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Cisco Certification Guide

Cisco networking gear is everywhere. Its routers, switches, and even phones are found in most office environments. For IT professionals who specialize in network administration, it’s more likely than not that you’ll work in a Cisco environment at some point. That’s why Cisco certifications are so popular and highly valued Cisco certifications validate the knowledge and skills  IT professionals need to be successful in managing and maintaining Cisco technologies. This CBT Nuggets certification guide covers Cisco certifications, how to earn Cisco certifications, and the roles  Cisco certification can prepare learners for.

What are Cisco Certifications?

Cisco has a robust certification program that validates whether IT professionals can manage, configure, and maintain Cisco equipment.

Cisco certifications are designed to validate the knowledge that IT professionals have learned through on-the-job experience. In sum, networking professionals learn Cisco systems and networking through the normal course of their job. Cisco certifications then test that they learned the career-level appropriate knowledge and skills.

It’s true that not every networking job is the same, thus some professionals may need to learn new material for the exam. In those cases, Cisco certifications are even more valuable because they fill knowledge gaps and ensure a consistent level of expertise across the industry.

How to Get a Cisco Certification

The Cisco career certification program has five tiers of certifications —- Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert, and Architect. Within each tier, networking professionals can either follow the routing and switching track or specialize as they progress. Cisco offers specializations in the Associate, Professional, and Expert tracks, which include:

CCNA Certification Specialty Tracks

CCDA
CCNA Cloud
CCNA Collaboration
CCNA Cyber Ops
CCNA Data Center
CCNA Industrial
CCNA Routing and Switching
CCNA Security
CCNA Service Provider
CCNA Wireless

CCNP Certification Specialty Tracks

CCDP
CCNP Cloud
CCNP Collaboration
CCNP Data Center
CCNP Routing and Switching
CCNP Security
CCNP Service Provider
CCNP Wireless

CCIE Certification Specialty Tracks

CCDE
CCIE Collaboration
CCIE Data Center
CCIE Routing and Switching
CCIE Security
CCIE Service Provider
CCIE Wireless

The Cisco certification program is designed for networking professionals to advance from the general entry-level certifications to specialized expert-level certifications. The CCENT is the common starting point for most entry-level networking professionals. The CCENT is a valuable certificate and also provides considerable flexibility to select a networking specialization. The CCENT is a prerequisite for several CCNA certifications, including the popular CCNA R&S.

The CCENT is valuable on its own. The CCENT is also a prerequisite for CCNA Security, Wireless, Industrial, and the CCDA, which means these four certifications can be earned by passing only one additional exam. Earning the CCNA R&S first provides a similar level of flexibility for networking professionals seeking to specialize later in their careers. The CCNA R&S also serves as a prerequisite for the same CCNAs as CCENT.

Jumping between specialization tracks becomes more rigid the further networking professionals progress. While the CCNA R&S serves as the prerequisite for several other CCNAs, the CCNP requires that IT professionals earn the preceding CCNA in the track. For instance, someone who earns their CCNA Wireless and then wants to earn the CCNP Collaboration has to go back to earn the CCNA Collaboration.

For these reasons, we recommend that networking professionals start with the CCNA R&S unless they have already selected a specialty.

 

CCENT Certification 

The Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification is the starting point for IT professionals pursuing Cisco certifications. As the most fundamental Cisco certification, the CCENT is commonly leveraged by new or aspiring IT professionals seeking to get their first job or advance from entry-level positions.  

IT professionals earn the CCENT by passing the Cisco CCENT ICND1 exam, which is the first of two exams required to earn the CCNA R&S. Additionally, entry-level networking technicians can use the CCENT as the prerequisite for four other CCNA tracks.

The Cisco ICND1 exam costs $165 and has no prerequisites. It assumes no prior experience or knowledge with Cisco technologies. The CCENT is valid for three years. IT professionals can recertify the CCENT by retaking the ICND1 exam or passing any Associate, Professional, Expert, or Architect exam.

 

CCNA Certification

Cisco offers 10 Associate-level — or CCNA — exams. CCNA certifications validate the knowledge and skills a networking professional should’ve acquired in their first year on the job. IT professionals typically use their CCNA to make themselves more valuable as a network administrator. The CCNA does not automatically guarantee a promotion or raise but shows commitment to the networking profession.

CCNAs cost $330, $465, or $600 depending on the exam. CCNA certifications require passing at least two exams. While half the CCNA certifications have CCENT as a potential prerequisite, the other half comprises two specialized exams. CCNA certifications with CCENT as a prerequisite cost $465. CCNA certifications with specialty exams cost $600.  

CCNA Cloud, Collaboration, Cyber Ops, and Data Center certifications each cost $600. These exams have two advanced technologies exams and no prerequisites. Each exam costs $300 per attempt.

CCNA Security, Wireless, Industrial, and the CCDA each cost $465. While most CCNA certifications have two specialized exams, these four certifications only require one advanced technology exam with CCENT ($165) as the prerequisite.

CCNA Routing and Switching costs $330. Each exam (ICND1 and ICND2) costs $165 per exam. Cisco also offers the Cisco CCNA 200-205 exam, which is a composite exam. The 200-125 exam costs $325 and serves as a way to pass just one exam to earn the CCNA. It’s the cheapest route to earn a Cisco certification, but it’s also the most difficult way to earn the CCNA R&S. Breaking up the study material among the two exams is preferable for most new IT professionals.

Required exams for Cisco CCNA certifications:

CCDA

100-105 ICND1 or a valid CCNA
200-310 DESGN

CCNA Cloud

210-451 CLDFND
210-455 CLDADM

CCNA Collaboration

210-060 CICD
210-065 CIVND

CCNA Cyber Ops

210-250 SECFND
210-255 SECOPS

CCNA Data Center

200-150 DCICN
200-155 DCICT

CCNA Industrial

100-105 ICND1 or the CCNA R&S
200-601 IMINS2

CCNA Routing and Switching

100-105 ICND1
200-105 ICND2
– or –
200-125 CCNA

CCNA Security

100-105 ICND1 or the CCNA R&S
210-260 IINS

CCNA Service Provider

640-875 SPNGN1
640-878 SPNGN2

CCNA Wireless

100-105 ICND1 or the CCNA R&S
200-355 WIFUND

 

CCNP Certification

Cisco offers eight Professional-level — or CCNP — exams. Cisco recommends at least one year of experience to attempt a CCNP, but we recommend more. In reality, networking professionals who attempt a CCNP typically have three to five years of experience. They’re often ready to accept more responsibility as a network engineer or Tier 3 technician or specialize into one of the eight professional tracks.

IT professionals earn their CCNP by passing at least three, but more likely, four exams. Each CCNP exam costs $300 per attempt, which means CCNP certifications cost either $900 or $1,200. The CCNP Routing and Switching and CCDP certifications require three exams. The other six CCNP certifications require four exams.

CCNP certifications have their corresponding CCNA as a prerequisite. For instance, CCNA Cloud is the prerequisite for earning the CCNP Cloud. Alternately, any CCIE certification can act as a prerequisite for any CCNP.

Required exams for Cisco CCNP certifications:

CCDP

300-101 ROUTE
300-115 SWITCH
300-320 ARCH

CCNP Cloud

300-460 CLDINF
300-465 CLDDES
300-470 CLDAUT
300-475 CLDACI

CCNP Collaboration

300-070 CIPTV1
300-075 CIPTV2
300-080 CTCOLLAB
300-085 CAPPS
300-175 DCUCI

CCNA Data Center

300-175 DCUCI
300-165 DCII
300-170 DCVAI
300-160 DCID
– or –
300-180 DCIT

CCNP Routing and Switching

300-101 ROUTE
300-115 SWITCH
300-320 ARCH

CCNP Security

300-208 SISAS
300-206 SENSS
300-209 SIMOS
300-210 SITCS

CCNP Service Provider

642-883 SPROUTE
642-885 SPADVROUTE
642-887 SPCORE
642-889 SPEDGE

CCNP Wireless

300-360 WIDESIGN
300-365 WIDEPLOY
300-370 WITSHOOT
300-375 WISECURE

 

CCNP vs CCNA

The CCNA and CCNP are the associate and professional levels of Cisco certification, respectively. The CCNA tests the fundamental networking skills that a junior network administrator should learn in their first year on the job. The CCNP validates whether an IT professional knows how all the networking components work together.

The CCNP is much more difficult than the CCNA. CCNP certifications require either three or four exams, compared to the two required for CCNA. CCNP certifications also require a deeper technical understanding of how a network functions. While CCNA certifications validate networking fundamentals, CCNP certifications test advanced skills such as troubleshooting and design.

For instance, the CCNA R&S exam has three parts — ROUTE, SWITCH, and TSHOOT. The CCNA validates routing and switching in two exams. The CCNP tests each skill set in its own exam, culminating in the scenario-based TSHOOT exam.

To troubleshoot or design a network, CCNPs must know how the component parts interact to identify problems and resolve them. The CCNP exams reflect this advanced level of knowledge.

 

CCIE Certification

Cisco offers seven Expert-level — or CCIE —certifications. Cisco recommends three to five years of experience before attempting a CCIE. It’s possible to have encountered the esoteric, complex problems that the CCIE validates in smaller networks over a longer period of time. Realistically, networking professionals who pursue Cisco expert-level certifications have a decade or more experience managing complex networks. CCIEs are experts in their field and ready to fill senior-level networking engineering roles, like senior network engineer or network architect.

These are the Cisco expert-level certifications:

CCDE
CCIE Collaboration
CCIE Data Center
CCIE Routing and Switching
CCIE Security
CCIE Service Provider
CCIE Wireless

IT professionals earn CCIEs by passing two exams — the written and lab portions. The CCIE certification process is notoriously difficult, culminating with an in-person lab exam at one of eight Cisco testing centers worldwide. The CCIE written exam costs $450 per attempt. The CCIE lab exam costs $1,600 per attempt. It’s important to note that most CCIE candidates take the lab multiple times before passing, which means multiple trips to the nearest testing center. There’s only one in the United States, which is located in Richardson, Texas.

 

 Cisco Certified Architect Certification

The Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) certification is the most difficult and expensive Cisco exam. Networking professionals who attempt this exam must be a Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) with vast experience designing large, complex networks. The CCar is so difficult and specialized that only a handful of networking professionals have this certification.

The initial CCAr board qualification review costs $3,750. The board review then costs an additional $11,250. The total cost of exams for the CCAr is $15,000.

Do Cisco Certifications Expire?

Yes, Cisco certifications expire in two, three, or five years. CCNA and CCNP expire after three years. CCIE expire after two years. Network architects must recertify their CCar every five years. Cisco outlines different recertification requirements for each certification level.

How to Recertify a Cisco Certification

CCNA or CCNP certifications must be recertified every three years. Cisco requires that networking professionals with CCNA or CCNP pass one exam from any CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, or specialist tracks, except the CCENT 1NCD1 exam.

CCIE certifications must be recertified every two years. There are two options to recertify — continuing education or passing another CCIE exam. The Cisco Continuing Education Program has assigned point values for a number of recertification activities. Most continuing education options are training courses, but there are also Cisco Live sessions and even content authoring opportunities. CCIEs must earn 100 credits every 24 months to maintain active status.

The CCar certification must be recertified every five years. Unlike the CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE certifications, the CCar is a service-based recertification program. Certified Cisco Architects must create or refine exam content, or judge either one or two CCar candidates. Architects can judge one successful CCar candidate or two unsuccessful candidates.

Cisco Certification Career & Salary Information

An IT professional who holds a CCNA can earn anywhere between $40,643 and $124,889, according to Payscale.com. There are a number of factors that play into salaries, including professional experience, geography, and the company. It’s also important to consider the cost of living when looking at national salary averages and ranges. Company industry and size are other determinants of salary. Larger companies typically pay more but have complicated, long hiring practices.

Roles that are common for those holding a CCNA R&S certification include network engineer, network technician, network administrator, IT manager, and systems administrator. It’s common for even IT professionals with specialized roles and certifications, like CCNA Wireless or Collaboration, to have a generic network engineer title. However, they may also have a specialized job title, like wireless networking engineer, collaboration engineer, or a moniker specific to their role.

Cisco Certification Training 

CBT Nuggets offers a wide variety of Cisco training. In addition to quality, entertaining Cisco video training created by expert-level trainers, CBT Nuggets provides everything a learner needs to study for a Cisco certification exam, including virtual labs, supplemental files, practice exams, and access to a robust Learner Community.

Every CBT Nuggets Cisco course either provides learners with custom virtual labs or supplemental files to learn technical concepts alongside the video training. Virtual labs were designed by experts to help learners gain hands-on experience in a sandbox environment. NuggetLab supplemental files include practice IOS commands, configuration files, and network diagrams — everything a learner needs to study for a Cisco certification exam.

CBT Nuggets learners should also take advantage of the Kaplan® IT Training Practice Exams included with a subscription to CBT Nuggets. Practice exams can either be taken timed or untimed and provide a good baseline for learners to test their knowledge. Additionally, Kaplan® IT Training Practice Exams evaluate a learner’s strengths and weaknesses, so they know where to focus their attention while studying.

Being successful with Cisco certifications requires quality instruction, hands-on experience, and practice with the exam itself. CBT Nuggets provides every element a learner needs to pass a Cisco certification exam.

 

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