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The IT Training and Experience you didn’t know you needed [CCNA & FSNA]

The IT Training and Experience you didn’t know you needed [CCNA & FSNA]

New: Real-World & Skills-Based IT Certifications 

So you want to know what IT certification you should be spending your valuable time on. Let’s lay out some reasons why you want to get certified in the first place. 

  1. To make yourself competitive so you can finally receive that promotion from your helpdesk role and level up the ranks of IT. 
  2. Validation of skills a potential employer defines in a job description, like “Dynamic Routing Protocols, EIGRP and OSPF”. 
  3. Cisco Partner Professional Services certification requirements – Some partners rely on engineers to earn specific certifications (i.e. CCNA) but also require specialist certifications, like Cisco IOS WAN Specialist or Enterprise Wireless Specialist. 

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In the world of IT certifications, many of them are geared towards a trivial understanding of the topics listed on the blueprints. I mean, how many different ways can you answer a question about EIGRP or OSPF? Well, the truth is there’s plenty of ways if you know them well enough. 

But what does it prove to an employer finding a candidate that has CCNA, CCNP, VCP, MCP, NSE4, CCIE, JNCIE, MCSE? 

It says a person has spent a lot of time learning about different technologies on different vendors’ equipment. If you were to see my alphabet soup it would like this, CCNA R&S, CCNA Security, CCNA Wireless, CCNP R&S, CCNP SP, CCIE, VCP, NSE1, NSE2, FSNA, FSNP . 

And quite frankly, to anyone fresh to IT, no one blames you for asking where the heck to start and wondering which bowl of soup looks the most appetizing to an employer. Don’t stress too heavily on which IT certification you should start with or which one you should get next, that’s why we’re here to help.

Let’s lay out some facts about the certifications themselves and how they matter. We’ll start with perhaps the most common.


Cisco CCNA (200-301)

Cisco CCNA 200-301
Cisco CCNA training

CCNA is a 100 question, question/answer exam. It’s mostly multiple choice answers to a single question. Clicking on radio buttons or checking boxes to answer the questions. It requires you to be knowledgeable about the topics listed on the blueprint, even the ones that aren’t explicitly defined, like EIGRP, VTP, LISP and VXLAN, still better know them! For additional details on the CCNA 200-301 and the inside scoop on the exam, watch this video. The issue with the CCNA, is it isn’t an exam that looks for the candidate to be “strong” in implementing Cisco IOS networks but mainly knowledgeable on the technologies. 

So what does that say about the CCNA, is it worth it? 

YES!!!! Even though it doesn’t test you on configuring the topics listed, if you’re not testing the topics out on the CLI, then you’re not doing enough to earn the value that the CCNA grants you when you pass. 

The key to earning your CCNA is to find a training course by a reliable provider and spending about 45-90 days (depending on your commitment) learning concepts before scheduling an exam. We’ll revisit this again in a minute.


Cisco CCNP (ENCOR 350-401, ENARSI 300-410)

CCNP is 2 exams, the Core exam and 1 concentration. The Core exam is a 100 question, question/answer exam. Like the CCNA, it’s mostly multiple choice answers to a single question. The ENCOR exam is the CCIE Written exam replacement, which is why it’s 100 questions, it is the equivalent of CCNP Route and Switch from the previous version of the exams. But you’re not required to configure anything. 

The ENARSI exam is 90 minutes long and is the replacement for the CCNP TSHOOT exam from the previous version of the exam. This exam does require you to be interactive, resolve issues, answer questions, drag and drop, etc. This is the first exam you have to know how to configure something. 


What Are The FSNA and FSNP?

If you’re new to networking, I could assume you skipped past my alphabet soup of certifications I listed earlier instead of reading each letter. But if you’re familiar with these certs, and acknowledged each one, you may have wondered what the FSNA & FSNP certifications are? 

Let’s break down the FSNA and FSNP, NexGenT’s certification portfolios so far, with more to come in the future! 

Unlike the CCNA and CCNP exams, these exams are very lab focused, so focused in fact that we don’t call them exams, we call them SQCs! 

Wait, what? SQC is Skills Qualification Check, in other words, if you don’t know how to configure something that you are being tasked with configuring based on the requirements of the SQC, you’ll lose points for not implementing it. 

“Hey! This sounds an awful lot like the CCIE Lab exam.” It is in fact, except we’re not testing any really crazy routing designs to make your head spin. 

The goal of the SQC for the FSNA and FSNP isn’t to test your trivia knowledge on a topic, it’s to see if you can get a network built, tested and verified working. At the end of the day, you need to be able to deliver technical solutions to business challenges. The FSNA and FSNP are real-world skills certifications.

Now that you have a general idea of the certifications, let’s discuss how they are delivered. Guess what, they aren’t full of trivia information, you get enough of that in CCNA and CCNP. 

These certifications are project focused, meaning we present you with a project that you will be tasked with delivering to a fictitious company. 

“Hey! This sounds like what I do in the real world!” Exactly! Welcome to real-world training!

There are currently 3 projects, with more in the pipeline to come. The first one is the Full Stack Networking Project or FSN Project, the second is the Cisco ASA SSL VPN Project and the third is the Colocation Data Center Project.

The SQCs are the big differences between FSNA/FSNP and CCNA/CCNP. They are Skills checks, meaning you are required to meet a certain standard in order to pass. The FSNA is the Full Stack Network Associate, which is geared towards the entry level understanding of IP enabled networks. The FSNP is the Full Stack Network Professional, which is geared towards more advanced networking at a larger scale for more real world applications.

Both the FSNA and FSNP are hands-on, lab-based tests. The candidate is required to configure a network to a certain set of requirements to meet the needs of the business. The reason why this is a huge differentiator is that you have to know how to get things working AND know what the technologies are


The Full Stack Network Engineer (FSNE) program is comprised of two stages in which the FSNA and FSNP certifications are awarded.

  1. FSNE Basic Training (FSNA + CCNA certifications)

In FSNE Basic training you learn how networking works starting with the Full Stack Network Associate course. You’ll earn the FSNA certification through doing your Skills Qualification Check (SCQ) in the FSNA Lab and also taking the FSNA Written Exam. During the last half of FSNE Basic Training you’ll learn additional topics and labs related to the CCNA and then study for and knock out that exam.

A quick look at the introduction to the FSNE program
  1. FSNE Advanced Training (FSNP certification)

 You’ll then be promoted to Advanced Training. You’ll go through the 3 projects and the Advanced Training FSNP SQC. (You want real-world experience? We’re giving you the closest thing possible!) The SQC in Advanced Training is much more involved and is broken down into three sections. The goal is to fully test a candidate in all aspects of the network engineering role that they might see. 

  • The first section is troubleshooting, you’ll have 5 tickets to resolve as if you were a consultant or engineer working for an organization where something is not working. 
  • The second section is the deployment, where you’ll be tasked with rolling out a new branch office, router/switch/access point/PCs/phone and server and get it all working from scratch. 
  • The third section is configuration, where you’ll be given a list of tasks to complete. Some of these tasks were started by someone else who was reassigned to another project and other tasks are set up from scratch in the existing network. 

After successful completion of the above tasks, the candidate is granted the FSNP. By the time every student is done with Basic and Advanced Training, they will have earned the FSNA, CCNA, and FSNP. They will be job ready and well versed in networking. This will set them up well for follow on training like CCNP or other tracks they might want to dive into. 

Although these certifications may be new to the industry, imagine the interview where you sit down in an employers office and explain how you’ve worked on three projects connecting an organization’s sites together! By taking advantage of the program that these projects were built from, you’ll have much more experience building networks than their helpdesk guy, Tom, who’s been waiting to get internally promoted for the last 4 years. 

If you want to make yourself the most competitive candidate during your job hunt, you can utilize our real-word skills certifications and training programs to help you truly standout and become job-ready.




From Laid Off to Hired – How NexGenT Student Turned His Life Around And Broke Into IT

From Laid Off to Hired – How NexGenT Student Turned His Life Around And Broke Into IT

Kent Davis was in the mortgage industry, working as a Mortgage Originator and Processor but the truth was, he didn’t enjoy his job. The money was good and that’s what made it hard to leave.

Kent was unexpectedly laid off but he knew all too well, “The bad stuff always turns good, it’s just a matter of time. So you gotta keep it positive” he tells us. And with this mentality, he knew that he had a choice to make and opportunity was just around the corner.

After some soul searching, he made the decision to not return to the mortgage industry.  “I was dealing with finances and getting people loans but I just didn’t really want that to be my calling and IT is my calling, so I made the switch” Kent explains.

Download our free 5 step guide to becoming a Network Engineer

Kent had been interested in IT and computers since he was young. He never thought to break into the field professionally but was commonly the go-to computer guy for his family and friends, calling himself the “resident techy.” 

In exploring his options, he looked online at IT programs. The one that caught his attention was a Facebook ad for NexGenT’s CompTIA Net+ course.  He signed up and was pleased with the course and how much he was learning from the online videos. “I really liked it so I went and jumped into the full-fledged program and did the rest of the CCNA class with Jacob and Rob. [The instructors] definitely know how to convey information really well and keep your attention,” Kent says. 

And thus began his journey to change career fields through the Zero To Engineer program. 

Staying Motivated

It’s no secret that online courses require discipline. Kent quickly figured out the exact plan he needed to keep himself accountable with his studies. 

Thanks to the instruction given by Terry Kim in the course intro, Kent created a vision board. He organized it by three months, six months and one year goals – aiming to complete Net+ in the three months and CCNA in six.

Although losing a job is never a fortunate situation, Kent took advantage of the extra time and devoted roughly 6 hours a day to the course material. Leveling up was his new full-time mission.

Quick Tip From Kent – It might not work for everyone but I like making notecards for the material. Even little things like the acronyms. For example, on the test it won’t break down “APIPA” in the question, it’ll just mention it. I found it helpful to quiz myself even on the smaller topics.  I also bought a CCNA book and went through and highlighted things for later review. The highlighting really helped.

Related: NexGenT Donates $5 Million in IT Course Scholarships During COVID-19

Getting Hired In His First IT Role

Perseverance and repetition will help you get to where you want to be. “I never thought I would apply so much in my life, let alone for one position,” Kent shares with a sigh of relief knowing that his search was over. After being done with the course, he searched rigorously for opportunities around him and submitted over 100 applications.

One company he heard back from, Mytech Partners, Inc. caught his attention from the first phone interview. This call in particular stood out to Kent – everything about it felt right. Not to mention, their values aligned perfectly.

Kent tells us that after the first phone interview, he had to go through an online assessment. “This thing was brutal!” He was given a 75 technical question test with 45 minutes to complete it.

Thanks to Kent’s hard work and study habits, he completed the assessment with an acceptable score and was called only two hours after completion for an in-person interview.  

Related: 4 Qualities That Will Prove To An IT Hiring Manager That You Are A Great Fit

The skills check didn’t stop there. During the in-person interview, Kent was required to whiteboard a series of technical topics to prove his ability to articulate what he knew.  No sweat off his back – he was grateful for the NexGenT instructors who thoroughly reviewed this skill in the course.

“I thought well, I’m glad I had this training because now I can just stand up here and be familiar with what to do.” Kent exclaims the interview process was rigorous. After all, to land a role as a Tier 2 Service Desk Technician, a company needs to feel confident in a candidate’s abilities. “It was really a good starter for me through that entire interview and I really felt like I related to the engineers who were interviewing me who are now my peers.” 

Kent soared through each interview and challenge and was in fact job-ready.

Getting Acclimated To IT

Kent spends a lot of time on the phone, dealing with calls, working on certain projects, building network diagrams, etc. “Things kind of change day-to-day whether I’m on the phone or on site.”

“When life closes one door it opens another. That really holds true for me”

Kent Davis, NGT ALumni

With a wide variety of work, he is getting a lot of experience and says he is trying soak up all that he can. “I’ve actually installed some hardware already within my first 30 days and I really enjoyed that,” he tells us. Kent calls it a steep learning curve but is thrilled to basically be getting paid to learn while he gets more comfortable in his new career. 

It was a big jump for him – going from the world of mortgages to the world of IT – and sometimes not knowing where to start is the hardest part.  “Knowing what you need to do to make the change is really critical. But [NexGenT] lays it out for you. They set that path and you just have to walk down it.”

He trusted the direction that he was being led in, followed the path and his vision board timeline, and successfully acquired the position he worked so hard for. A strong core foundation has helped him to understand every aspect of networking easily. 

Career Change:Life Change

As cliche as it might sound, if you are unhappy with your life, something around you has got to change. Since breaking into a field of work that gets him excited to wake up in the morning, life has completely changed for Kent. 

He admits he had to take a pay cut to get his start in the IT field, “But it doesn’t matter to me because now I enjoy what I do. I don’t dread a third of my life anymore. Eight hours a day is a lot of time to not enjoy what you’re doing. It’s a world of difference.” With the passion this man has for IT and his new position, there is no doubt that he will move up quickly into an advanced role such as Senior Network Engineer. But in the meantime, getting his feet wet in IT was a serendipitous life-change that he needed. 

“Thanks to NexGenT that I am happy in my life and in my career”

Kent Davis, NGT Alumni

He didn’t enjoy doing mortgages. “It paid the bills for sure, but IT is something I like coming in to work for. I don’t dread coming into work anymore” Kent says with a grin.

If you are craving a career change and want to break into a booming industry that you can be excited about each morning you wake up, reach out to us on our chatbox on our website or click the link below. 

If you or someone you know has been laid off recently, especially in the midst of this pandemic and would like to dedicate your available time to learning a new skill to break into the world of IT, click here.

Related: Want To Stand Out From Other IT Candidates? Read This First! FSNA & FSNP Certifications Could Be Your Answer