Is the CCNA equal to a degree?
Both CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certification and a bachelor’s degree in computer networking, computer science, or a similar field can provide an excellent foundation for a networking career. They signal to recruiters that you have relevant knowledge and give you an edge over candidates without a diploma.
So, if they both offer similar benefits, is the CCNA equivalent to a degree?
There are some scenarios where a CCNA will not act as a good substitute for a traditional degree. For example, if your long-term plans include a master’s degree or Ph.D. include, it makes sense to get a four-year degree.
However, if you are simply looking for a high-quality networking job, a CCNA can be more beneficial to your career advancement than a degree in many cases. Why? Because the CCNA demonstrates that you have relevant Practical skills while a degree implies broader theoretical knowledge. For entry-level jobs, practical skills can trump theoretical knowledge.
Of course, to know whether a degree or a CCNA (or both!) is right for you, you need to analyze the details. To help you make an informed choice on the subject of CCNA versus degree, here I will take a closer look at how a CCNA compares to a bachelor’s degree.
Practical knowledge (CCNA) versus theoretical knowledge (a degree)
When it comes to advancing your career, a CCNA and degree both do two things:
- Help you gain knowledge and skills relevant to your career
- Signal to others, especially potential employers, that you have a specific set of skills and knowledge
The difference between the two is the kind of knowledge and skills involved. A CCNA has a narrow focus on knowledge relevant to managing and deploying networks, especially with Cisco equipment.
On the other hand, a degree – even one focused on computer networking or computer science – has a much broader and more theoretical focus. You will learn more fundamental concepts and cover a wider range of topics. That said, many degree programs have courses and projects that are hands-on. For example, some computer networking degrees include a CCNA course and exam as part of the program.
CCNA vs. a Career Development Degree
The CCNA’s practical focus is a big part of what can make it a better resume booster for network professionals in the early stages of their careers.
To understand what I mean, you need to think about it from a recruiter’s or hiring manager’s perspective. I’ll simplify it a bit, but all else being equal, here’s how the equation breaks down:
If a candidate has a bachelor’s degree, you know:
- They have broad theoretical knowledge
- They had the skill and determination to complete a four-year degree
If a candidate has a CCNA, you know:
- They have Cisco certified skills directly related to deploying and managing network infrastructure
- They had the skill and determination necessary to achieve a respected industry certification
If you’re looking for an entry-level networking role, which candidate would you prefer? Likely the CCNA certified candidate who has proven skills directly related to the job. After all, your goal is to hire an employee who can do the job. For entry-level networking jobs, “the job” is often directly related to topics covered at the CCNA.
Want to know what jobs you can get with a CCNA? Checking out Is the CCNA Enough to Get a Good Job?
That said, there are still some jobs and regions where a degree is often a requirement. But that trend is changing. For example, not only are there many successful network professionals without a four-year degree, many large companies such as Google, Apple, Starbucks and Hilton are relaxing or dropping the degree requirements.
📝 Attention: experience is important! While I’m focusing on CCNA vs degree here, experience is a big part of getting hired or promoted. Whichever path you choose, try to gain relevant experience early in your career (e.g. in helpdesk or support roles).
CCNA vs. a Degree: Cost, Time and Value
When deciding which path to take, the cost, time investment, and value of a certification or degree matter.
In the table below, I’ve outlined some estimates to help you understand how a CCNA compares to a degree. Keep in mind that these numbers can vary widely depending on your location, choice of school, previous experience, self-study or not, etc.
|CCNA||Bachelor of Computer Science|
|Cost||~ $1,500-4,000 (with courses or boot camp)||~$15,000-80,000|
|Study time||~6-12 months||~4 years|
|Need an extension?||Yes, every 3 years||new|
While specific numbers may vary from person to person, in general:
A CCNA is cheaper and can be earned faster than a four-year degree.
Of course there is a reason why the CCNA is cheaper and faster. You don’t learn as much with a CCNA as you do with a degree.
With a degree, you gain knowledge in various fields, including business and social sciences. If you have your sights set on a management position down the line, that additional knowledge can be valuable.
Final Thoughts: Making the Right Decision for You
Now that you have this information, it’s up to you to make the right decision for your career. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. A degree can be a good choice if it’s aligned with your long-term goals. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a quick, inexpensive way to get a networking job, the CCNA has several compelling advantages.