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cisco IT essentialsThe high demand for entry level professionals who possess excellent information and communication technology (ICT) skills is a driving force behind the CompTIA A+ certification that is offered by Cisco and participating schools. Students who are exposed to the Cisco Networking Academy IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software course obtain this certification after passing two exams which assess advanced skills in complex problem solving, hands-on exposure to hardware and software, networking, negotiation, among other areas. A course in Computer Essentials is a good starting point to gain knowledge about hardware and software, though not mandatory. Students who are new and have never done a computer essentials course can do  the entire IT Essentials curriculum from start to finish.

The Cisco IT Essentials curriculum is divided in two different parts; the first part covers ten chapters that introduce students to the world of computer technology. Fundamentals of computer technology, networking, security, and communication skills are all developed in this part of the course. The ultimate aim of the content is to equip students with the necessary skills to take the CompTIA A+ Essentials exam.

After successfully completing the first part, students move on to more advanced topics in the second part of the course. In this part, students hone their technical aptitude and problem-solving skills for complex problems. There are in all five chapters in this part of the course and these range from advanced networks, advanced security to advanced laptops and portable devices. While learning these advanced topics, students develop key competences to trouble-shoot problems. At the end of the course they can take the CompTIA A+ Practical Application exam. Only students who pass part one and two obtain the certification. Once the CompTIA A+ certification is obtained, many job opportunities in different sectors become feasible such as: IT administrator, IT technician, PC support technician and field/company technician.

While the job opportunities as a CompTIA A+ certified technician may seem promising it is worthwhile to note that the curriculum of the Cisco IT Essential course provides the foundation for the Cisco CCNA Discovery and CCNA Exploration curricula or general Cisco CCNA curriculum. These are all interesting options to consider because theoretical and practical knowledge are fundamental aspects that differentiate those who are Cisco certified as opposed to other professionals. The CCNA curriculum is accepted as a strong reference point in information technology.

The CCNA Curriculum

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is another IT certification developed by Cisco.  As will be seen in the paragraphs to follow, there are different categories of CCNA certification . The four that will be considered in this article are:

  1. CCNA Discovery Course
  2. CCNA Exploration Course
  3. Cisco CCNA Security
  4. CCNA Routing and Switching

CCNA Discovery Course

In the CCNA Discovery course, students are exposed to general networking and routing theory that enable them to undertake entry level positions in confidence as an ICT professional. The main focus of the course is on networks in different environments. From small office and home office networking to much larger networks all these are elaborated to ensure that the reality of different settings and issues are part of the student’s development as the course progresses. Students who only have basic PC and Math skills are eligible to apply for the course. The same is true for those that already have CompTIA A+ certification and would like to expand their knowledge to four areas which are the cornerstone of the entire CCNA Discovery course.  Hands-on experience is part of the course to give students a better understanding of technical applicability. Students who successfully complete the CCNA discovery course are quipped with the necessary knowledge to do the  Cisco CCENT and CCNA certification exams. Practical lab guidance for CCNA and CCENT can be found in the course CCENT and CCNA Real World Labs – Cisco Training.

CCNA Exploration Course

The CCNA Exploration course  also consists of four courses with emphasis being placed on networks. Within the course students learn about network fundamentals, routing protocol and concepts, LAN switching and wireless and assessing the WAN. After successfully completing the course, students can take the Cisco CCNA network associate certification exam where they will be required to demonstrate their knowledge of advanced and basic concepts of all four areas of the entire program.

Cisco CCNA Security

Student who are interested in network security can build on their knowledge from the Cisco Networking Academy IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software by also considering the Cisco CCNA Security curriculum. The curriculum only provides the necessary technical knowledge for entry-level positions where the professional may be asked to perform different tasks with network devices. With this in mind, emphasis is placed on practical applications through hands-on experience.

CCNA Routing and Switching

Another CCNA certification option is the CCNA Routing and Switching. Strong emphasis is placed on networks in this curriculum with the aim to capacitate IT professionals with the necessary skills to understand different network applications and provide ideal solutions through troubleshooting techniques. The course considers both basic and complex networking solutions. They will also be fully prepared to take the Cisco CCENT certification or the CCNA Routing and Switching certification exam based on the number of courses they have taken. Students who want CCNA certification must take up to four courses, whereas, those who want the Cisco CCENT certification must take up to two courses. Practical information that addresses the basics and then gradually introduce more complex details for the CCNA Routing and Switching can be found in the course New CCNAx 200-120 Routing and Switching.


From the details above it can be seen that other career options and possibilities exist after Cisco IT Essentials. Growing demand for ICT professionals who fully master sought-after skills in the industry are highly likely to continue to grow based on the changing landscape of information technology. This simply means that anyone who considers CCNA certification is making a move in the right direction. Additional information about CCNA Exploration courses and beyond can be found in the blog post CCNA Exploration: Take Off With Information Technology!

The CCNA 2014 200-120 Video Boot Camp With Chris Bryant comes with 200 lectures spread across 29 hours of content for students who want to define their future through CCNA certification. Divided into twenty five sections, the course offers a comprehensive look at all the fundamentals from DNS to configuration issues. There are also practice questions available to make it easier for students to assess their overall progress.

Page Last Updated: April 2014

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