Without a clear direction and study plan I know that I will never reach my goals of becoming a Cisco Professional. Therefore setting goals before I undertake any study is crucial to my success in this endeavor. Let's quickly have a look at the Cisco certifications as outlined on the official Cisco website.
The entry level base Cisco qualification is called the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT). According to the description on the Cisco website, the curriculum for this certification covers networking fundamentals, WAN technologies, basic security and wireless concepts, routing and switching fundamentals, and configuring simple networks. To obtain this certification, one must undertake an exam known as 640-822 ICND1.
The next level of Cisco qualification is called the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). As per the description on the Cisco website, this qualification validates the ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size route and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in a WAN. The curriculum includes basic mitigation of security threats, introduction to wireless networking concepts and terminology, and performance-based skills. Furthermore, this also includes (but is not limited to) the use of these protocols: IP, Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP), Serial Line Interface Protocol Frame Relay, Routing Information Protocol Version 2 (RIPv2),VLANs, Ethernet, access control lists (ACLs). To obtain this certification, you may either take two exams, the CCENT exam which is 640-822 ICND1 and the 640-816 ICND2, or you can take a single combined exam known as 640-802 CCNA.
My immediate goal is to obtain the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification as it seems to be the base requirement for most junior network engineering roles that I have seen advertised. As we've seen there are two ways to get this certification. You can take the two exams or take a single combined exam. Taking two exams is slightly more expensive, and it means that you spend more time in the exam room. The upside however is that you probably don't need to cram as much into your head as you would have to by taking the combined exam. At the moment I'm still unsure about whether I should do the two exams or take the single exam path. I'm leaning towards the single exam path though because a single exam sounds better than two. I figure that the less exams the better!
I'm giving myself a time frame of about 100 hours of study to reach this goal. With an hour of study per day, that means that I should reach my goal in a little less than 3 and a half months. I'm hopping that I can stay consistent with my study and that I will know enough after 100 hours to pass the exam with flying colors. My first hour of study will officially start on Sunday the 24th of October! Wish me luck :).