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New CCIE: A Look at the New Exams, Labs

New CCIE: A Look at the New Exams, Labs picture: A
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Published on July 18, 2019

If you plan on earning a CCIE anytime soon, take time to get familiar with the anticipated changes to Cisco's expert-level certification. They might affect your plans, and you'll want to adjust accordingly.

Cisco is making its cert menu more nimble and relevant for the shifting landscape of programming and networking, and that includes revamping the CCIE program.

The changes are due to go into effect Feb. 24, 2020, so you have plenty of time to work toward a current CCIE.

That said, you need to be prepared and ready for the new face of Cisco CCIE certification. Let's take a look at what you should know.

The CCIE Today

The CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) is Cisco's most prestigious certification. It is also one of the most difficult, ranking No. 1 in our 10 Most Difficult IT Certifications list. Someone who has earned their CCIE is generally viewed as the cream of the crop when it comes to network engineering. A CCIE cert-holder has proven they have mastered a given domain of Cisco networking.

Currently, there are seven expert-level certification programs to choose from. All of them focus on a different area.

As for CCIE certification requirements, let's use the CCIE Routing & Switching certification as an example.

In order to obtain the CCIE Routing & Switching certification you need to pass a written exam, as well as a lab exam. For this certification, you'll need to take the 400-101 CCIE Routing & Switching written exam. While there are technically no prerequisites for the CCIE, the written exam acts as a way to validate your skills. Passing this allows you to be eligible for the lab exam.

Once you pass the written exam, you'll have 18 months to take the CCIE lab exam. If you do not pass the initial attempt, you'll have another 12 months to try again. Your initial written exam will remain valid during that time. Beyond that you'll have to take the written exam over again. If you do not pass the lab within three years of the written exam, you'll need to retake it.

The CCIE lab is an 8-hour exam that is broken up into different segments. These segments of the CCIE lab test your ability to build, maintain, and troubleshoot networks. The CCIE lab is very advanced. It's usually recommended to have three to five years of job experience before attempting this certification.

Another important thing to note is recertification is required every two years. As long as you recertify before your cert expiration date, you have several options available.

A New Era of CCIE Certification

Similar to the CCNP, the CCIE is also changing up its certification offerings. The new CCIE certifications are:

There are a few differences between the existing CCIE options and the options coming in 2020. The most notable is the absence of CCIE Routing and Switching. This certification is being replaced by the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure certification. CCIE Wireless will be replaced by CCIE Enterprise Wireless, while CCDE will be left unchanged, for now.

We'll stick to our equivalent for CCIE Routing and Switching for our example, CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure. Just like before it's still a two-step process: a qualifying written exam followed by the lab exam. You'll start off by taking the Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies 300-401 ENCOR. Interestingly, this core exam is actually the same exam required for CCNP Enterprise.

This change gives you the flexibility to either continue studying for your CCIE, or finish up the CCNP concentration exam. In most cases, the lab exam will be a lot to take on without much experience, so it makes sense to go for the CCNP Enterprise first.

The lab is still an 8-hour exam meant to validate your skills. Therefore, it's still best to have several years of real-world job experience before attempting the new CCIE. You don't want to go into this unprepared.

Additionally, the CCIE certification will also have an update to their recertification policy. When the changes take effect, the CCIE will expire every three years instead of every two years.

Currently Studying for a CCIE?

If you are studying for a CCIE, you may be worried about what the impending changes mean for you. Putting in so much time and effort only to find out Cisco's changing up its CCIE program can be scary. However, there's good news: you still have enough time to sit for the exam. What's more, you'll land yourself an additional cert if you earn your current CCIE by Feb. 23, 2020.

Let's stick to our original example. Suppose you have started working toward your CCIE Routing and Switching. If you complete the Routing and Switching written exam before Feb. 24, 2020, you'll be eligible to take the new CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure lab exam after February 24. If you don't pass the written exam before the deadline, the written exam will be replaced with the core exam ENCOR 300-401. In that case, you'll have to pass ENCOR 300-401 before you can move on to the lab exam.

If you've already passed your written exam, you still have time to take the lab exam. With that, you can earn your CCIE Routing and Switching certification before the change. If you pass, you will automatically receive the new CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure certification. You'll also receive the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Core certification. Typically, you receive this specialist pedigree after completing the ENCOR 300-401. In short, earning a CCIE before the changes has some upside. Bottom line: if you're already studying, don't stop!

Don't Rush into a Decision: You've Got Time

The changes made by Cisco took a look at the industry and tried to make a better product for their market. They also took into consideration their existing market. It takes a lot of time and hard work to prepare for the exams related to the CCIE. Cisco understands this and took this into consideration when making these changes. Individuals working toward a Cisco cert now can actually gain some additional benefits as a result. If nothing else, an extra certification is a nice resume booster.

There's plenty of time left before these changes go into effect. The best thing you can do right now is continue working toward your current certification. If you're working on your CCNA, get that done before the changes. Same goes for the CCNP and CCIE. You'll only benefit by getting it down now so there's no reason to wait it out.

If you haven't started studying yet, there is still time to get the current Cisco certs. However, set realistic expectations for yourself. If you know you don't have enough time to dedicate before the switch, start prepping for the new exams. The upside here is there is plenty of information to help you make an informed decision.


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