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Making Sense of the Great Cisco Certification Shakeout, Part 2

Cisco Systems is making sweeping changes to its certification program, whacking a flotilla of credentials and moving to a simpler certification scheme across the board.

NOTE: This is Part Two of Two. Read Part One.

 

In Part One of this article, we theorized why Cisco is streamliniCisco is changing the way that it runs its certification program.ng its certification program, and drilled down into the changes being made to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification. In this follow-up to Part One, we're going to outline the new CCNP and CCIE certification tracks, review Cisco's new recertification requirements, and provide information for current Cisco certification holders on how they will be impacted by the upcoming revamp.

 

Unpacking the New CCNP and CCIE

 

When Cisco's new certification program makes its debut in 2020, it will have five levels of proficiency spread across five industry specializations. The five proficiency levels (and their related certifications) are:

 

● Entry: Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
● Associate: Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
● Professional: Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP)
● Expert: Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE), Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)
● Architect: Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)

 

The five industry specializations are:

 

● Collaboration
● Data Center
● Enterprise
● Security
● Service Provider

 

The entry-level CCT credential is being offered in two different versions — CCT Data Center and CCT Routing. As mentioned in Part One of this article, the CCNA will be an all-in-one certification that isn't split across different specialties.

 

The CCNP and CCIE will be offered in each of the industry specializations listed above. In addition, the CCIE Enterprise credential will be further refined into Enterprise Infrastructure and Enterprise Wireless versions. (Note: the CCDE and CCAr certifications are not being changed as part of the announced program revamp.)

 

To earn a CCNP certification, candidates will have to pass two exams Cisco refers to as a "Core exam" and a "Concentration exam." For an example, lets take a closer look at the CCNP Security certification.

 

To earn the CCNP Security credential, candidates will have to pass Core exam 350-701: Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies (SCOR), as well as one of the Concentration exams listed by Cisco. There are currently six Concentration exams listed for the CCNP Security certification. Basically, the Core exam is the "must-have" qualification, while Concentration exams are the electives candidates will be able to choose from.

 

Cisco is changing the ways it handles IT certifications.CCNP candidates can take these two exams in whatever order they choose. After passing a CCNP Core exam, however, you will have three years from the pass date to complete a corresponding Concentration exam to earn your CCNP certification.

 

The CCIE certification will continue to require candidates to pass both a Core exam and a practical hands-on lab exam. The eight-hour lab exam gives the CCIE credential its industry reputation as one of the most difficult and challenging certifications to achieve. Unlike the CCNP, the CCIE must be completed in order with the Core exam first and the lab exam second.

 

Interestingly, the same Core exams are being used for the CCNP and CCIE certifications. This means that a candidate could write a Core exam and then jump straight to the CCIE lab exam without first completing the CCNP track. This decision reinforces Cisco's policy that there will be no prerequisites for any of its certifications, right up to (and including) the expert proficiency level.

 

Maintaining Your New Cisco Cert

 

When Cisco's revamped certification program goes into effect in February 2020, there will also be new requirements for recertification. Here’s what to expect, as outlined in the Cisco Training and Certification FAQ:

 

"(C)ertified individuals ... will be able to recertify by either taking exams, earning Continuing Education credits, or a mix of both. Continuing education activities include things like attending Cisco Live training sessions, authoring content, completing online training courses, completing instructor-led training courses, and more."

 

Let's go back to our previous example, the CCNP Security certification, to see how the new recertification policy works.

 

After earning the new CCNP Security certification, professionals will have three years in which to recertify by doing one of the following:

 

● Pass one Core exam.
● Pass any two Concentration exams.
● Pass one CCIE lab exam.
● Pass one Concentration exam and earn 40 Continuing Education (CE) credits.
● Earn 80 CE credits.

 

There are similar recertification requirements for the CCNA, CCIE, and Specialist certifications. Cisco-certified individuals who want to recertify entirely by using CE credits will have to meet the following requirements:

 

● CCNAs will need 30 CE credits.
● Certified Specialists will need 40 CE credits.
● CCNPs will need 80 CE credits.
● CCIEs will need 120 CE credits.

 

Cisco has stated that anyone who currently has recertification credits stored up will be able to apply them to recertifying any of the new credentials, once one has been earned.

 

Cisco Certs Facing Retirement

 

MS Old Certs Retirement deck chairsWhat about those people who currently hold a Cisco certification that's being retired in February 2020? If you hold a Cisco certification that transitions to one of the new certifications, then your credential will be transferred over on the date of the new program launch. Here is an example Cisco gives in its FAQ:

 

"(I)f you have an active CCNA Routing and Switching on February 24, 2020, you will be granted the (new) CCNA certification."

 

The same transfer will be done for Cisco Specialists and CCNP holders. The original certification expiry date, however, will still apply; you will not receive an additional three years on top of the existing expiry date.

 

For those who have completed some of the work required by the previous CCNP track, Cisco has a CCNP Migration Tool that should show which older exams will transfer over to the new CCNP requirements.

 

Would You Like to Know More?

 

To peruse a copy of Cisco's Training and Certification FAQ, visit the Next Level Certifications page and scroll to the bottom until you see the "Frequently asked questions" PDF link.

 

 

Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer and knowledge management specialist based in Edmonton, Canada. His work has appeared in titles from Que Publishing, and on many tech blogs and websites. His professional writing site is AaronAxline.blogspot.ca.