What Is the Cisco CCST Networking Exam? (2024 Guide)

What Is CCST Networking

If you’ve been wondering how to prove your IT skills, you may have encountered CCST Networking as an alternative entry-level IT certification comparable to CompTIA A+ or Network+. 

Still, you can’t afford to spend your days obsessing over a new certification when you have other priorities. Instead of Googling endlessly for answers, we’ve got you covered. 

In this article, we talk about what CCST Networking is, how much the CCST exam costs, how to get the CCST Networking certification, and why you’d want to consider it.

When you’re ready, let’s dive in.

What Is CCST: Cisco Certified Support Technician (CCST) Networking

This section will cover essential facts about the Cisco Certified Support Technician (CCST) Networking certification. 

What Is Cisco?

Cisco is a multinational technology company that manufactures and markets networking hardware, software, and other telecommunications products and services. 

Therefore, Cisco certifications, including CCST, focus on Cisco networking equipment. They are more hands-on and can test your understanding of the capabilities of specific Cisco products at various levels.

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)

All of the above are industry-recognized certifications.

Is There More Than One CCST Certification?

CCST Networking is one of three existing CCST certifications. The other two are CCST Cybersecurity and CCST IT Support, which are different exams with different emphases:

  • CCST Cybersecurity encompasses entry-level cyber security concepts and topics, including “security principles, network security and endpoint security concepts, vulnerability assessment and risk management, and incident handling.”
  • CCST IT Support will “prepare you for typical entry-level IT support roles that involve offering guidance and technical assistance to users dealing with hardware and software.”

CCST Networking Primary Focus

CCST Networking primarily focuses on your comprehension of entry-level networking concepts and topics. This CCST exam tests you on how networks operate, including the devices, media, and protocols that enable network communications.

CCST Networking Experience Level

According to the diagram below, CCST Networking is a Stage 2 certification. It’s harder to earn than CompTIA A+, comparable to Network+’s difficulty level, but easier than Security+

Essential IT knowledge is the foundation for CCST Networking exam material. Moreover, CCST Networking is a stepping stone toward CCNA, which is more popular with employers.

CCST Networking’s Primary Audience

CCST Networking targets secondary and immediate post-secondary students and entry-level IT and networking professionals, so it’s designed for entry-level network technicians, networking students, interns, and similar positions.

It’s suitable for those who want to join the networking world with their IT experience and network professionals who wish to build a comprehensive understanding of modern networking technologies and practices.

The CCST Networking certification qualifies holders as entry-level network technicians and customer support technicians.

What Does the CCST Exam Cover?

The CCST Networking exam covers six domains:

  • Standards and Concepts
  • Addressing and Subnet Formats
  • Endpoints and Media Types
  • Infrastructure
  • Diagnosing Problems
  • Security

We break them down one by one below.

Standards and Concepts

This topic covers fundamentals typically found in a tertiary-level course on digital communication principles and computer networks.

Here, you’ll learn about the basic building blocks of networks. These include the TCP/IP model, OSI model, frames and packets, packet addressing, common physical and logical network topologies, and typical network applications and protocols, including but not limited to:

➤ TCP
➤ UDP
➤ FTP
➤ SFTP
➤ TFTP
➤ HTTP
➤ HTTPS
➤ DHCP
➤ DNS
➤ ICMP
➤ NTP

Next, you’ll get a solid understanding of bandwidth, throughput, latency, and delay and how to compare a speed test and the network diagnostic tool Iperf. 

The CCST Networking exam will also test your knowledge of “[fill-in-the-blank] area networks” such as LAN, WAN, MAN, CAN, PAN, and WLAN.

With the proliferation of cloud computing, it’s no surprise that you’ll need to compare and contrast cloud and on-premises applications and services, such as public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. 

However, you should also know about SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS and understand remote versus hybrid work.

Addressing and Subnet Formats

The CCST Networking exam will test you on the fundamentals of internet protocols, such as private and public addresses. 

This domain includes address classes, NAT concepts, IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, and subnet/prefix formats. Other specific concepts are subnet concepts, the IP subnet calculator, slash notation, and subnet mask. 

Endpoints and Media Types

This exam domain covers endpoint devices such as computers, mobile devices, IP Phones, printers, servers, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including Raspberry Pi’s, Arduinos, virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, and smart washing machines.

Media types refer to cables and connectors commonly used in local area networks. You’ll need to tell apart fiber, copper, and twisted pair cables and be able to point out coax, RJ-45, RJ-11, and fiber connectors. 

You’ll also have to differentiate between Wi-Fi, cellular, and wired network technologies and identify sources of interference.

The last items of this domain’s exam are setting up and checking network connectivity on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Android, and Apple iOS; using networking utilities on Windows, Linux, Android, and Apple operating systems; running troubleshooting commands; and questions surrounding wireless client settings such as SSID, authentication, and WPA mode.

Infrastructure

Cisco certifications such as CCST and CCNA require the candidate to know hard facts about Cisco products; this domain is where you’ll find this. 

You’ll have a Cisco device on which to identify the blinking and solid status lights of different colors and use a network diagram to attach appropriate cables to various ports.

Questions in this domain also expect you to explain and compare basic routing and switching concepts, such as default gateway, OSI Layer 2 versus Layer 3 switches, local versus remote networks, MAC address tables, MAC address filtering, and VLAN.

Diagnosing Problems

Having acquired the theories and concepts presented above, as a competent holder of the CCST Networking certification, you must know how to diagnose and solve technical problems in real-world settings. 

This domain tests your abilities in these areas. You must demonstrate effective troubleshooting methodologies and best practices in help desk support, including ticketing, documentation, and information gathering. 

Being mindful of policies and procedures, accurate and complete documentation, and prioritization will help you succeed in any technical position, especially when you start from an entry-level position.

You’ll need to know what a packet analyzer like Wireshark is for, perform packet captures with it, and save and access .pcap files.

Questions in this domain test you on differentiating between various ways of accessing and collecting data about network devices. You must be familiar with remote access (RDP, SSH, telnet), VPN, terminal emulators, console, network management systems, cloud-managed network (Meraki), and scripting to ace them.

You’ll also need a working knowledge of how to run and interpret the results of some commands.

Basic diagnostic commands include ping, ipconfig/ifconfig/ip, tracert/traceroute, and nslookup. Recognizing how firewalls can influence these results is also a crucial part of this domain.

The commands applicable to Cisco network devices are show run, show cdp neighbors, show ip interface brief, show ip route, show version, show inventory, show switch, show mac address-table, show interface, show interface x, show interface status, and command help.

Be wary of privilege levels for each command and auto-complete functionalities.

Security

This final domain consists of three parts: describing how firewalls operate to filter traffic, foundational security concepts, and wireless security concepts.

You must know about firewalls, blocked ports and protocols, and rules denying or permitting access to various locations in a network. Intriguingly, the common networking term “access control list (ACL)” doesn’t appear explicitly in the exam objectives.

Foundational security concepts include:

  • Confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA)
  • Authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA)
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Encryption, certificates, and password complexity
  • Identity stores/databases (focusing on Active Directory)
  • Threats and vulnerabilities
  • Spam, phishing, malware, and denial-of-service attacks

The wireless security subdomain includes configuring basic wireless security on a home router (WPAx: WPA, WPA2, WPA3) and choosing between WPA-Personal and WPA-Enterprise.

So, now that you know the topics included in the CCST Networking exam, let’s move on to how you’ll earn the CCST Networking certification.

How Do I Become CCST Networking Certified?

The CCST Networking exam is available in English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Portuguese. You can apply for the online proctored CCST exam via Certiport. The availability of the corresponding in-person testing option depends on your geographical location.

To register for the exam, you’ll need a Certiport candidate profile, even if you have an existing candidate profile. 

As an individual, you can purchase it using a credit card or with an exam voucher from Certiport. If you’re taking it via educational institutions authorized by Cisco, you can use their exam vouchers or license.

The exam lasts 50 minutes and includes 40–50 performance-based lab questions, multiple-choice questions, and drag-and-drop items. Cisco doesn’t officially publish exam passing scores, but past candidates estimate that one must get at least 70–80% of the answers correct.

You have unlimited attempts to pass the exam, and you’ll know whether you passed or failed immediately after completing it.

Why Should You Pursue the CCST Certification?

When considering the CCST certification, think about the following reasons.

Advantages Unique to CCST

Unlike most other industry-recognized certifications, the CCST certification never expires, so you don’t need to renew it by taking a new exam or fulfilling continuing education requirements. Moreover, CCST certifications have no prerequisites and are available to anyone.

In addition to the established Cisco brand—which appeals to employers—the CCST is ideal for people who can only afford one-and-done certifications owing to time or budget constraints. 

For this reason, this certification provides a lower entry barrier than the plethora of entry-level certifications leading into the IT or networking industry.

Foundation for Better Certifications

Does the CCST Networking certification provide a foundation for other certifications? Absolutely.

Although CCST Networking isn’t a formal prerequisite for other Cisco certifications, the best reason for aspiring and ambitious career seekers to pursue this certification is that it lays the essential groundwork for the CCNA certification, which is a popular and well-paid requirement or good-to-have for IT, networking, and cyber security positions.

Jobs and Salaries

Insufficient data exists to support the notion that getting certified in CCST Networking would lead to better job prospects. For the sake of transparency, we’d like to give you a snapshot of the current popularity of CCST, which may make you rethink taking the exam.

The following screenshots show only a few job listings containing the CCST Networking certification among the job requirements. Compared with the hundreds or thousands of open positions welcoming CCNA holders, Glassdoor only has 14 job advertisements mentioning CCST, while Indeed has 50+:

Locating well-sourced figures on how much a CCST networking certification holder earns is challenging. 

According to ZipRecruiter, the “Cisco Network Technician” job title corresponds to an average salary of $55,420 per year (or $27 per hour) with an annual pay range of $31k–81k in USD.

Network Administrator positions also list CCST Networking among preferred certifications. A Network Administrator can earn an average of $81,749 per year (or $39 per hour) with an annual pay range of $33,500–$24,000 in USD.

Here’s a summary of the benefits versus the drawbacks of the CCST Networking certification:

CCST Networking Benefits

It never expires, so you don’t need to renew or maintain it.
It has no prerequisites.
It relies on the established reputation of the Cisco brand.
It lays the foundation for the more popular Cisco certification CCNA.

CCST Networking Drawbacks

Few job listings mention it.
This certification may lead to a lower salary than CCNA.

Considering everything we said, the CCST Networking certification is still worth it, especially for beginners. 

It’s a great first certification, but if you’re pressed for time and need a job urgently, you might consider getting the CCNA instead.

Conclusion

We’ve outlined the CCST Networking certification exam, what it is, what it tests you on, and how you can earn it. You now have a clearer picture of what to expect in the CCST Networking exam and why it’s worth pursuing.

Since you’re still here, we’d like to invite you to take advantage of our training courses, study groups, and career resources that’ll help you get your foot in the door of the advantageous IT industry, along with a supportive and like-minded community rooting for your continued success in it.

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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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