Cisco Career Certifications
The information technologies (IT) field is growing and changing at a rapid rate, and the professionals involved in the industry have to keep up if they wish to remain relevant. There are a number of ways to accomplish this fete, but one of the most professional and well-respected ways would be to achieve a Cisco Certification. Cisco has had a hand in the IT field for decades, and their variety in certifications allows IT professionals to not only remain relevant in their career path, but it also grants them the ability to advance.
Cisco currently has five levels of certifications available to IT professionals: Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert and Architecture. The aforementioned five were in order from lowest to highest level of accreditation, and as such the vast majority of them exist in the middle three categories.
As the name suggests, this level is mainly used as a starting point for individuals interested in working as a networking professional. Currently Cisco has two certifications available in this category: CCENT and CCT.
Cisco refers to this level as the foundation for networking certification. The Associate level has two subcategories: the CCNA for network instillation, and the CCDA for network design. Under these two subcategories are nine certifications: CCDA, CCNA Routing and Switching, CCNA Data Center, CCNA Security, CCNA Service Provider, CCNA Service Provider Operations, CCNA Video, CCNA Voice, and CCNA Wireless.
At this level things get a bit more advanced, and it is designed to display extended prowess. Similarly to Associate, Professional has eight certifications: CCDP, CCNP Routing and Switching, CCNP Data Center, CCNP Security, CCNP Service Provider, CCNP Service Provider Operations, CCNP Voice, and CCNP Wireless.
This level denotes supreme knowledge of a topic and is widely accepted as the most prestigious networking certification available to IT professionals. Cisco currently offers eight certifications here: CCDE, CCIE Collaboration, CCIE Data Center, CCIE Routing and Switching, CCIE Security, CCIE Service Provider, CCIE Service Provider Operations, and CCIE Wireless.
As the highest level of accreditation available, Cisco says this level will allow: “network designers to support complex networks of global organizations and effectively translate business strategies into evolutionary technical strategies.”
About Each Certification
The most popular certification levels are the Associate, Professional, and Expert levels because Cisco offers the largest number certifications under these three. Some of the certifications are similar, and most build from previous levels.
This certification is designed for entry-level network engineers that want to maximize their investment in foundational networking knowledge. Designed for Network Specialists, Administrators, and Support Engineers with one to three years of experience, it confirms the holder’s ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-sized routed and switched networks.
As the only Associate certification geared toward network design, this certification is for network design engineers, technicians, and support engineers. The previously mentioned should be in favor of efficient network environments, and they should have an understanding of network design fundamentals. Holders of this certification can design basic campus, data center, security, and voice and wireless networks.
CCNA Data Center
Specifically designed for data center network administrators who want to be more efficient on data center design, equipment installation, and maintenance, this certification is one of the few that are job-role specific. This certification addresses what Cisco calls the key areas of data center network design, implementation, and maintenance.
This certification is for confirming and reestablishing the general knowledge and skills required securing Cisco Networks. Security holders are expected to be able to develop a security infrastructure, recognize threats and vulnerabilities to networks, and mitigate security threats. Cisco reports that the curriculum focuses on core security technologies, installation, troubleshooting and monitoring of network device, confidentiality and availability of data and devices, and competency in technologies that Cisco uses in its security structure.
CCNA Service Provider
Primarily for service provider network engineers, technicians and designers who work with Service Provider industry core networking technologies and trends. Once they hold the certification, they are able to maintain and improve carrier-grade network infrastructures, but they also possess an ability to configure, implement, and troubleshoot baseline Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation networks.
CCNA Service Provider Operations
Though this certification is similar to the previous one, this one is mainly for Tier 1 support engineers who work in a prescriptive troubleshooting environment within carrier class IP NGN core network infrastructure. The course covers incident (event), fault, configuration, change, and performance management procedures. It also covers NMS tools and protocols.
As the name suggests, this is for IT professionals in the audiovisual world who currently have to work with traditional analog solutions. Taking the coursework will enable these professionals to learn more about Video-over-IP networked video environments. Since it’s a very job specific certification, everything learned relates to video, and certification holders are able to deploy video end-points, set-up new users and operate networked video solutions.
Similar to the CCNA Video certification, the voice certification is also job-specific and is mainly for people hoping to work with administering a voice network. Jobs most likely to benefit from this are Voice Technologies Administrator, Voice Engineer, and Voice Managers. The skillset tied to this certification is usually employed by large organizations with big IT demands. Still, there are also a number of small- to medium-sized organizations that would benefit from an employee holding this certification.
This certification confirms a holder’s knowledge and skill that is necessary to configure, implement, and support wireless LANs (specifically networks using Cisco equipment). The coursework is designed with information and practice exercises geared to helping the students configure, monitor and troubleshoot the basic tasks of a Cisco WLAN in SMB and Enterprise networks.
In the professional accreditation level, this certification is for senior network design engineers, senior analysts, and principal systems engineers. The course focuses on the design components of larger networks, but it also includes virtual private networking. As a part of the course, people pursuing the certification will learn how to build scalable internetworks and multilayer-switched networks, and they will also learn how to design network service architecture.
CCNP Routing and Switching
Holders of this certification confirm they are able to plan, implement, verify, and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks. Further, they can work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless, and video solutions. A minimum of one year of experience is recommended, and the certification is designed for people interested in taking their skillset to the next level.
CCNP Data Center
This certification is mainly for business services and technology architects, but it is also for presales, design, and implementation engineers. Another job-specific course, this certification enables holders to increase the value of their data network. Cisco also reports that they are one of the only certifiers to allow a concentration specific to the certification hopeful’s job role or function.
Almost all of the people that pursue this certification are already Cisco Network Security Engineers (specifically ones that are responsible for Security in Reuters, Switches, Networking devices and appliances). Moreover, these Security Engineers should already work with choosing, deploying, supporting, and troubleshooting Firewalls, VPNS, and IDS/IPS solutions.
CCNP Service Provider
This certification is geared toward Service Provider Network Engineers, Systems Engineers, and Network Specialists. These IT professionals should have experience with delivering a scalable carrier-grade infrastructure capable of rapid expansion to support ongoing introduction of new managed services and customer requirements.
CCNP Service Provider Operations
Holding this certification tells an employer that an individual has the knowledge and skills required to troubleshoot and maintain service provider IP NGN core network infrastructures. The coursework enables the holder to display the skills necessary to isolate network performance problems, implement proactive fault measures using operations management processes, frameworks, and network management systems.
This certification boasts an ability to use the advance knowledge and expert skill needed to integrate into underlying network architectures. In addition, this certification also confirms a premium skillset relating to implementing, operating, configuring, and troubleshooting a converged IP network.
Students who are interested in pursuing this certification realize the need for designing, implementing, and operating Cisco Wireless networks and mobility infrastructures. The course also sharpens the abilities of the IT professionals who pursue it.
The first in the Expert accreditation level, this certification is only for Network Design Engineers, Network Leads of IT infrastructure teams, or Network Leads of architecture teams who have supreme amount of experience under their belt. The coursework prepares the students to develop design solutions at the infrastructure level for large customer networks.
For Collaboration Architects, Unified Communications Architects, or Voice and Video Network Managers, this certification allows holders to deploy collaboration systems and services that increase user productivity, improve the experience for customers, and give a seamless user experience.
Certification holders become experts with the skills needed to plan, prepare, operate, monitor, and troubleshoot complex data center networks. Any IT personnel that hold this certification have proven their technical skills at the highest level, but there aren’t any formal prerequisites. Instead, hopefuls must pass a written exam and a hands-on lab exam.
Again, this certification has no formal prerequisites, only requiring that certification seekers pass a written qualification exam and a hands-on lab exam. This certification is specifically for network engineers, and once achieved, it verifies the skills needed to plan, operate, and troubleshoot complex, converged network infrastructure.
Following the trend of the other Expert level certifications, the CCIE Security certification only demands passing a qualification exam and a hands-on lab exam in order to attain it. Any IT professionals that hold this certification have a verified ability to implement, maintain, and support extensive Cisco Network Security Solutions using the latest industry best practices and technologies.
This certification is for Network Engineers with at least three to five years of job experience. These Network Engineers should pursue the certification if they bring their knowledge and skill of building an extensible Service Provider infrastructure to deliver rich managed services. The certification will verify that knowledge and skill.
This extension of the previous certification is for professionals with knowledge and experience operating IP NGN services. The certification validates the holder’s abilities and skills needed for an expert-level Operations Engineer that has to troubleshoot and maintain complex IP NGN core network infrastructures in the IOS and IOS XR operating environments.
As the name suggests, certification holders have an expertise in wireless. Furthermore, they possess and practice a broad theoretical knowledge of wireless networking, but they also have a firm understanding of wireless local area networking (WLAN) technologies from Cisco.