Is the CCNP Collaboration Worth It in 2022?
As far as certification choices go, earning Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) tends to be a good career move. Cisco certs are some of the most recognizable in the industry, and a CCNP can lead to plenty of opportunities. But how do you know which CCNP is right for you?
Here, we'll take a look at CCNP Collaboration to help you decide if that path is worth it. Spoiler alert: there's no one-size-fits-all answer here. However, by comparing the CCNP Collaboration with your other options, you can make a choice that is right for you.
The (informal) Prerequisites
There are no formal prerequisites to taking the CCNP Collaboration exam. However, Cisco recommends candidates often have 3 to 5 years implementing collaboration solutions. More generally, it is a good idea to make sure you're at a stage in your career where a professional-level collaboration cert makes sense. For example, if you've been working at the CCNA-level for a few years, earning a CCNP is often the next logical step. On the other hand, if you're a complete beginner to networking, it's probably not the time to tackle the CCNP.
Before you decide to invest your time and effort, make sure you're interested in what the CCNP Collaboration covers. If you're not interested in working with Cisco solutions and collaboration technology, you should probably consider another path. Being interested and engaged in what you do will help in the long run.
CCNP Collaboration covers a wide range of topics. For example, phone calls, instant messages, email, video conferences. remote meetings, and document collaboration all fall under the collaboration umbrella. Working with Cisco collaboration solutions means working with tools and platforms such as:
Cisco Unified Communications Manager
Cisco Unity Connection
Cisco Unity Presence
Cisco Unified IP Phone
If implementing, supporting, troubleshooting, and/or automating & programming those solutions sounds interesting to you, then the CCNP collaboration might be a worthy choice for your next cert.
The Money Question: How Much do CCNPs Earn?
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: take certification salary statistics with a grain of salt. Certifications are only part of the equation. Experience, other education, industry, job title, location, and even your ability to negotiate all play a role in what salary you could earn. Therefore, when you see a statistic like CCNP salary, it likely won't have all the information relevant to determining what salary you can realistically expect. The best they can do is provide rough estimates and ballpark figures.
With those qualifiers out of the way, let's talk about CCNP salaries. How much money you can make is an important aspect, but not the only part, of what you should consider when asking the question "is the CCNP worth it"?. To cite one source: PayScale notes the average annual CCNP salary is $96,112. If you already have several years of network engineering experience and add the CCNP to that, that salary or higher could be reasonable. Alternatively, if you have no experience and just a CCNP, chances are you won't come near that number.
Job Roles Associated with CCNP Collaboration
Like salaries, job titles for CCNP certification holders can vary greatly. Generally speaking, roles like collaboration engineer, telecommunications engineer, voice engineer, and Unified Communications engineer require skills similar to those validated by the CCNP Collaboration.
What it Takes to Earn CCNP Collaboration
After Certpocalypse in February 2020, there are now four paths to earning a new CCNP Collaboration cert. For all four paths, you'll need to pass the 120-minute 350-801 CLCOR "Implementing Cisco Collaboration Core Technologies" exam. As you can guess from the name, this exam covers the core concepts you need to know about collaboration technologies. Specifically, the six main topics of the exam are:
Infrastructure and Design
Protocols, codecs, and endpoints
Cisco IOS XE Gateway and Media Resources
QoS (Quality of Service)
In addition to that core exam, you'll need to pass one of these four concentration exams:
300-810 CLICA: Implementing Cisco Collaboration Applications. This 90-minute exam focuses on Single Sign-On (SSO) for collaboration apps, Cisco Unified Instant Message and Presence, Cisco Unity Connection, Cisco Unity Express, and collaboration client software like Jabber.
300-815 CLACCM: Implementing Cisco Advanced Call Control and Mobility Services. This 90-minute exam focuses on signaling and media protocols like SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), CME/SRST (Communications Manager Express/Survivable Remote Site Telephony) gateway technology, Unified Border Element, call control and dial planning, call control features, and mobility.
300-820 CLCEI: Implementing Cisco Collaboration Cloud and Edge Solutions. This 90-minute exam focuses on key collaboration concepts (e.g. IPv4 and IPv6, SIP encryption modes, and Expressway settings), Expressway configurations, mobile and remote access, and WebEx technologies.
300-835 CLAUTO: Automating and Programming Cisco Collaboration Solutions. This 90-minute exam focuses on network programmability, Cisco's Unified Communication platform, cloud collaboration, collaboration endpoints, and WebEx meetings.
If you pass the 350-801 CLCOR, plus one of the four above exams, you'll earn your CCNP collaboration. Remember what we said about interest, it applies here too. Be sure to pick a concentration you can see yourself enjoying. For example, if you want to work heavily with cloud solutions, consider the 300-820 CLCEI. If you want to sharpen your programming skills, the 300-835 CLAUTO may be the right choice.
Cost of the CCNP Exams
The price of exams can vary by region and over time. Today, the cost of the 350-801 CLCOR is $400 USD and any of the 300-810/815/820/835 exams are each $300 for United States residents. Of course, you also need to consider the "cost" in terms of your time investment when studying for the CCNP. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to how long you should study before sitting for the exam. If you're already very familiar with the topics, you may need very little study time. If it's all new to you and you study at a slower pace, it might take over a year. Generally, CCNP candidates that average a few hours of study a day will land somewhere in-between those two extremes. Therefore, in many cases the time investment for CCNP studies is measured in months.
CCNP Collaboration vs. Other Specializations
Ask any economist and they'll tell you: everything is a tradeoff. If you focus your energy on getting a CCNP Collaboration, that means you probably won't get one of the other CCNPs (at least not at the same time). The other Cisco professional-level certs you could earn instead are:
There are valid arguments for each one of these specializations, and often it comes down to personal preference. Just make sure your choice aligns with your career goals. For example, if you want to be a security engineer, maybe CCNP Collaboration isn't the right choice. However, it isn't completely an all-or-nothing choice. Some of the knowledge you pick up will be transferable should your interests change down the line.
Additionally, in some cases concentration exams apply to more than one certification. For example, the 300-835 CLAUTO is associated with DevNet Specialist, DevNet Professional, and CCNP Collaboration certs.
CCNP Collaboration: Career Growth
Long-term, it makes sense to consider what opportunities you'll have after earning your CCNP. After a few years of gaining experience, earning a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Collaboration certificate is a logical next step. A CCIE certification remains one of the most prestigious in IT, and a CCIE Collaboration can help propel your career in the industry. Going back to projected salary, with all the same caveats as before, PayScale puts the average CCIE salary at $126,980 a year.
Alternatively, after working with Cisco Collaboration tools for a bit, you may want to branch out in other directions. Fortunately, according to Grand View Market Research, the global team collaboration software market is projected to have a compound annual growth rate over 12% from 2020-2027. That suggests we'll continue to see demand for IT pros with relevant skills in the space. So, if you'd like to work for a Cisco competitor or a yet-to-be-created collaboration startup in a few years, that's within the realm of possibility too.
Additionally, if you go the automation and programming route with 300-835 CLAUTO, you'll have some transferable skills. For example, we've already discussed how the 300-835 CLAUTO is one of the concentration exams you can pick for a DevNet Certification too. More generally, working with Python, APIs (application programming interfaces), and automation protocols will be applicable to many DevOps-related roles.
"Worth it" is relative. The CCNP Collaboration can absolutely be a worthwhile cert under the right circumstances. For example, if you're a network pro looking to specialize in collaboration technology, it might be an easy "yes". On the other hand, if you want to specialize in security, then your efforts are probably better spent elsewhere. It's up to you to weigh the tradeoffs and make a decision that aligns with your goals.
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