OK... you first have to have some prior IP networking experience to be able to understand the language and the concepts. But, if you are focused and dedicated, you can obtain the CCNA in a month and the CCNP in four months, full-time and probably, one year part-time, through a course of self-study, reading and hands-on lab work. I just obtained the CCNP certification last week and the CCNA in January.
Basically, get copies of the Cisco Exam Certification Guides for the CCNA and CCNP. Check out the Cisco Learning Center, especially for Also, obtain a good Video course, like CBTNuggets or TrainSignal, to introduce the topics and get a broad level perspective.
To build your lab, you can find real equipment on ebay. But I would suggest purchasing a powerful PC and porting GNS3/Dynamips, a cisco router emulation environment (do a google search). This provides emulated testbed of routers for the Cisco 17xx, 26xx, 36xx and 72xx etc, with real IOS capabilities. There is also enough coverage for VLANs, Layer 3 switching and trunking with the NSM module on some of the routers. I was able to emulate up to 9 routers on Windows XP running over OS-X 10.5.x bootcamp on a 2.8 GHz Quad Core MacPro.
Here are some of the areas that I enjoyed studying and a have very strong knowledge.
Most of these of these topics are covered with hands-on labs.
• Routing: OSPF/EIGRP/BGP/IS-IS, MPLS, IP Multicast, PIM, IGMP, Frame Relay, NAT
• Layer 2/3 Switching: VLANs, 802.1Q, RSTP, HSRP, PPPoE, PPPoA
• Security and Services: IPSec, GRE, Radius/AAA, VPNs, SSH, 802.1X, VoIP, Wireless
• QoS: Queuing, DSCP, Congestion Management/Avoidance, Traffic Shaping/Policing, NBAR
Wireless and VoIP require additional hardware, and you will also need to obtain a copy
a copy of the Cisco SDM for some labs.
Plan on 6-8 hours per day, 5 to 6 days per week.
I took the two test route for the CCNA. The CCNP consists of four exams, about 1 per month.
Add a week additional time in case you fail and exam and need to re-take (like I did on the BSCI). I needed to pace myself with the BSCI lab work because of the amount of fun I had doing the configurations and debug. The BSCI was the hardest and most people, I hear, opt to take
it last. I took it first and it provided a solid foundation for all the other exams. Here is a BGP lab layout from a configuration lab.
Go for it! You can do it!