Cisco Certificates and Diplomas: At a Glance
Cisco certificate and diploma programs emphasize the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in information technology (IT) careers. Although some information technology careers require a bachelor's degree, other positions (such as computer support specialist) emphasize professional experience over a college degree. Certificate and diploma programs in Cisco are rare, but networking programs are also available at this level and commonly include coursework in Cisco.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2010 to 2020, the number of jobs for network and computer systems administrators was expected to grow by 28% as organizations invest in and upgrade their IT systems. During the same time frame, employment of computer support specialists was expected to grow 18%. According to the BLS, applicants with a bachelor's degree and a strong technical background should have the best job opportunities for administrator positions, though work experience and a postsecondary certificate also might qualify individuals for such a position.
|Who is this degree for?||- Individuals who want to prepare for a CCNA exam||- People who want to enhance their technical skills or make a career change|
- Experienced workers who want professional development or advancement opportunities
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary)||- Computer support specialist ($52,000)*|
- Computer and network systems administrator ($72,000 - can vary with experience)*
|- Same as certificate|
|Time to Completion||Varies, approximately 1 semester (full-time)||Varies, approximately 6-11 months (full-time)|
|Common Graduation Requirements||Satisfy coursework requirements (approximately 15 credits)||Satisfy coursework requirements (varies, approximately 16-48 credits)|
|Prerequisites||Basic IT courses or a prior understanding of topics might be required||Same as certificate|
|Online Availability||Yes||Not currently available|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures)
Certificate programs enable students to obtain hands-on experience and prepare for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) designation. These programs generally are intended for students not already enrolled in a related degree program. Students should note that completing a certificate program doesn't mean they have obtained certification. To achieve that, you must pass an industry examination.
Pros and Cons
- If you're unsure about pursuing a career in this field, a certificate program can test your interest and skill level
- A certificate program is usually shorter and less expensive than a diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree program
- If you want to obtain certification, a certificate program can provide you with a structured format to prepare for your examination
- Completing a certificate program does not guarantee that you'll pass your certification exam
- A higher level of education, such as an associate's or bachelor's degree, is commonly required for employment in this field
- Programs specifically in Cisco are rare
Courses and Requirements
Students in a Cisco certificate program can expect a small course load of approximately 15 credits in the following topics:
- Network management
- Networking essentials
- Wireless networking fundamentals
- Networking security
Online Course Options
Online and distance-learning preparation courses are available. Online courses are generally similar to traditional, on-campus programs, though they may offer more compressed or flexible curricula. Keep in mind that even if your certificate course is offered 100% online, industry regulations require students to complete their CCNA examination at a local, supervised testing site.
Getting Ahead with a Certificate
You might consider learning or brushing up on project management software skills. Learning new and relevant management skills can help set you apart from your peers and could improve your efficiency in your everyday work. Project management degrees and courses are also widely available online, making them convenient for working professionals or busy students.
Cisco diploma programs are designed to prepare individuals for technical careers in the information technology industry. As a student in a diploma program, you'll likely study the design and maintenance of computer networks. Diploma programs provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge for a variety of careers in networking or the knowledge to sit for certification examinations, such as the A+ certification exams, which are not offered as part of a typical diploma program.
Pros and Cons
- Because information technology systems are used in nearly every industry, there are a variety of career options available to professionals in this field
- You might be able to apply credits earned in a diploma program toward a bachelor's degree program
- Diploma programs are generally structured to provide practical technical experience, which can be beneficial for individuals without a lot of professional experience
- A bachelor's degree is the most commonly required academic credential in this field
- Network administrators and support staff might have to work long or unusual hours to ensure that systems are running properly
- When applying for jobs, you might find yourself in competition with bachelor's degree holders
Courses and Requirements
In a typical Cisco diploma program, students can except to gain proficiency analyzing and understanding the implementation of networks and various enterprise technologies. As a student in a diploma program, you can expect to obtain practical, hands-on experience in designing troubleshooting network systems. Common courses in a Cisco diploma program include network and security fundamentals, diagnostics, routers and switchers, computer architecture and information technology essentials. Upon completion of a diploma program, students should be prepared for a variety of industry certifications and be able to exhibit mastery of networking tasks, such as configuring and securing Cisco routers.
Online Course Options
Fully online diploma programs focusing on Cisco are not available at this time. Some schools, particularly community colleges, offer a mixture of distance and on-campus learning. Students who are interested in distance learning should also consider that more general networking diploma programs are more widely available, and these programs might include study of Cisco.
Stand out with a Diploma
Students who want to broaden their employment prospects can take additional courses in different, but related, topics, such as business operations or security. Even a handful of additional courses can deepen your understanding of general business practices and show potential employers that you have a diverse skill set and desire to learn new things.