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Career Cerification
There are five levels of Cisco certification that reflect the degree of expertise the certified person has. These Cisco certification levels range from entry level Cisco certification all the way to the extremely advanced and rare architect Cisco certification. Cisco portrays their certification program as a pyramid. The lower portion of the pyramid is the largest and most populated group of Cisco certifications. This lower level included the Entry Level Cisco certifications as well as the Associate Level Cisco certifications. Next on the pyramid is the Professional Cisco Certifications. At the top of the illustration is the Expert Level Cisco certifications. Cisco places the Specialist level of certifications adjacent to the hierarchal pyramid, because the specialty Cisco certifications complement each of the levels in the pyramid illustration. Let's learn more about each level of Cisco certification.

Entry Level Cisco Certification

Currently there is a single Cisco entry level certification. This certification is the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT). According to Cisco, the Cisco CCENT Certification "validates the ability to install, operate and troubleshoot a small enterprise branch network, including basic network security." This certification has been designed to meet the needs of the entry-level support technician who wishes to demonstrate his/her abilities. To earn the CCENT certification, the candidate must understand networking fundamentals, WAN technologies, basic security and wireless concepts, routing and switching fundamentals, and configuring simple networks. Many individuals use this as a stepping stone toward the more esteemed Cisco CCNA certification. To earn this certification, the candidate must pass the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (640-822) ICND1 Exam.

Associate Level Cisco Certification

The Associate Level of Cisco certification is the most common and highly populated division of Cisco Certifications. It's at this level that the most popular Cisco certification, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) resides. In addition, there are new specialized CCNA certifications available, including CCNA Security, CCNA Voice and CCNA Wireless. Learn more about the Cisco CCNA certification.

Cisco Certified Design Associate

A complement to the CCNA is Cisco’s CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Associate) is an introductory to mid-level certification for IT professionals who can design routed and switched network infrastructures involving LAN, WAN, and dial access services for businesses and organizations. The CCDA has as its prerequisite the knowledge and skills to install, configure, and operate basic network infrastructures. As well, Cisco highly recommends holding the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). The CCDA is a prerequisite to the CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional) certification. A candidate needs to pass this one exam to achieve CCDA certification and the CCDA is valid for three years. Job roles of those pursuing this certification generally include: network administrator, network infrastructure administrator, and infrastructure engineer and network designer.

Professional Level Cisco Certifications

Cisco’s CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional) is a mid to advanced-level certification for IT professionals who can design routed and switched networks involving LAN, WAN, and dial access services, applying modular design practices and making sure the whole solution responds optimally to the business and technical needs and is designed to be highly available. The CCDP has as the following prerequisites: CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) and CCDA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). There is a three and a two exam path to the CCDP. The CCDP is valid for three years. To recertify, the candidate must pass the Composite exam. Job roles of those pursuing this certification generally include: network infrastructure administrator, infrastructure engineer, network architect, network engineer and network designer.

Cisco’s CCIP (Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional) is a mid-level certification for IT professionals who have a detailed understanding of networking technologies in the service provider arena including IP routing, IP QoS, BGP, and MPLS. The only requisite for the CCIP is the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) exam. The CCIP was established in 2001 and has been most recently changed in the spring of 2003. At that time, the CCNA certification became a prerequisite and the need to pass four exams was instituted. The CCIP is valid for three years. Job roles of those pursuing this certification, which provides individuals working in service provider organizations with competencies in infrastructure IP networking solutions, generally include: network administrator, infrastructure administrator, infrastructure engineer, infrastructure specialist, and network engineer.

Cisco’s CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) is an intermediate-level certification for IT professionals who can install, configure, and troubleshoot local and wide area networks for enterprise organizations with networks from 100 to more than 500 nodes. The CCNP Certification has as its prerequisite the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), and covers content such as: security, converged networks, quality of service (QoS), virtual private networks (VPN) and broadband technologies. The CCNP got its start several years ago and has been recently changed in the summer of 2003, with the introduction of the Composite exam. There is a four exam, three exam and two exam path to the CCNP. The CCNP is valid for three years. To recertify, the candidate must pass the Composite exam. Recertifying at the Professional level automatically renews the related CCNA certification. Job roles of those pursuing this certification generally include: network administrator, LAN administrator, and network infrastructure administrator.

Cisco’s CCSP (Cisco Certified Security Professional) is an advanced-level certification for IT professionals who are actively involved in developing business solutions and designing and delivering multiple levels of security departments. These individuals typically are responsible for designing and implementing Cisco secure networks. Either the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) or CCIP (Cisco Certified Internetwork Specialist) is a prerequisite for the CCSP. The CCSP was established in 2002 and has been most recently changed in the spring of 2003 when its underlying required exams were updated. A candidate must pass five exams in order to achieve the CCSP designation. The CCSP is valid for three years. To recertify, take and pass the current version of appropriate security exams. Job roles of those pursuing this certification include: network security professional, systems security professional, and infrastructure security specialist.


The Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP) designation recognizes the increased importance placed on IT professionals of today who are responsible for integrating voice technology into underlying network architectures.  Individuals who earn a CCVP certification can help create a telephony solution that is transparent, scalable, and manageable.  Earning a CCVP certification validates a robust set of skills in implementing, operating, configuring, and troubleshooting a converged IP network.  The certification content focuses on Cisco CallManager, quality of service (QoS), gateways, gatekeepers, IP phones, voice applications, and utilities on Cisco routers and Cisco Catalyst switches.


Cisco Expert:

Cisco Experts (CCIE) is the highest of Cisco qualifications and students must pass a written and lab exam to attain CCIE status (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). Only three percent of Cisco Professionals have become CCIE’s. This certification is suitable for Senior Technical Architects who have a wealth of experience in their chosen path. The following paths are available to CCIE’s:


- Routing and Switching

- Security

- Voice over IP

- Storage Networking

- Service provider Networks



Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is Cisco’s utmost certification program which identifies and recognizes expert-level knowledge and skills in networking. This certification is now in operation for over 10 years even though less than three percent of all Cisco professionals have earned the CCIE accolade. Attaining CCIE status allows you to build on your personal qualifications and earns you respect within and outside your workplace while allowing you to progress your career.


What it involves:

CCIE’s must pass two exams. One written exam which contains 100 multiple choice questions, and one lab exam. The lab exam takes one full day and tests the candidate’s ability to configure, troubleshoot and work with Cisco equipment. Labs are only located in a limited number of countries worldwide and not all labs offer each lab exam.


Career Opportunities:

On achieving CCIE you will show to current and prospective employers that you have a strong commitment to training, study and education. There are 5 different tracks that CCIE’s can take:

1. Routing and Switching, this is the most popular track and tests your knowledge of networking across LAN and WAN interfaces. You will become familiar with a variety of routers and switches and will have the ability to solve complex connectivity problems.
2. Security, this is the fastest growing track. On completion you will have expert knowledge of VPN and security solutions, solid understanding of Windows, Unix, Linux and HTTP, SMTP, FTP and DNS. You must demonstrate in-depth understanding of Layer 2 and 3 network infrastructure and be capable of configuring complex end-to-end secure networks.


3. Voice over IP, on completion of this track you will have expert knowledge of Cisco VoIP products and solutions. You will be capable of configuring and building complex end-to-end telephony networks. Troubleshooting and resolving VoIP related problems and have knowledge of Layer 2 and 3 network infrastructure

4. Storage Networking, you will become an expert in the implementation and troubleshooting of storage area networks. You will be skilled with LANs, MANs and WANs over Fibre Channel, iSCSI, FCIP and FICON. This track also covers Layer 2 and 3 network infrastructure.


5. Service provider Networks, this track will give you expert level knowledge of IP fundamentals and technologies, expertise in building an extensible service provider network and the knowledge to deliver rich managed services. Advanced skills covered relate to packet architecture and technologies, such as service provisioning, service level agreements and basic security.


Maintaining Certification:

Cisco also offers recertification of the CCIE program which ensures that your current level of technical expertise is maintained. You must pass one written CCIE exam every two years to maintain your CCIE status. All written CCIE exams are eligible.