By Daniel Muniz
This is a question I have been asked many times by students who have attended my classes. I, myself, am a CCSI (Cisco Certified Instructor – for CCNA) as well as an instructor of the Network+ Certification course offered by CompTIA.
The first logical question is, given that they are both networking related certifications, what is the difference between the Network+ and CCNA certifications?
The most obvious difference is that Network+ is vendor neutral, whereas the CCNA is Cisco product specific. The fact that the Network+ is vendor neutral means that the material covered in the course is, by necessity, more general that what you will find in the Cisco CCNA courses (Cisco offers two ways to prepare for the CCNA exam, ICND1 + ICND2 or 1 CCNA exam).
There are similarities in content between the two courses as well as some major differences.
Network Fundamentals/Theory exist in both courses and cover essentially the same material. TCP/IP Addressing is also covered in both courses with little real difference in content (with the exception that the Cisco course spends more time on sub-netting and VLSM). Other topics such as routing and VLAN’s are covered much more extensively and in greater detail in the Cisco courses as opposed to the Network+ class.
Switching is not really explored in the Network+ course whereas in the Cisco Courses this is a very prominent part of the instruction, both theoretical and practical. The topic of VPN’s is also part of both curriculums but once again is covered more in depth in the Cisco courses. Cloud and Virtualization technologies are covered in the Network+ course but are not presented in the Cisco courses.
Aside from the differences in course content there is also the question of the value of the certifications in the employment market place. In general, the consensus would be that the CCNA holds more prestige and is more highly looked upon by networking professionals. Hence holding this certificate leads to more employment opportunities all other things being equal.
There is also the consideration of prior experience with infrastructure in general and networking in particular in deciding which certification to pursue. The Network+ course is accessible to those with even a minimum of infrastructure knowledge and experience. The Cisco courses demand a much higher level of previous experience and knowledge to fully benefit from the class.
In summary, Network+ offers a very broad and general presentation of networking concepts and technologies and is best suited for those just entering the networking field. The Cisco courses are geared toward those individuals who have already attained a certain level of knowledge and experience in networking and seek to both deepen and validate their skill set by acquiring the CCNA credential.