You’ve obtained your CCNA certification and now you’re questioning what to do next? To begin with, congratulations! You’ve got a handful of choices on what you can do next. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is quite a popular certification and it leaves you open to many areas of the IT world. Your primary choice relies on two words - specialize or diversify?

Certifications - Specialise or Diversify?

The next thing after accomplishing the CCNA is for you to determine. Do you need to specialize in a specific area of networking? Or, do you desire to diversify and generalize your knowledge? This can be a tough question and is the topic of many debates in the IT world. For you to answer this, have a contemplate what your passion is, as well as what your interests are. Should you decide you’re interested or serious about a particular area of networking, then you may move towards certifications in that area. If you’re not sure about specialization, that’s OK, there are additional options as well.

Which Certifications Can I Specialise In?

Cisco provides a number of certifications for those who have accomplished the CCNA. You will find nine different specializations currently offered by Cisco. Some of them have more related certifications than others. They are:

Routing and Switching - This is a widely used specialisation in the market, as it’s related to many organisations and it may be used on all infrastructures.
Design - Based on the planning and layout of networks and network components.
Network Security - A continuously changing field, and is useful for those seeking to operate in government departments.
Wireless - A specialisation in wireless networking solutions and just how they relate to organisations.
Voice - Similar to the routing and switching specialisation, but it has more connection with employees as it’s focused on telephone technologies.
Service Provider & Service Provider Operations - The two of these are new and quite similar, and they're based on the suitable skills and operations of service provider organisations.
Data Centre - Networking, storage and servers as well as how they are utilised and optimised in a data centre.
Storage Networking - Consists of working with storage solutions and large-scale networks.

Almost all certifications have a progression - from CCNA to CCNP to CCIE. The two exclusions are Data Centre and Storage Networking. This means you can select one of these specializations and have a specified certification path set out for you. For instance, if you’re interested in Voice, following the CCNA you can choose to specialise in Voice by acquiring the CCNA Voice, and then the CCNP Voice, and maybe even the CCIE Voice. This will give you a great understanding and level of knowledge on Cisco Voice technologies! This plan does apply to most of the certification specialties mentioned previously.

If you’re not sure what you would like to concentrate on, it is possible to look to the CCNP certification. It’s a step up from the CCNA and isn’t in one of the specialization paths as yet - which means you can obtain that and discover how you feel later on.

What If I Want To Diversify My Certifications?

One other option is to diversify your certifications. Which means you could become knowledgeable in a number of subject areas. It is up to you how many certifications or how broad you wish to go. Some people choose two certifications or paths to obtain, and others look to get several CCNA certifications, or perhaps numerous CCNP certifications. There’s no harm in getting many certifications at the same level - it'll just cost you more time and money, but you might be able to make that back with your job.

It has advantages to employers as you’re more versatile and in the position to complete more tasks or job roles comfortably. It can also help if you wish to move into a different role.

What About CompTIA Certifications?

Other options available to you are qualifications from CompTIA. A number of these options are

Network+ - The Network+ is yet another lower-level networking qualification. Then again, it’s recommended that you have this before the CCNA. If you don’t have it already, you may find it a bit replicated to the CCNA, however it does include some vendor-neutral areas.
Security+ - This certification is great for people who wish to move into the security field. Partnering this with the CCNA Security is a good way to start out a career in the IT security field.
Server+ - If you’re trying to move into server administration or support, this might be a certification to get. There might be some overlap with the CCNA but there'd also be some vendor-neutral areas also.

Well, I am hoping this has assisted you make a decision on which certification to get after the CCNA. The important question to answer is specialization or diversification, as soon as you know that, it can help you select your next step.

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