My Journey: CCNA or Security+The moment you think you know something about security, you realize you don’t know anything! I'll discuss my experience pursuing a CCNA certificate and a Security + certificate.

The Beginning

In 2011, I began learning about networking through free classes in San Diego's community college continuing education programs. I started with CCNA classes and hoped to complete levels 1-4.It was a great to do the hands-on labs, learn about different protocols and apply networking concepts. I didn’t have a lab at home, but the community college offered terrific labs at three campus locations.I successfully completed CCNA 1, 2 and 3 in community college, but I wasn’t able to start CCNA 4. After about 2 years, I decided to start learning again to prepare for the CCNA exam. Advice
  • If you'd like to learn general security concepts, but don’t know where to start, pursue Security+. I started with CCNA, which is hands-on and assumes prior training, knowledge and experience.
  • CCNA Routing and Switching is a certification program for entry-level network engineers that maximizes foundational networking knowledge.
  • Pursue Network+ if you're interested about learning networking in detail but don't have any experience or knowledge in this realm.
 Think Ahead about ExamsIf you'd like to be a CCNA, take the ICND 1 and ICND 2 exams (as two parts) or sign up for the whole CCNA exam.
  • For some, it's better to take the exam in two parts. This gives you more time, which can be less stressful.
  • For others who feel ready, go straight for the ICND2 exam. Bonus: When you're ready to renew your CCNA certificate, you'll save money because the CCENT (ICND1) certification will automatically implement after passing the ICND2 exam, which will all roll up to renew your whole CCNA certificate!
  • If you'd like stay focused on CCNA Routing and Switching, acquiring CCENT certification first is a great approach.
  • If you decide if you you want to move towards a CCNP or CCIE certificate, you'll need to pass the CCNA exam in two parts or as whole. THen, you'll need to think about the CCNP and CCIE exams. For many, it's better to pursue CCNA Security and CCNA Wireless Certificates and then study for the whole CCNP exam.


Early on, I bought the book Cisco CCNA in 60 Days by Paul W. Browning and Farai Tafa. What a great book! I loved the stories of how they started to learn networking and how Paul and his friends changed their life through dedication! Plus, the way he explains networking concepts and ideas is wonderful.

I also used the CCNA CBT Nugget videos from Jeremy Cioara, Keith Barker and watched other great teachers on YouTube.

I studied almost 8 months for the CCNA exam and set a deadline for my study timeframe! Then, I took my own advice and a conservative approach: I started with with the CCENT exam. I passed and after another 3 months of studying, I signed up for CCNA exam. I passed on the first attempt!

A Lab at Home

As part of my studying, I made a home lab using the following is the list of the items. But, honestly, all you need for CCNA exam is the Free Cisco Packet Tracer.

  • 3x Cisco 2500 series Router ( 2524 - 2503 - 2514 )
  • 1x Cisco 871W
  • 2x Cisco 2950 switches with the latest cisco IOS
  • 3x 6ft straight through cable
  • 3x Transceiver IEEE 802.3 10 BASE T
  • 5x Power cable
  • 2x Console cable
  • 1x 232 USB converter
  • 1x 7ft Cross-over cable
  • 1x DTE DCE cable

My Journey Continued

After the CCNA studies and exams, I continued learning about Security+ concepts and realized that I was also interested in this certificate!

There was so much to learn, including:

  • Network security
  • Compliance and operational security
  • Threats and vulnerabilities
  • Application, data and host security
  • Access control and identify management
  • Cryptography

To study for the Security+ certificate, I used the CompTIA Security+ book, a app by Darril Gibson and a Free Professor Messer’s CompTIA Security+ Training Course. I studied for about 4 months before I took the Security+ exam and passed on the first attempt.

I don't think Security+ will make you the security expert, but it’s a great start to learning security concepts and cyber security.

 Your Next Steps

Would you like to learn about working with Routers and Switches, setting up networks using different protocols and command lines or would you like to learn about the general security concepts, but not the details?

Write down what you like and what you don't like. Think about where you'd like to take your career and talk with others in your field. Read and research as much as you can. Watch videos and listen to podcasts.Then, begin your studies at a comfortable, yet challenging pace. Set a timeline for your studies and your exams. Don't be afraid to try and fail and try again.

Good luck!

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