Is the DevNet Professional Worth It?
Cisco networking certifications have long been the gold standard for networking technology. If you’ve been in IT for any length of time, you probably know several CCNAs, CCNPs, and perhaps even a CCIE or two. These certs have a well-established value and will likely be around for a long time.
However, that doesn't mean that technology doesn't evolve, and certifications along with it. Last year, Cisco introduced a new certification track dedicated to the intersection of software development and modern networking. The Cisco DevNet pathway aims to help IT pros who want to write and develop integrations with Cisco technologies.
In addition to introducing DevNet Associate, Specialist, and Professional certifications Cisco has revised and streamlined their networking certifications. The overall goal of this initiative is to provide modernized certification paths that allow professionals to target their specialties precisely.
What is the DevNet Professional?
The Cisco Certified DevNet Professional cert is designed to validate your ability to develop and maintain applications built on Cisco platforms. It’s a hybrid certification intended to bridge the increasingly narrow gap between software development and networking. As these two worlds became more integrated, Cisco realized the importance of certifying professionals capable of working in both.
The DevNet certification pathway is the culmination of that combination, and the DevNet Professional is currently the highest available accreditation within that track.
What Does the DevNet Professional test?
You must pass two separate exams to earn the DevNet Professional cert. The first covers "core software development and design for Cisco platforms," specifically focusing on knowledge of software development and design including using APIs, application deployment and security, and infrastructure and automation. The 350-901 DEVCOR exam is mandatory for all candidates and is divided into five domains:
Software Development and Design (20%)
Understanding and Using APIs (20%)
Cisco Platforms and Development (20%)
Application Deployment and Security (20%)
Infrastructure and Automation (20%)
Each of these is broken down into between 5 and 12 subdomains, which can be found here.
For the second test, you may choose from the following eight specialty areas within software development. Below each exam, you'll find a Cisco course specifically designed to teach the material you'll need to know for the exam, as well as the course description.
The training courses for each exam run between three and five days and cost between $3,000 and $4,295 (USD).
As you can see, the DevNet Professional certification is incredibly customizable. Cisco's aim in creating this structure was to add more value to the DevNet certification track by avoiding the trap of forcing a square peg into a round hole. If you are a DevNet Professional, then your specialty skills have been validated at a high level.
How Much Does the DevNet Professional cost?
The DevNet Professional core exam (350-901 DEVCOR) voucher costs $350, while each specialty exam voucher runs $300. You’ll have 120 minutes to answer between 100 and 102 questions on each. The items will be composed of multiple-choice/single-response and multiple-choice/multiple-response types.
If you decide to purchase the associated training course, your costs will immediately increase at least tenfold. This is one of those situations where you should absolutely sign up if your employer is willing to pay for the training. If not, you probably want to engage in self-study and then sit for a $300 exam to see how well you do before shelling out $3,000 for a course to prepare for it.
What Experience Do You Need for the DevNet Professional?
One of the advantages of Cisco's revised certification system is the lack of formal prerequisites. If the DevNet Professional cert is the right level for you, there’s no need to first earn the Associate and Specialist accreditations. However, the DevNet Professional exam targets candidates who have “three to five years of experience with software development including Python programming," so if you don't have that, you might need a bit more seasoning.
Generally speaking, you should be experienced in a developer role who has a few years of hands-on involvement developing and maintaining apps built on top of Cisco platforms.
Who Should Take the DevNet Professional?
To cast a broad net, quite a few people should consider taking the DevNet Professional exams. Because of the eight specialization areas, the certification appeals to a broad group of IT pros. If you check out the course links above, you can scroll down to the “who should enroll” section, where Cisco provides a list of targeted job titles for each specialty.
However, those roles are specific to each specialty. The course page for the 350-901 DEVCOR exam goes into a bit more detail about the types of people for whom the DevNet Professional certification was designed. Jobs that are "best suited" for the DevNet Professional include senior network automation engineer, senior software developer, and senior system integration programmer.
Additionally, Cisco describes roles that might find the DevNet Professional "useful," including senior infrastructure architect, senior network designer, and senior test development engineer. Finally, you'll find a general description of broader roles with specific intentions, for whom it is "appropriate":
Network engineers expanding their skill-base to include software and automation
Developers expanding expertise in automation and DevOps
Solution architects moving to the Cisco ecosystem
Infrastructure developers designing hardened production environments
If any of these roles or objectives describe where you are or plan to go, you should consider earning the DevNet Professional cert.
DevNet Professional for Software Developers
Software developers are ideal fits for the DevNet Professional. The entire DevNet certification track was designed to emphasize the increasingly integrated role software developers are adopting within a networked environment.
DevNet Professional for Network Administrators
The DevNet track is likely a good fit for a network administrator who plans to spend a career working with software applications on Cisco networks. That being said, the DevNet Professional cert is more designed for those who have several years of experience maintaining and developing applications, so it may be overkill at this point in one's career.
However, don't be discouraged. Several of the specialty courses listed above specifically mention experienced network admins as ideal candidates, so earning a DevNet Professional is a worthy and applicable career goal.
DevNet Professional for Network Engineers
Network engineers are the other piece of bread to the DevNet Professional sandwich (the other being software developers, discussed above). Apps are no longer merely being hosted on a network; they’re becoming an increasingly integrated part of it. The future of network engineering requires familiarity with and the ability to work within software applications; demonstrating that you're capable of doing this will add tremendous value to your resume.
Is the DevNet Professional Worth It?
Regardless of whether your current role is better described as a software professional with a side of networking or a networking pro who deals with software applications, the DevNet Professional certification has something to offer you. The simple reality of the IT world is an increasingly integrated landscape, and Cisco's DevNet certification pathway accurately reflects that reality. Getting certified in one of the freshest accreditation tracks from the world’s leading networking vendor will undoubtedly help your career.
Using the DevNet Professional to learn skills
Cisco's DevNet track is designed to bridge two unique worlds. Your career to this point has likely been focused more on networking or software. Preparing for a hybridized certification will definitely expose you to new knowledge and experiences on either side, so you can count on becoming a more qualified professional by preparing for this exam.
Using the DevNet Professional to validate skills
While the core exam certainly validates your ability to work within software applications built for the Cisco environment, the specialty exams are designed to be the most specific confirmation of your unique skill sets. The DevNet Professional certification was designed to be customizable to numerous career paths, and earning it undoubtedly marks you as a professional in your chosen area.