What Is the Difference Between a MCSE and CCNA Certification?

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) credentials are two certification options available to computer professionals who would like to demonstrate their training and expertise to employers. Keep reading to learn how certification requirements and specialization options differ for each.

Computer Certifications

In addition to formal education and experience, the primary avenue by which computer professionals distinguish themselves is to obtain certification. There are a large number of certification programs, both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral. Microsoft's mid-level credential for IT professionals working with its hardware and software is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE). For IT professionals who work with Cisco systems, it's the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

Both certifications are achieved by passing a series of exams, and you'll generally need between one and three years of experience working with vendor hardware and software to be ready for these computerized tests. Earning certification requires a great deal of study and preparation, not to mention the financial costs. The willingness to undergo this certification process, as much as the knowledge obtained, demonstrates professional dedication to employers.

Important Facts About MCSE and CCNA Certification

Prerequisites None, although completion of training courses is highly recommended None, although completion of training courses is highly recommended
Online Availability Yes Yes
Training Courses Installing & Configuring Windows Server 2012, Designing & Implementing a Server Infrastructure Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices
Possible Careers Computer support specialist, information security analyst Web developer, software designer
Median Salary (2018) $98,350 (for all information security analysts) $69,430 (for all web developers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 28% growth (for all information security analysts) 15% growth (for all web developers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

MCSE Requirements

Certification candidates earn the MCSE credential after passing several exams. Specializations are available in a number of areas, each of which has different examination standards, although most require students to complete four or five exams. These tests establish your ability to use Microsoft SQL Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 to design, implement, configure and maintain computer network and desktop infrastructures.

Microsoft certifications need to be kept current. Once you earn your MCSE credential, you'll need to pass a recertification exam every three years to maintain it.

CCNA Requirements

CCNA certification demonstrates your proficiency in using Cisco communications technologies to install and configure network infrastructures, maintain network performance and set up Video-over-IP solutions, among other tasks. To earn one of these certifications, candidates must pass three exams. Cisco offers several training courses to help students prepare for these exams.

These credentials must also be renewed every three years. Students can attain re-certification by completing any one of Cisco's pre-approved exams.