Introduction: Jump start your career with vendor-specific Cisco certifications

Cisco Systems, Inc. offers a line of vendor-specific certifications for its products. Cisco’s many credentials suit every level of IT practitioner, offering entry-level, intermediate, specialist or even expert-level credentials. Network professionals and managers who pursue any of their certifications will definitely bring value to the organizations that employ them; in particular, network engineers undergoing training to earn these certs can prove their skills and technical knowledge and are potentially headed to highly rewarding careers.

If you are looking into Cisco programs and certification, however, you need to be aware of the many changes that are being implemented soon, so as to better plan your credentialing (and career) path.


What are the new changes to Cisco’s training and certification programs?

Professionals who are ready to take their career to the next level will have access to new learning portfolios. Cisco’s Training and Certification Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is the place to start to note the changes in the new structure and keep abreast of the new programs offered.

According to the company, the new training and certification portfolio is able to do a better job in covering in-depth critical skills in key IT areas and in addressing newer technologies. Adjustments have been made to CCNA, CCNP, CCIE. In addition, Cisco has also added a new layer of ‘Specialist’ certifications in between its CCNA and CCNPs.

Also, in the offer structure will be many new training courses that will roll out over the next several months and IT practitioners will be able to start earning training badges for courses completed after February 24, 2020 just in time for challenging the new exams set to go live.

Note: As you work towards a Cisco certification, do keep in mind that the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1) exam (100-105), which is a question assessment that is associated with the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) certification and is a tangible first step in achieving other associate-level certifications, will soon expire. In fact, the last day to test on the 100-105 ICND1 is February 23, 2020 for the associated certification: CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching, CCDA, CCNA Security, CCNA Service Provider Operations, CCNA Collaboration, CCNA Wireless. Nonetheless, it’s highly advisable to take the Cisco CCENT/CCNA 100-105 ICND1 exam in the meantime that can build skills required for entry-level network support positions while progressing into more advanced networking and security roles, says Infosec.

Now on to choosing which Cisco certification to pursue followed by how to prepare. But first, please make note of the following changes that have begun to roll out circa June of 2019.

CCNA changes

The new CCNA program is designed for associate-level job roles in IT technologies. Cisco has consolidated all existing variants of CCNAs in a single CCNA, one exam that covers a variety of IT fundamentals and covers latest networking technologies, software development, and many different job roles. Previous certifications are being retired.

Until February 23, 2020 Target From February 24, 2020
CCNA Cloud Cloud engineers and administrators, and network engineers CCNA
CCNA Collaboration network video engineers, IP telephony and IP network engineers CCNA
CCNA Cyber Ops Cybersecurity professionals CCNA
CCNA Data Center Data center professionals CCNA
CCNA Industrial plant administrators, control system engineers and network engineers in the manufacturing, process control, and oil and gas industries CCNA
CCNA Routing and Switching Networking professionals CCNA
CCNA Security Networking professionals CCNA
CCNA Service Provider Service provider network engineers, technicians, and support personnel CCNA
CCNA Wireless WLAN Engineers CCNA

 

This is quite an extensive overhaul, but professionals who are already studying and planning to take the test prior to February 23 need not to worry as, after the changes will be in place, they will receive the new CCNA certification and a training badge in the technology area where they were certified.

Note: There are no formal prerequisites for CCNA certification. Certification holders must recertify by completing continuing education activities and earning points within three years.

CCDP and CCNP changes

The original, professional-level CCDP and CCNP options are also getting revised. CCNP Routing and Switching and CCNP Wireless, as well as CCDP, will be integrated into the CCNP Enterprise certification, a two-exam option that includes a test on core enterprise technologies and one on a concentration exam of the professional’s choice for better customization to the needs of the student.

The CCNP Cloud will also be consolidated with the CCNP Data Center exam.

Until February 23, 2020 From February 24, 2020
CCDP CCNP Enterprise
CCNP Routing & Switching CCNP Enterprise
CCNP Wireless CCNP Enterprise
CCNP Collaboration CCNP Collaboration
CCNP Data Center CCNP Data Center
CCNP Security CCNP Security
CCNP Service Provider CCNP Service Provider
CCNP Cloud CCNP Data Center

Note: There are no formal prerequisites for CCNP certification that is valid for three years.

CCIE changes

Cisco has made some significant changes to all six tracks of the expert-level CCIE Program. In fact, many CCIE certifications are revised to a newer version, effective February 24, 2020.

  1. CCIE Collaboration v2.0 to CCIE Collaboration v3.0 – After you pass the CLCOR 300-801, you will earn the Cisco Certified Specialist – Collaboration Core certification which is valid for three years.
  2. CCIE Data Center v2.1 to CCIE Data Center v3.0  – After you pass the DCCOR 300-601, you will earn the Cisco Certified Specialist – Data Center Core certification which is valid for three years.
  3. CCIE Security v5.0 to CCIE Security v6.0 – After you pass the SCOR 300-701, you will earn the Cisco Certified Specialist – Security Core certification which is valid for three years.
  4. CCIE Service Provider v4.1 to CCIE Service Provider v5.0 – After you pass the SPCOR 300-501, you will earn the Cisco Certified Specialist – Service Provider Core certification which is valid for three years.

Cisco retired the following CCIE certifications:

  1. CCIE Routing & Switching v5.0
  2. CCIE Wireless v3.1

Cisco also introduced new CCIE certifications:

  1. CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure
  2. CCIE Enterprise Wireless

Both of these tracks adopt the CCNP Enterprise exam (ENCOR 300-401) as their written theory test, but each have a dedicated lab requirement specific to the track: CCIE Enterprise Wireless v1.0 and CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure v1.0. Both certifications are valid for three years.

Note: CCIEs are required to recertify every two years. Also, the number of qualifying CE credits will increase from 100 to 120 credits. What’s more, there’s a new lifetime tenure for CCIEs maintained over 20 years.

Until February 23, 2020 From February 24, 2020
CCIE Routing & Switching CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure
CCIE Wireless CCIE Enterprise Wireless
CCIE Collaboration CCIE Collaboration
CCIE Data Center CCIE Data Center
CCIE Security CCIE Security
CCIE Service Provider CCIE Service Provider

DevNet: To be added to Cisco’s certification program

The DevNet certification program is a brand-new track that embraces network professionals and software developers and potentially creates one community and the IT teams of the future. This offer supports Cisco’ mission to support intent-based networking by aligning business goals to network results; intent-based networking, in fact, is based on closing the gap between what the business really needs and what its IT infrastructure delivers. Cisco believes that the DevNet certification program can help professionals “combine infrastructure expertise with the power of programming to take advantage of the possibilities of intent-based networking.”

Cisco states the DevNet cert program (with three levels of certification) validates the skills of software developers, DevOps engineers, automation specialists, and other similar professionals who, today, are asked to handle multiple technologies, deliver creative solutions with an eye on programmability. This helps shape the workforce for the next generation of businesses built on Cisco technologies.

Here’s the Cisco DevNet Training and Certification Program at a glance:

  1. Cisco Certified DevNet Associate: For developers with one or more years of hands-on experience developing and maintaining applications. A certification that validates their core knowledge of Cisco platforms, working with applications, Cisco’s programmability strategy, and APIs.
  2. Cisco Certified DevNet Professional: For developers with at least three to five years of experience designing and implementing applications. Two exams cover designing and developing resilient, robust and secure applications using Cisco APIs and platforms, and managing and deploying applications on Cisco infrastructure. There’s the core exam that validates your professional-level developer skills and there’s a concentration exam from the following technology and subject areas: Enterprise Automation, Collaboration Automation, Data Center Automation, Service Provider Automation, Security Automation, DevOps Automation, Developing Webex Solutions, or IoT.
  3. Cisco Certified DevNet Specialist: For developers with three to five years of experience with application development, operations, security, or infrastructure. A certification that validates specialized knowledge and skills that connect development, operations, security, and network operations in an environment focused on delivery of applications and services using Cisco platforms.

Preparing for the certification exam

Now, it’s time to prepare for and ace the new certification exams. The following are a few of the available solutions that can get you ready for test day:

  1. Cisco Learning Network can help to jump-start your certifications and lifelong learning goals. Just match your certification path to your job role or industry.
  2. Cisco Learning Solutions Partner Infosec offers a bootcamp option with a methodology that is geared towards a high success rate for passing the exams.
  3. Cisco Press: The only authorized publisher of books for Cisco certification self-study and network technology learning. Visit Cisco Press for the latest CCENT and CCNA publications to help prepare you for your certification.

Cisco’s trainings, courses (find classes by certification), practice tests, labs etc. are available as an aid for preparation; however, also look for respectable training vendors that can help keep your skills sharp and get ready to be certified with vendor-specific programs or courses that can help you master lacking or weaker skills. One might consider enrolling in boot camps to build their knowledge of networking. Then, when ready, to pursue the test for certification, there’s Pearson VUE that delivers these exams for Cisco.

Conclusion

Cisco certifications has devised a complete overhaul of its programs in order to better validate a professional’s skills, cover the newest technologies and be in line with current job roles and today’s IT practitioners’ interests or aspirations. Cisco, in most cases, offers the ability to start where the student wants with no formal prerequisites to begin the path towards an associate, specialist, professional or expert level certification. Studying for the exams, candidates will develop a deep understanding of the various aspects of networking, while assessing their proficiency with the same Cisco technology that is so present today in most companies’ IT environments and to which most professionals will be exposed. With three-year recertification deadlines and no more continuing education administrative fee, as of February 24, 2020, Cisco is looking to streamline its offer and be more user-friendly for newer and expert professionals alike.

 

Sources

  1. Cisco Certification Program Update, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  2. Cisco Certification Info, Cisco Press
  3. Cert News: New Cisco Certifications Coming in 2020, CBT Nuggets
  4. What is the change in Cisco 2020?, Quora
  5. Training & Certifications, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  6. Current Exams, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  7. Exam Topics Master List, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  8. Study Material Master List, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  9. DevNet certifications, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  10. Cisco exams and how to prepare, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  11. Best Computer Networking Certifications, Business News Daily
  12. Which Cisco certification should I get?, Pluralsight LLC.