Is the CCP-N Worth It?
Citrix certifications are well known in the IT world, but they're unique animals. If you investigate the number of Citrix certs required on IT job ads, you'll find that they're dwarfed by the number of corresponding VMware (Citrix's closest competitor) jobs.
However, this doesn't tell the whole story. When considering the value of Citrix certifications, cert holders can command salaries as much as 50 percent higher than corresponding VMware certifications. The Citrix Certified Professional – Networking (CCP-N) is one of the most valuable Citrix certifications available; read on to find out if it's the right choice for you.
What is the CCP-N?
Let's briefly review the Citrix certification pathway. Three primary levels form the foundation:
- Citrix Certified Associate (CCA)
- Citrix Certified Professional (CCP)
- Citrix Certified Expert (CCE)
These are grouped into "families" based on specialization, the two most common being Virtualization and Networking, although Citrix has placed an increased emphasis on the cloud in recent years. The company offers a half dozen other certs in various niches.
Each of these levels is a prerequisite for subsequent certifications in that cert pathway. Generally speaking, CCAs are best geared for administrators, CCPs are focused primarily on engineers, and CCEs are targeted at architects.
The CCP-N is the certification of choice for network engineers who work in a Citrix environment, and it will be required to earn the CCE-N if you're a network architect.
What Does the CCP-N Test?
The CCP-N exam focuses on two areas: knowledge and product experience. To earn this cert, Citrix recommends that you have at least six months' experience in the following areas:
- TCP/IP, HTTP protocols and understanding of the OSI model
- Network devices, various networking protocols, and aspects of application and site architecture
- UNIX (particularly BSD variants)
- Basic systems administration concepts, including logging and and high availability operations
- Web server software (e.g., Apache, IIS, WebSphere)
- Windows and Linux Server administration
- DNS, SSL, and compression concepts
- Server load balancing and content switching
- Network security threats and site protection concepts
- Active Directory
- Basic concepts of cloud computing
Remember that this exam's focus tends to revolve around an engineering role. If you're an administrator working toward a higher-level cert, pursue design and implementation opportunities within Citrix ADC 12 whenever you can to prepare for your future role.
How Much Does the CCP-N Exam Cost?
The CCP-N exam costs $300, and the prerequisite CCA-N exam is $200. Citrix recommends (but does not require) taking the Citrix ADC Advanced Concepts – Security, Management and Optimization (CNS-320) course, which occurs over five days in a virtual classroom and costs $5,000.
The Citrix Certified Professional – Networking test consists of 69 questions, which are all multiple choice. A passing score is 66 percent, and the time limit is 75 minutes for native English speakers. Because the exam is only administered in English, non-native English speakers can be granted a thirty-minute time extension.
How many questions address each objective is directly related to how important that objective is and proportional to how often the task is performed. Citrix wants the CCP-N to retain its reputation as a high-value cert and makes a concerted effort to ensure the material mirrors real-world application.
What Experience Do You Need for the CCP-N?
From a product perspective, Citrix recommends a minimum of six months experience working with the following in a Citrix ADC 12 solution:
- Citrix Web App Firewall (introduction, profiles and policies, implementing protections, monitoring and troubleshooting)
- Citrix ADC Security and Filtering
- Authentication using Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), OAuth, and OpenID
- Citrix Application Delivery Management (ADM)
- Citrix ADC (managing and monitoring instances, managing configurations)
- Integrated caching
- Front-end optimization
- Performance tuning and other optimizations
It's a good idea to run through Citrix's CCP-N exam guide and review the more detailed breakdown of objectives, experience, and knowledge areas. Keep in mind that the only fixed requirements are earning a CCA-N and passing the 1Y0-341 Citrix ADC Advanced Topics – Security, Management, and Optimization exam.
Who Should Take the CCP-N?
While Citrix is a relative niche product compared to its competitors among enterprise organizations, that isn't to say that the niche is either small or uncommon. The company claims that 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies use their products, as well as 100 million users from 400,000 different organizations.
If you're in a work environment that uses VMware exclusively, a Citrix cert won't do you much good unless you're planning for a job or career change. However, if your role requires interacting with Citrix products, you instantly become more employable by earning the CCP-N.
Additionally, Citrix has an intimate working relationship with Microsoft, including its virtual app and desktop products. These integrate flawlessly with Microsoft Office 365 and the Azure cloud. Even if your role focuses on Microsoft virtual services and you rarely interact with Citrix products, it still might be worth your while to pursue the CCP-N because of the flexibility and expertise it validates.
CCP-N for Network Administrators
Network administrators in a Citrix environment should undoubtedly earn a CCA-N. Whether you continue to earn the CCP-N depends on a few things. First, you should evaluate your current role. If you're exclusively involved with managing the network and administering services, you likely won’t be ready for a CCP-N yet. However, if your network administration involves a fair amount of design and implementation, then a CCP-N will probably be worth it.
Second, you should consider your career future. Is being an engineer in a Citrix environment something that interests you? If so, begin studying for the exam. Working through the preparation material is an excellent way to guide your career development.
CCP-N for Network Engineers
A network engineer in a Citrix environment is the role the CCP-N was primarily designed to validate. If that describes you, earning a CCA-N and then the CCP-N should be very high on your priority list.
If you're planning on staying with Citrix for any length of time or are anticipating working with Microsoft Azure or Office 365 solutions in a network engineer role, the CCP-N should be on your radar.
CCP-N for Network Architects
The CCP-N is not designed to test the skills a Citrix architect would need — that's what the expert-level CCE-N is for. However, a CCP-N is a prerequisite for the CCE-N, so if you're headed in this direction, the CCP-N will be a notable milestone along the way.
If your job focuses primarily on other technologies, prioritize earning expert-level certifications with those vendors and products. However, once you've obtained the accreditation you need with your primary tech, strongly consider pursuing a professional-level cert with Citrix.
Is the CCP-N Worth It?
Citrix certifications commonly garner higher salaries than other certifications. In fact, of the top 20 highest-paying IT certifications in 2019, Citrix owned four — more than any other company. Of those four, CCP-N was the second-highest salary booster, pulling in an average of more than $113,000.
Using the CCP-N to learn skills
The CCP-N is not designed to teach you the skills you need. The exam guide does include a substantial number of resources to help guide you along the way, acting as a checklist of sorts. Still, because the test is so firmly focused on real-world operating environments, the best way to learn the skills you need is to get into a Citrix operating environment and explore.
Using the CCP-N to validate skills
Any Citrix professional-level exam is built from the ground up to validate its identified skill set, and CCP-N is no exception. There's a reason why Citrix certifications are generally considered to be more valuable than those from other vendors. This predominance is earned by an exam that's appropriately difficult, applicably accurate, and highly valued by real-world organizations that use Citrix products.