How Long Do IT Certifications Last?
For a long time, recertification could be added to the short list of certainties in life — death and taxes. But that's changing. Within the past two years, Microsoft and VMware moved away from mandatory recertification to a more flexible model. Last year, Microsoft extended the validity of their MCSE and MCSD certs from 3 years to good for life. A few weeks ago, VMware followed suit with their VMWare Certified Professional certifications.
With all the changes happening, now's a good time to take a look at how long certifications last — and what you can do to remain current.
Which Certifications Expire?
Here's a quick look at the common IT certifications and when they expire.
Good for life
Good for life
Cisco CCNA certifications
Cisco CCNP certifications
Cisco CCIE certifications
CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, Cloud+, PenTest+, Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+), and Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP), Linux+
CompTIA, Server+, and Project+
Good for life
Microsoft Certifications No Longer Expire
Microsoft has been rapidly and extensively overhauling its certification program for the past two years. Previously, MCSE certs were good for three years, and MCSD certs required recertification after two years. That's no longer the case. Last year, Microsoft announced the MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD certifications do not expire.
Instead, Microsoft initiated a new status system for its certifications — Active or Legacy. "Active" certifications refer to two things. First, it means the exams needed to earn the exam aren't retired. Second, it means that the product or service associated with the exam hasn't reached the end of its life. As long as a certification is active, it means that the technology is relatively current.
"Legacy" certifications mean exactly the opposite. It means the product has reached its end of support life, which includes certifications for that technology. Importantly, legacy certifications aren't expired. When a technology retires, the certification moves from the "Active" portion of the Microsoft Certified Professional Transcript to the "Legacy" section.
Last year, Microsoft also introduced a badge system for their Microsoft Certified Professional program. Learners have the option to take an elective exam each year to "re-earn" an annual badge on their transcript. This verifies that the candidate is keeping their skills current with changing technologies. Again, it's not mandatory.
VMware Certifications No Longer Expire
Until recently, VMware required recertification for its VCP-level certifications every two years. That's no longer the case. In February, VMware announced that it was moving away from mandatory recertification. VCPs were the only cert path with this requirement.
VMware develops a new exam series for every product version, which means they have a lot of certs. The exams themselves were typically retired after a few years, and the certifications were valid for two years. In January, VMware moved to simplify its certification program. Rather than version-based certifications, VMware certifications are now versioned by year. Instead of earning the VCP-DCV 6.5, it'll be the VCP-DCV 2019.
Cisco Certifications Expire Every Two to Five Years
Cisco certifications expire at different intervals according to their expertise level. CCNA and CCNP are valid for three years. CCIE expire after two years. For the handful of people with CCars, they need to recertify every five years.
How to Recertify Your CCNA or CCNP
Cisco requires that you recertify the CCNA or CCNP every three years. While that might seem daunting, you only have to pass one exam to recertify. And Cisco isn't too picky about which one. They'll accept one exam from any CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, or specialist tracks.
It's important to note that they don't require you to earn another certification — only pass an exam. For instance, if you wanted to retake the ICND2, that's fine. However, CCT and ICND1 don't count toward recertification.
It's important to not let these certifications lapse. If you don't recertify your CCNA or CCNP, Cisco sends you all the way back to ICND1. It's a little different once you hit CCIE.
How to Recertify your CCIE
Cisco requires that you recertify your CCIE every two years. There are two options to recertify. You can either participate in the Cisco Continuing Education Program or pass a CCIE or CCDE — written or lab. For the CE option, Cisco has a menu of recertification options with assigned point values. Most of them are training courses, but there are also Cisco Live sessions and even content authoring opportunities. You have to earn 100 credits every 24 months to stay active.
Unlike the CCNA and CCNP, CCIEs have a little more leeway when their certification expires. If your CCNP expires, then you're going back to the CCENT. CCIEs have a one-year grace period in suspended status if they miss the two-year deadline for recertification. During that time, the CCIE Status Checker will say "Your current status is Expired," which is undoubtedly scary. But, you don't go back to ICND1 until 365 days after you allowed your certification to lapse. That's when you fall into "inactive" status.
How to Recertify your CCar
If you have your CCar, then you don't have to take any more exams to recertify. Your recertification process is actually to evaluate CCar candidates. Within two years, you're expected to either create or refine exam content, or judge CCar candidates either once or twice. You only have to judge one successful CCar candidate or two unsuccessful candidates. Even with CCar status, if you miss the five-year expiration date, then you'll also go back to ICND1. Such a long way to fall.
CompTIA Certifications Expire Every Three Years
CompTIA has among the most straightforward validity guidelines, but the most robust continuing education program. Most CompTIA certifications are good for three years, including CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+, Cloud+, PenTest+, Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+), and Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP). The remaining three certifications — CompTIA Server+, and Project+ do not expire.
How to Recertify Your CompTIA Certification
CompTIA has a vibrant continuing education (CE) program with many options for earning CE units — or CEUs. To renew your CompTIA certification, you need to accrue enough units. Here's how many CEUs you'll need for each exam.
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner
The most direct route to renewal is earning an approved IT certification from CompTIA or another vendor. For instance, you can renew Security+ with CCNA Security or CISSP — to name two on the list. These certifications are assigned the exact number of points required to recertify.
Because CompTIA renews its exams every three years or so, you can also opt to take the new exam version for immediate renewal. For instance, you could renew your 900-series with the recently released the A+ 1000-series.
Approved training courses from most IT vendors are one way to earn CEUs. There are also a number of other ways to accrue enough CEUs. For instance, you can complete a college course, publish a blog post, attend a live webinar, or even write a book.
CBT Nuggets training is also pre-approved for CEUs, so you can earn one CEU for each hour of training. The maximum number of CEUs you can earn for these activities are different for every certification. Luckily, CompTIA has excellent documentation on how to earn CEUs, how many you need, and the limitations.
It's important to note that higher-level CompTIA certifications fully renew lower-level certifications, but the inverse is not true. For instance, renewing Security+ or Server+ will automatically recertify both Network+ and A+, and Network+ will fully renew A+. Here's the full renewal hierarchy for CompTIA certifications.
Which certs does it renew?
A+, Network+, Security+
A+, Network+, Security+
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner
A+, Network+, Security+, CySA+, PenTest+
(ISC)2 Requires Recertification Every Three Years
Similar to how CompTIA does renewal, (ISC)2 has standardized its recertification process. Though, they word it a little differently. Earning an (ISC)2 certification requires (ISC)2 membership, which must be maintained with triennial dues and continuing professional education (CPE) credits.
How to Recertify Your (ISC)2 Certification
(ISC)2 members can renew their certification (and membership) with a combination of activities over a three-year period that adds to the required CPEs. (ISC)2 recognizes lots of activities for credits, like attending conferences, publishing articles, and even volunteering. Like most certification programs, (ISC)2 requires more CPEs for higher-level certifications.
Total CPEs in 3-Year Period
AWS Requires Recertification Every Three Years
Amazon certifications are good for three years. They have a fairly straightforward recertification program. They don't have an extensive continuing education program. Instead, you'll need to either retake the certification exam again — or a pass a higher-level exam in the same certification path. For instance, if your AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification is nearing expiration, you can either pass the same exam again or earn the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification.
Why Some Certifications Expire and Others Don't
There have been some big changes in IT certification recently, though most certifications still expire. Microsoft and VMware are outliers because their certifications support products, not skills. They'll tell you that they wanted to put career progression back in the hands of professionals. In reality, they're admitting that if you certified on Windows 10 three years ago, you're likely just as qualified to manage the operating system today. Microsoft and VMware release certifications with new products, so it makes sense for those certifications to be good for life.
It's unlikely that Cisco, CompTIA, and (ISC)2 certifications will change anytime soon. That's because they're skills-based certifications — not product-based. Products largely remain the same from their release to the end of their life. Skills need to be regularly updated.
Certifications don't exist for their own sake. They're designed to validate your skills and knowledge in an industry-approved way. When the necessary technical skills change, which happens often, there must be a way to update those skills across the entire industry. That's the exact thing that certification (and recertification) does very effectively — and it seems unlikely that'll change.
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