| technology | networking - David Zomaya
Which CCNP Enterprise Specialty Exam Should I Take?
A lot has changed since the certpocolypse of 2020. The CCNP certs have undergone a complete overhaul. For example, the CCNP Wireless, CCNP R&S, and CCDP have all been retired. The changes make it harder to sort through which CCNP exam you need to take for your desired career path.
Most CCNP certifications are straightforward, the title of the cert tells you the specialization. CCNP Security = the path for security engineers. CCNP Data Center = the right choice if you want to work on data center infrastructure. However, the CCNP Enterprise gets a little tricky.
Several specialties have been rolled into the CCNP Enterprise. That means if you're looking to do something similar to the old R&S or wireless certs, you need to find the right specialty exam. There are six CCNP specialty exams in total, so there is a lot to sort through.
Here, we'll take a look at the current CCNP certification path and help you determine which CCNP Enterprise specialty exam is right for you.
Which CCNP Enterprise Specialty Exam Should I Take? One-Sentence Answers
We suggest reading the entire article for context, but here's a cheat sheet for the tl;dr crowd:
- If you want a network engineering cert like the old CCNP Routing & Switching, take 300-410 ENARSI CCNP Enterprise specialty exam.
- If you want to work with SD-WAN and edge routing solutions, take the 300-415 ENSDWI CCNP Enterprise specialty exam.
- If you want to design enterprise networks, take the 300-420 ENSLD CCNP Enterprise specialty exam.
- If you want to be a wireless design engineer (the person designing wireless networks), take the 300-425 ENWLSD CCNP Enterprise specialty exam.
- If you want to be a wireless engineer (the person configuring, managing, and troubleshooting wireless networks), take the 300-430 ENWLSI CCNP Enterprise specialty exam.
- If you want to be a network automation engineer, take the 300-435 ENAUTO CCNP Enterprise specialty exam.
Alright, with that out of the way, let's dive into the finer details.
CCNP is Where You Begin to Specialize: Choose Wisely
Prior to certpocolypse, there were specializations available at the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) level. However, Cisco changed the structure of their certification path up and now the CCNA is more foundational. Specialization comes in at the professional level when you get a CCNP certification. This makes sense when you think about the typical career trajectory. You need to start out with a solid foundation of networking and hardware skills, which you get at the CCNA level, and from there you specialize into a particular niche.
For example, you might start out as a helpdesk technician doing a bit of everything and figure out you really like security along the way. Now that you have the experience, you can get a CCNP Security to help take that next step.
The takeaway here is: the CCNP is where you really begin to specialize. Make sure to choose a niche you enjoy.
Everyone Must Take the 350-401 ENCOR Core CCNP Exam
Regardless of the CCNP specialty course you take, everyone has to take the core exam: 350-401 ENCOR. This exam covers skills and principles related to the configuration, troubleshooting, management, and security of enterprise networks. The topics on the core exam are relevant to all specialties, which is why everyone must take it to earn the CCNP.
Breaking things up like this has two benefits:
- All CCNP cert-holders have the same set of core skills and principles
- The specialization exams can focus on the topics most relevant to the niche
The Six CCNP Enterprise Specialty Exams
There are six specialty exams you can couple with the 350-401 ENCOR to earn your CCNP Enterprise. In the sections below, we'll take a look at each. As we go, we'll explain which job titles a given exam may be the right choice for.
Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services (300-410 ENARSI)
The Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services (300-410 ENARSI) focuses on advanced routing technologies and services. That means it covers topics like Layer 3 routing and VPN services.
If you're looking for a replacement to the old CCNP Routing & Switching exam, then 300-410 ENARSI is your best bet. In fact, active CCNP holders that passed the old ROUTE (300-101), SWITCH (300-115), and TSHOOT (300-135) exams by February 24 got the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Advanced Infrastructure Implementation specialist and Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Core certifications. Those are the same two certs you'll get if you pass 300-410 ENARSI and 350-401 ENCOR.
Given its area of focus, 300-410 ENARSI a good CCNP Enterprise specialty exam for:
- Network engineers
- Senior network administrators
Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (300-415 ENSDWI)
SD-WAN and edge routing are growing in popularity. The Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (300-415 ENSDWI) covers the skills you'll need to keep up. This is the exam that goes deep on topics like Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP), how Cisco's SD-WAN overlay works, and SD-WAN monitoring & management.
Given its area of focus, 300-410 ENSDWI a good CCNP Enterprise specialty exam for:
- WAN Engineers
- Solution designers focusing on SD-WAN and edge technologies
Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks (300-420 ENSLD)
Designing an enterprise network is no small task. You need to take a project from the requirements to solutions stage, while balancing cost, performance, and security. The Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks (300-420 ENSLD) covers enterprise network design from a Cisco perspective. If your goal is to build networks from the ground up, this may be the right CCNP Enterprise specialty exam for you. Among other topics, the exam tests your understanding of advanced routing, campus networks, software-defined access (SDA), and network & security services.
Given its area of focus, 300-420 ENSLD a good CCNP Enterprise specialty exam for:
- Network architects
- Network managers
Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (300-425 ENWSLD)
With WiFi 6 and WiFi 6e, there are plenty of exciting things going on in the world of wireless. If you want your CCNP Enterprise specialty exam to focus on designing WiFi solutions within enterprise networks, Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (300-425 ENWSLD) is a good choice. The exam covers topics including wired & wireless infrastructure, mobility, site surveys, and WLANs (wireless local area networks).
Given its area of focus, 300-425 ENWSLD is a good CCNP Enterprise specialty exam for:
- Wireless sales engineers
- Wireless design engineers
Implementing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (300-430 ENWLSI)
Suppose you like wireless, but want to be a bit more hands-on in the implementation and troubleshooting. The Implementing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (300-430 ENWLSI) exam may be right for you.
Like the 300-425 ENWSLD, there is a heavy wireless focus, but the 300-430 ENWSLI is more focused on implementation than network design. That means the ENWSLI touches on topics like device hardening, monitoring, and configuration related to enterprise wireless solutions.
Given its area of focus, 300-430 ENWSLI is a good CCNP Enterprise specialty exam for:
- Wireless engineers
- Wireless integrators
Automating Cisco Enterprise Solutions (ENAUTO 300-435)
Passing the core exam and the Automating Cisco Enterprise Solutions (ENAUTO 300-435) exam will earn you a CCNP Enterprise and Cisco Certified DevNet Professional cert. If you want your career to focus on the intersection of DevOps & Cisco equipment, this cert is a good choice. ENAUTO 300-435 covers topics like Python programming, network programmability, NETCONF/RESTCONF/YANG, and automation tools.
Given its area of focus, 300-435 ENAUTO is a good CCNP Enterprise specialty exam for:
- Network automation engineers
- DevOps engineers
Why Didn't We Talk about CCNP Salaries?
Okay, you caught us. We haven't said a word about the average CCNP salary or which certs will deliver the most bang for your buck. There are three reasons we intentionally avoided that:
- Most statistics on salary will be for "CCNP" or "CCNP Enterprise" so differentiating based on that alone won't help with specialties.
- With the new CCNPs, there hasn't been enough time to gather useful data to see what differences exist between them.
- CCNP certified pros tend to earn a decent living regardless of specialty. You're likely to earn more in the long run if you pick something that interests you and master it.
Final Thoughts: There's No Wrong Answer
We hope this article helped you determine which CCNP Enterprise specialty exam was right for you. It's important to remember that there's no wrong answer. The key is to match your certification path to your career goals. Figure out where you want to go, and pick the CCNP Enterprise specialty exam that matches.