential Network+ subjects while providing more in-depth and practical training.
There are no formal eligibility requirements for the Network+ and CCNA certificates. Both providers, however, recommend some prior knowledge and hands-on experience.
Cisco, for instance, recommends at least one year of expertise in deploying and managing Cisco solutions.
On the other hand, CompTIA recommends acquiring the CompTIA A+ or an equivalent qualification first, in addition to at least nine to 12 months of practical experience working as a junior network administrator/network support technician.
Don't be discouraged if you lack the necessary education or experience to qualify for the CCNA or Network+ exams. Online Courses are a viable alternative to get up to speed on the basics of IT and prepare for these exams.
At StationX, we provide a range of Essential IT courses that cover fundamental knowledge in various IT domains, including hardware, software, databases, and security concepts. We also cover more advanced topics and preparation courses to help you prepare for the CCNA and Network+ exams. Further information on these offerings will be covered later in the article.
If you are looking to improve your technical skills and advance your career in IT, we invite you to check out our offerings and see how we can help you achieve your goals.
Neither Network+ nor CCNA set any formal eligibility requirements. Both recommend prior knowledge and hands-on experience.
The success rate is not made public by either Cisco or CompTIA for their exams. So it can be challenging to gauge the exact level of difficulty.
With that being said, both certificates cover network fundamentals and build on that in different directions.
Network+ will cover vendor-neutral deployability and maintenance principles and touch on certain security and cloud topics.
On the other hand, CCNA will address the latter topics and orient the implementation towards Cisco devices, leading to additional topics concerning Cisco's proprietary technologies, such as the Cisco DNA Centre.
Additionally, to pass the CCNA's automation and programmability sections, you will need to have a solid understanding of fundamental programming concepts and be able to apply them in the context of networking. You will also need to be familiar with the concept of an API (Application Programming Interface) and how it is used in networking.
In this roadmap, the initial stages, one to three, are fundamental for building a solid background for a cyber security career. As one progresses and gains experience, stages 4 and 5 present different specialization paths to continue growing in their field.
Both Network+ and CCNA belong to stage two networking skills and are well-respected and recognized junior-level certifications in the field.
Winner: CompTIA Network+
Both certifications aim to teach the fundamentals of IT Networking. CCNA, however, delves further into the subjects and is more technical in its practical aspects. This increases the complexity and time required to study all the material, especially given the additional automation and programmability subjects, which require you to learn some programming/scripting concepts.
A comparison of job postings in the USA reveals a clear preference for CCNA over Network+. According to ZipRecruiter, in the USA there are currently about 7,114 job postings specifically looking for CCNA holders, compared to only 376 job postings for Network+ holders.
This gap may actually be even larger, as some of the job openings that list Network+ as a requirement may also accept CCNA certifications. This demonstrates a clear discrepancy between the two certifications in terms of job marketability.
It also reflects in the salaries, as shown in the results below from ZipRecruiter statistics.
Nationwide, CCNA jobs tend to pay an average of 30% more per year compared to Network+ jobs. This can be attributed to the fact that the CCNA certification prepares individuals to directly handle Cisco infrastructures once certified, while Network+ provides a more general understanding of networking concepts.
You can confirm this while comparing job listings for both certificates. For instance, when looking for CCNA job listings, you are presented with higher-level positions such as Network Engineer/Administrator, Wireless Network Engineer, Fiber Optic Engineer, etc. Network+ is commonly needed for lower-level roles such as help desk technician, IT/network technician, level 1-2 network analyst positions, etc.
Also, note that Cisco prepares you for the new era of programmable networks and all the new job opportunities it comes with them.
Obtaining a Cisco CCNA certification can open up a wider range of career opportunities while offering higher compensation than those positions only requiring the Network+ certification.
Cost and Recertification
Both the CCNA and Network+ certifications have a fairly comparable cost associated with taking the exams and maintaining the certifications. However, there are some distinct variations that we would like to bring to your attention in this section.
CompTIA offers several bundles to get enrolled for Network+. However, for our comparison's sake, we will only consider the exam voucher, which will cost you $358. If you fail the exam and need to retake it after purchasing only the exam voucher, you must repay the full price again.
Once certified, the Network+ is valid for three years and must be renewed within that timeframe.
You can renew Network+ in a single activity or earn 30 CEUs (Continuous Education Units) through multiple activities.
You have the following options for a single activity:
- CompTIA Certmaster CE(Continuous Education) training
- Pass higher CompTIA Certifications
- Obtain other non-CompTIA certifications
- Or pass the most recent Network+ exam
For multiple activities,
- Training and higher education
- Relevant IT industry activities
- Creating and publishing relevant content
- Earning work experience in a related field
You can learn more about the costs and specifics for each option through CompTIA's: What Renewal Options Are Available to You.
In the case of CCNA, the exam voucher will set you back $300, and similarly to Network+, you would need to pay the full price if you fail the exam after purchasing the voucher only.
The CCNA is also valid for three years and requires you to recertify within those years through a single activity or multiple.
For the single activity, you have the option to
- Retake the CCNA exam
- Obtain a higher level Cisco exam
Alternatively, you can renew through multiple activities by accumulating 30 CE points.
- You will be presented with a list of activities through the Cisco CE platform, offering instructor-led and online activities that provide varying numbers of credits
Cisco regularly revises the CE catalog and the prices of each course, including free options in some instances.
First, both certifications allow you to take the exam without enrolling in the official training. Network+ offers flexibility in terms of renewal options, whereas CCNA has fewer alternatives but can be renewed at no cost.
Network+ vs CCNA - The Final Verdict
Deciding which certificate is superior ultimately depends on your current situation and future objectives. Therefore, if you are pursuing a career in networking, we recommend Cisco CCNA over Network+. This is primarily due to the fact that the CCNA provides greater marketability and recognition, as well as more employment opportunities and higher earning potential in the field.
Additionally, it is likely that most positions will require certification in the deployed infrastructure, so if Cisco is involved in the infrastructure of your target job or company, then CCNA is an absolute must.
On the other hand, if you are just starting out in networking or are just looking to gain a strong foundation in networking, the Network+ certification may be a better option for you. This is especially the case if you are interested in pursuing another career in IT, such as cyber security, where a broader but shallower understanding may serve you better.
Taking Network+ will expose you to a wide range of computer networking topics and technologies without getting bogged down by unnecessary proprietary technologies and implementation details.
You might even want to consider the CompTIA Trifecta (see our CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ cheat sheets), which is a common certification path for candidates trying to build a solid IT knowledge base and increase their credibility in the IT job market.
At StationX, we provide courses and preparation materials designed to give you a comprehensive understanding of the certificate content, ensuring that you're fully prepared to succeed in the most cost-effective way. Additionally, our practice tests and lab content will allow you to assess your current position and address any areas of weakness before taking the real exam.