The CCNA vs CCNP discussion comes up quite a bit and many students are not certain if they should start with the CCNA, or go all out and enter the workforce as a CCNP. Both plans have merit, however, it is usually better to go after the higher level certification after you gain some experience. There are a few reasons for this and each should be considered before you make your decision.
The reality is, some people kind of cheat their way through the exams. IT managers are certainly aware of this and they will look at anyone that completes both certifications quickly with some skepticism. Simply, they will assume you bought some exam questions and answers, studied them, and took all of the exams right after another.
Along the same lines, the experience you gain once you have the CCNA certification is also the most valuable thing you have. The certification confirms your experience, but is not a substitute for it. In other words, a CCNP with no experience has nowhere near the value a CCNP with two years of experience has. This is the case even if the experience was gained while you were only a CCNA.
The exams get much easier as you gain experience. Some of the things that are natural for someone that supports Cisco for a living will have to be learned and studied if you don’t have the experience. One of the things that make these exams so difficult is it is nearly impossible to gain experience with everything that will be covered on the test. You may be a complete genius, but if you don’t have experience doing a certain thing that your employer simply doesn’t have, you will have to struggle a bit more. This is especially true for some of the routing protocols. Chances are your employer only has one, and this is the one you will know well. The others will have to be learned via your study materials or in the classroom.
In some ways it will be more difficult to find a job if you are a CCNP with no experience. Employers will be reluctant to hire you for an entry-level position as they assume you will leave quickly. However, if you had just the CCNA certification they may assume you will be growing with your position. In addition, despite what you hear elsewhere, having the CCNP certification alone does not qualify you for a high level job. Once again, there is no substitute for experience.
To summarize the CCNA vs CCNP decision, the best approach is to gain the CCNA and get a job in the field. The CCNA alone is enough to get a computer networking job and then you can look to move up the ladder from there into the CCNP. However, you cannot skip the experience part or your entry into the workforce may be disappointing. If nothing else, you can look at your early time at work as part of your training. Once you gain a year or two of experience, you can then go after the CCNP and go from there. Good luck!