New CCNP: How to Prepare in 2020
Update: We now have training available for the CCNP Enterprise Core exam (300-435 ENAUTO).
There's been a lot of talk about the upcoming changes to Cisco's certification program, which makes sense. It has been a while since Cisco made such drastic moves; it's a big deal IT certification-wise.
Here, we'll be discussing the changes to CCNP and what you need to know about this certification once 2020 rolls around.
If you're working toward your CCNP, or starting soon, you need to know what these changes mean for you and your path. (Spoiler alert: keep studying and get that CCNP by February 23, 2020!) Similarly, if you're just beginning your Cisco certification journey, this piece will help you understand the certification track changes.
CCNP Certification: the present
If you're working toward your CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) you're probably pursuing one of the following certifications:
Let's take CCNP Routing and Switching as an example. You meet the prerequisites by having the CCNA Routing and Switching certification. You start looking into the CCNP and how to prepare for the exams. There are three exams you are required to take: 301-101 Route, 300-115 Switch, and 300-320 Arch. Once you pass these exams, you'll receive your CCNP Routing and Switching certification.
Generally, the above example would be a common path. However, not all CCNPs require three exams — some might actually require more in order to become certified. Whatever the case, with the current system you're pretty much given a direct path to follow. For example, if you've already earned your CCNA Data Center cert, CCNP Data Center is the next logical step.
CCNP Changes: the future
On Feb. 24, 2020 the CCNP requirements will change quite a bit. Here are the certs that you'll see available starting next year:
You'll notice several changes. The first major one being that the list no longer includes CCNP Routing and Switching, CCNP Wireless, or CCDP. If you have one of these CCNPs, or you are working toward completing them, they will be integrated into CCNP Enterprise under the new CCNP program. If you're interested in planning for the CCNP before February 24, you can use the CCNP Migration Tools to help you.
Another major change with the new program is, regardless of which CCNP you choose, you'll only be required to complete two exams. This change makes it much easier to keep track of your activity and plan your studies.
The removal of all formal prerequisites is another interesting change Cisco is implementing. This means you could jump into a CCNP whenever you want. Though, you'll probably still want to work your way up to the CCNP by earning a CCNA and a smattering of specialties. However, it is not required. If you already have CCNA-level experience and want to go straight to a professional-level cert, this is great news.
To better explain, let's walk through another example for the new CCNP. We'll use CCNP Enterprise in this case. You are required to take your core exam and then a concentration exam. The concentration exams focus on specific topics that would fall under the CCNP Enterprise umbrella. The core exam covers a little bit of everything in this area.
The idea is that there are certain core concepts that everybody pursuing this CCNP should know. If you are looking to focus on wireless, you could take the 300-401 ENCOR Enterprise core exam and the 300-430 ENWLSI, which would give you the CCNP Enterprise. However, this isn't the only path you could take. You can take any of these concentration exams to meet the requirements for your CCNP Enterprise:
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)
These concentration exams allow you to focus on whatever area or role you fill for your employer today. One other thing worth mentioning about the core exams is they will also serve as qualifying exams for the CCIE lab exams.
Are You Currently Working on the CCNP?
What if you're in the middle of your CCNP and you're thinking about waiting for the changes to go into effect? You shouldn't. In fact, you should shoot to get certified before the changes Feb. 24, 2020. If you've already begun the work, don't slow down. There's plenty of time for you to prep and sit for the current exams.
The certifications aren't going away, you just won't be able to follow these programs moving forward. What this means for you is that if you complete the program before the change, you're CCNP-certified. Your existing certification will carry over, and you'll get credit for a new cert.
Let's use our earlier example to explain. Say you earn your CCNP Routing and Switching before next year. You'll have your CCNP Routing and Switching cert until it expires in three years. You'll also get a new CCNP Enterprise certification on top of it. If this isn't making sense or you want to see how it works for other specializations, refer back to the CCNP Migration Tools.
Cisco Certified Specialist
With CCNA establishing a baseline of knowledge and the CCNP moving into specialization, there's a pretty big gap between the two certifications. That's where the Cisco Certified Specialist comes in. These certifications will give you a badge that will allow you to display your skills in that area. Also, probably more importantly, it will give you the needed experience to build toward your CCNP from the CCNA.
Looking briefly at the CCNA, the removal of specializing in this certification should encourage people to go through the program while meeting the current market demands. The CCNP also accomplishes something similar by providing focus and direction at the point it is most needed. It makes the path you need to follow easier to track for those in the future that will be looking for their CCNP. Which can even be followed all the way to your CCIE if you choose to do so.
For those who are currently working on their CCNP, you're in a good spot. You have more than six months, which is plenty of time to complete your studies. Plus, you will get the new CCNP on top of the current one.
The changes to Cisco's certification programs make them more accessible and more attractive by controlling the number of exams required. At the same time, this rewards those who put in the effort to certify before the new CCNP takes effect.
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