Cisco Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths


Cisco Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Cisco is one of the leading providers of network solutions and IT certifications in the industry. You can explore a wide range of elementary, intermediate and advanced level of IT certifications for every type of IT professional.

These certifications help IT professionals stay updated with the latest technologies, skills, and services that are needed to become a valuable member of an organization. To provide you with a clearer picture of the Cisco certifications, given ahead is a Cisco certification guide.

The Cisco certification program is divided into the following levels:

1. Elementary level certifications (CCENT), (CCT)

2. Associate level certifications (CCNA/CCDA)

3. Professional level certifications (CCNP/CCDP)

4. Expert level certifications (CCIE/CCDE)

5. Architect level certification (CCAr)

There are about nine different Cisco certification paths that you can choose based on your expertise, skills, and career goals. They are:

1. Routing & Switching

2. Design

3. Network security

4. Wireless

5. Voice

6. Datacenter

7. Storage networking

8. Service Provider

9. Service Provider Operations

If you are an aspiring IT professional who does not have enough years’ professional experience performing network operations, then you can start with an entry-level certification such as the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) certification and gradually move on to more advanced-level certifications.

Once you have passed your CCENT certification exam, you can either obtain both or anyone associate- level certification. Although both CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Associate) and CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) are associate-level certifications; CCDA focuses more on the design aspect of a network, whereas CCNA focuses primarily on routing and switching.

 Next, you can opt for a professional-level certification such as the CCNP or CCDP, followed by the expert- level and specialist-level certifications.

Cisco Elementary level Certifications

Cisco offers two certifications under this category. They are:

1. Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)

2. Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)

The certifications offered under the elementary level are perfect for you if you have just stepped into the field of IT and do not have enough practical experience or knowledge to opt for more advanced-level certifications.

Since many advanced level Cisco certifications require the CCENT credential as a prerequisite, therefore, those IT professionals who have some years of experience in the industry may opt for this certification if they plan to pursue more advanced level Cisco certification in the future. Both certifications under this level have no prerequisites, and you are required to clear only a single exam for both credentials.

Cisco Associate Level Cisco Certifications

Cisco offers two certifications under this category. They are:

  1. 1.       Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  2. 2.       Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is one of the most popular associate-level certifications. It is specially designed for those network professionals who have some years of practical experience in performing configuration and troubleshooting of Cisco devices. Although the certification focuses on Cisco products and services, you can apply the basic training and knowledge provided for this certification to other platforms as well. Just like the CCENT certification, this credential is also a prerequisite for more advanced level certifications such as the CCNP certification exam.

CCDA certification, on the other hand, is ideal for you if you are a network professional who wishes to understand the fundamentals of network design. This certification is also a prerequisite for Cisco's professional-level certification, such as the CCDP certification. In order to qualify for the CCDA certification exam, you need to have either the CCNA or CCENT certification.

Cisco Professional Level Cisco Certifications

Cisco offers two certifications under this category. They are:

  1. 1.       Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
  2. 2.       Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)

In order to achieve this CCDP credential, you need to clear the following exams:

  • Exam 300 - 201: ROUTE
  • Exam 300 - 115: SWITCH
  • EXAM 300 - 320: ARCH

Achieving the CCDP credential validates your skills as a trained network professional who is capable enough to demonstrate proficiency in network design to guarantee that the networks meet the scalability and availability needs of an organization and secures investments as well.

Furthermore, this credential validates your skills and expertise in deploying networks that are scalable. After obtaining the CCDP, you have the choice of advancing towards the CCDE.

CCNP certification covers all the topics covered in the CCNA certification, only in more detail. The contents for the course of CCNP are similar to those of the CCNA. The only two courses that are additional in CCNA are the Cyber Ops certification and Industrial certification. The CCNP certification is quite beneficial if you are an IT professional who seeks to obtain the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification.

Cisco Expert-Level Certifications

Cisco offers two certifications under this category. They are:

  1. 1.       Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
  2. 2.       Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)

You can opt for any of Cisco’s expert-level certifications if you are a senior-level IT professional wanting to acquire more advanced level knowledge of Cisco-based products and services.

Cisco's Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE certification) certification is divided into the following six different tracks:

  1. CCIE Collaboration certification
  2. CCIE Datacenter certification
  3. CCIE Routing and Switching certification
  4. CCIE Security certification
  5. CCIE Service provider certification
  6. CCIE Wireless certification

The CCIE credential is frequently updated by the Cisco.

The CCDE certification validates your professional skills as an IT expert who is capable of creating blueprints of network framework for large scale projects for an organization. By obtaining this certification, your job may usually include managing financial, technological as well as business-related particulars of the assigned project.

Cisco Architect Level Certification

This is the latest and the highest certification level offered by the Cisco. The Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) credential is not an easy credential to achieve as it requires years of experience and an adequate amount of training for professionals to successfully clear the CCAr exam.

The CCAr certification validates your professional skills and knowledge as an IT expert that can show proficiency in planning and designing computer networks and converts the business plans of their company to networking architectural structures.

Final word

Once you have decided to obtain the Cisco certifications; it is important to understand that you need to continuously update your credentials as Cisco credentials remain valid for specific periods after which you need to refresh it. Based on your skills, knowledge, and expertise, you can choose any certification path; the entry, associate or professional level certifications.

About The Author
Associate Instructor

Muhammad Uzair

Muhammad Uzair a new addition to the team but has a wide range of expertise including technologies including Cisco Security Cisco Wireless LAN Controllers, Cisco Routers and Switches, Windows Server 2008/2012, where he has a multitude of practical and theoretical knowledge.

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