9 Cisco Certs Retire Today: What Now?
The day is finally here. The Cisco certification program as we've known it has changed. It's a lot to take in and keep track of. Just about every level of Cisco certification has been impacted, no more so than at the CCNA level.
The good news is that Cisco is implementing these changes based on industry and employer demand. They are also streamlining the process to get certified, which should be welcome news for learners. Here's how the changes could affect you.
CCENT is No More
One of the major changes is the elimination of the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) certification. For many IT pros, the CCENT was the cert they earned when they started working with Cisco products. It was a respected entry level cert everyone was familiar with.
For many, the CCENT going away is a shock. Now, the CCT (Cisco Certified Technician) is the only entry-level Cisco cert below the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). While it is useful if you want to go into field support, the CCT is by no means a CCENT replacement. CCT is targeted to service providers and doesn't really dive into network theory like the CCENT.
Going for your CCENT used to be an easy first step. You would be able to apply the CCENT exam to receive credit for one of the two CCNA exams. This created a sort of natural progression.
For those starting their Cisco journey today, this may seem disappointing. Having a stepping-stone to the CCNA seems like a good idea. However, when you consider how and why Cisco revamped their cert programs, it begins to make sense.
The new CCNA provides foundational knowledge for modern environments and consists of only one exam (200-301). As a result, there is less of a need for a cert like the CCENT.
The New CCNA
The biggest announcement that came from Cisco in 2018 was the changes planned for their CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) program. Cisco listened to what employers were looking for in a CCNA professional. They took this feedback and made changes to their CCNA paths to make them less complex and more accessible.
The result is a set of certifications that match industry expectations at the "associate" level. The new CCNA avoids overspecialization early on. The idea is: You don't have to waste time and energy learning specialized skills at this stage.
Previously, the CCNA had a lot of paths you could take. The 10 CCNAs from the pre-February 2020 certification program were:
CCNA Data Center
CCNA Routing and Switching
CCNA Service Provider
CCNA Cyber Ops* – retiring in May 2020
These options let you move onto more advanced certs in those similar directions like the CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) and eventually the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert). However, there was a problem with this structure.
Employers were not likely to put people into these specialty roles at the associate level, at least not right away. What they're actually looking for is someone who has a good understanding of the basics, a good foundation. Something that can be used in any direction that fits the needs of the company at that time. Career focus should come later with more experience.
For these reasons, nine of the old CCNA paths will be retired and replaced by a single CCNA cert. The new CCNA will cover a wide range of topics in networking and security. There will be a stronger focus on validating associate level skills. Dropping the specializations also enable Cisco to streamline the exam process. The new CCNA will only require one exam: The 200-301 CCNA exam. This cert is more relevant to the needs of the industry. It also makes the Cisco certification path much easier to follow.
*A note about CCNA Cyber Ops: Thus far, this section has addressed nine of the 10 CCNA certifications. The notable standout and tenth certification is CCNA Cyber Ops certification, which went entirely untouched by the 2020 certpocalypse. However, Cisco recently announced that the two exams required for this exam — 210-250 SECFND and 210-255 SECOPS — will retire on May 29, 2020. These two exams will be replaced by the 200-201 CBROPS exam, and the certification will be called Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate.
For more information on the new CCNA, take a look at New CCNA: What to Expect from 200-301.
The New CCNP
There are not as many certifications at Cisco's professional level, but there's still plenty to talk about. Unlike the CCNA, at this level, you're expected to begin to specialize.
Previously, CCNP offered the following certifications:
Beginning Feb 24, 2020, the CCNP offerings are:
Under the new CCO program, CCNP Routing and Switching, CCNP Wireless, and CCDP all fall under the CCNP Enterprise cert. Also, you'll need to prepare for two exams, a core exam and a focus. No matter what path you choose, you must take the core exam, 300-401 ENCOR, and one of the following specialist exams:
300-410 ENARSI (Advanced Routing and Services)
300-415 ENSDWI (SD-WAN)
300-420 ENSLD (Networks)
300-425 ENWLSD (Designing Wireless Networks)
300-430 ENWLSI (Implementing Wireless Networks)
300-435 ENAUTO (Automating and Programing)
If you're interested in learning more about the new CCNP, here's our New CCNP: How to Prepare in 2019 post.
The New CCIE
To finish off the changes to Cisco cert lineup, we have the CCIE. It's no secret that this cert is difficult. In fact, it was No. 1 on our list of 10 Most Difficult IT Certifications. Of course, there is an upside to a cert being difficult. It requires a lot of knowledge and time investment, making it very valuable for those who hold one. Much like the CCNP, the changes to the CCIE were less drastic than the CCNA. However, they do fix several potential issues.
Here's a list of the previous CCIE certs:
Going forward, they are replaced by:
The new CCIE program shares the same core exam as the CCNP. However, you'll be required to take an 8-hour lab on top of the core exam. Because of how difficult the CCIE is, you'll probably want to go for your CCNP first. However, if you're a network guru, you could go straight for the CCIE.
Take a look at the New CCIE: A Look at the New Exams, Labs for more information on the new CCIE.
The Arrival of Cisco DevNet
DevOps and programing are undoubtedly becoming more important in the IT world. Cisco recognizes this and is introducing DevNet Associate, Specialist and Professional certifications. DevNet focuses on topics like: Cisco's programmability strategy, network operations, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), and network ops.
You may have noticed we didn't mention an expert level for DevNet. That's because there isn't one, yet. While we expect it to launch eventually, there isn't much detail on what it will look like yet.
IT pros looking to tackle DevOps, IoT, or automation with a Cisco focus, should take a look at DevNet. If that sounds like you, check out Cisco DevNet Arrives in 2020: What to Expect post.
What This All Means for Exam-Takers
With an understanding of what Cisco has changed, it's important to consider what those changes mean for you, the exam-taker. The worst-case scenario is you were studying for the old exams and didn't make the February 23 cutoff.
If that applies to you, the best thing to do is to refocus your studies on a comparable new exam. Much of the knowledge you gained studying for the old exams is likely to transfer to the new exams. Despite the setback, it's better to keep going than lose momentum.
Alternatively, you may be one of the fortunate IT pros that got a 2-for-1 by taking an expiring exam before the deadline. If this is yo, congratulations! It's probably time to rack up some experience at this next level, and then move on to your next certification.
For everyone else, now is a good milestone moment to take stock of what Cisco has done. At a high-level there are three main changes:
Less specialization at the CCNA level, there's more breadth and less depth
Modernization of content and focus areas
Addition of DevNet
If you like what Cisco has done, now may be the right time to get started on your next cert. If not, you may want to explore other paths. For example, if you really wanted a CCENT-esque certification, consider CompTIA's Network+.
Cisco has done a lot to modernize their certification paths. Time will tell if they executed well or not. Topically, there is a strong argument they have. By creating a program that prepares IT pros with the skills employers demand, they create a win/win/win. Employers get staff with relevant skills. Certified pros are able to land better jobs. Cisco stays in demand since a large base of IT pros is familiar with their products.