Arguably the most highly sought after certification in the networking world over the past few years has been the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE).
But in May, the networking giant announced an upgrade to its certification program and introduced the Cisco Certified Architect (CCA) ranking, which aims to train networking professionals to work with C-level line-of-business executives to translate business needs into effective IT systems.
In short, it is kind of like an MBA for networking. But for most working in the industry, that certification is a long-term goal, and there are many other steps that need to be taken to get there.
Cisco has five levels of certification: Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert and Architect. These are spread across seven paths: Wireless, Voice, Storage Networking, Service Provider, Network Security, Design, Routing and Switching.
For those trying to decide where to start, Cisco training provider Dimension Data learning Solutions Cisco product manager, Neil Christie, said it was best to still consider tertiary education and to get some experience before jumping into the deep end.
“They have what is called the ENT, which is the Entry-level Network Technician. That is very much the entry level for anyone embarking on a networking career,” he said.” Then you have got the industry-standard CCNA – everybody knows it and although it has been around for a long-time, it has a huge amount of value in the workplace. It is seen very much as a passport to a career in networking.”
CCNA stands for Cisco Certified Network Associate and is available across the vendor’s seven streams of learning, called CCNA concentrations.
“Really this is for people who are currently in networking and either want to display that they have some desire to move into a wireless, a voice or a security role,” he said. “Or they might be a junior in a dedicated voice or wireless team that has an aptitude or desire to go down that track.”
The next levels are called Professional and Expert respectively. Both solidify and deepen the specific area of expertise chosen by the individual to pursue.
“The vast majority of courses are five days and they are there to teach you the technology, rather to teach to the exam,” Christie said. “We would always recommend that people spend a considerable amount of time studying for the exam once they have done the course.”
Exams are run through testing provider VUE and they can be done nationally. Pricing for many of the Cisco certification courses start at around $4000. While individuals are welcome to take the courses, Christie recommended going through your employer.