Image of Jeremy L. Gaddis, CCNA, CCNP (and Cortney, in case you were wondering)

Cisco Network Academy

by Jeremy L. Gaddis

What is Cisco Network Academy?

The Cisco Network Academy is an educational program designed by Cisco to teach networking to students. Cisco partners with high schools, post-secondary institutions, business, and government to deliver the program.

Network Academy “teaches students how to design, build, troubleshoot, and secure computer networks”.

How Many Students Are Enrolled?

As of April 2010, there were over 900,000 students throughout the world enrolled in Network Academy programs. Approximately 157,000 students were in the United States. Roughly 200,000 alone were in China.

Available Courses

Currently, five different courses are available:

  • IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software
  • CCNA Discovery
  • CCNA Exploration
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNP

Of these, the ones we are most interested in are CCNA Discovery and CCNA Exploration.

Course Delivery

The Network Academy courses are available in several languages and all are delivered through a specially designed Flash-based web site. All course content is available through the site, including study materials, tutorials, interactive labs (using the Cisco simulator), and tests and assessments.

Discounted CCNA Exams

In addition to teaching you everything you need to know to earn the CCNA, qualified students and alumni of Network Academy are also eligible for discounts on the CCNA exams. I’ve seen 50% and 100% discounts given out, depending on how well the student did throughout the program. Not only will they prepare you for the exam, they might even let you take it for free too!

My Thoughts on Network Academy

For many years, I worked at an educational institution that also hosted the Network Academy program and became quite familiar with it. I had the pleasure of offering advice, assistance, and understanding to many students during my time there. I also went through the course myself in the process of becoming a Cisco Certified Academy Instructor.

The Network Academy program is, in my opinion, a wonderful program. It takes students from knowing next to nothing about networking technologies to teaching them everything they need to pass the CCNA exam and get started in the computer networking industry.

A Personal Story

Allow me to demonstrate with a couple of personal stories.

One of my good friends, Tim, went through the Cisco Academy a few years ago. Every Thursday night, after our classes were over (I was teaching at the time) we’d meet up for beer and wings and, as you might guess, our discussion often centered around Cisco and networking. Tim acquired a home lab and spent many, many hours working on his gear to solidify the knowledge he’d gained in the course. (He also lived about a mile from me, which meant I’d have to drive over there often to help him out whenever he called with questions.)

Finally, after I told him repeatedly that he was more than ready, he went and took the ICND1 exam. He passed, of course. Later, he went back to take the ICND2 exam and earned the CCNA certification, which helped him land a job with a large energy company where he’s now responsible for large parts of their network. Tim is also currently working toward the CCNP.

Three More CCNAs on the Way

While I know of many others who’ve been through the Cisco Academy program, there are three students I know very well who recently completed it. I got to witness firsthand what they were learning and the methodologies being used to teach them, especially as one of the three was my girlfriend for most of her time in Network Academy! All three of these students are now “finishing up” and are preparing to take the CCNA examinations soon. I have no doubt that all three will be CCNA certified in the near future.

I’ve seen the material, from both the student and instructor perspectives, and I’ve seen the skills based assessments and finals. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but the Network Academy is a great program. The instructors are required to go through the program themselves (although there is a “Fast Track” available) so they’ve “been there, done that”.

Is Network Academy A Necessity?

The Network Academy is a great program. I’m certain there are tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of students who have successfully completed the Network Academy curriculum and went on to earn the CCNA certification and progress into great careers in the computer networking industry. I believe that you can’t go wrong by enrolling in Network Academy, especially if you go the CCNA Exploration route.

That said, you don’t need to go through Network Academy in order to become Cisco certified. I definitely know many more network engineers that didn’t than did.

Honestly, it all comes down to your self-discipline and the resources you have available. Through Cisco Academy, you’ll have access to Cisco lab equipment to learn on and experiment with as well as fellow students and your instructor(s) for support. For some, Network Academy is clearly the best choice.

Others, including myself, have taught ourselves. By the time I took the CCNA exams, I had many years of experience in networking. While I did study a bit, I largely already knew much of the material. In addition, I had access to loads of networking gear to play around with.

Find A Network Academy

If you’re interested in taking advantage of the Network Academy program to help attain your CCNA goals, check out the differences between the CCNA Discovery and CCNA Exploration courses to decide which is best for you. Once you’ve decided on the one that best suits you, find a network academy in your area and get started!