Cisco Certification Overview
Cisco has a huge number of certification. At the moment, you can choose from eight different paths
- Routing & Switching
- Network Security
- Service Provider
- Service Provider Operations
- Storage Networking
and five levels of certification:
Additionally, a number of specialist certifications have been introduced.
Unless you really know what you want, the main path is the Routing & Switching. The entry level used to be CCNA, Cisco Certified Network Associate, but recently Cisco introduced the CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) certification. But if you are serious about getting started on the Cisco certification path, there is no need to pass a CCENT exam. The certification is simply too basic to be of any real value and the next level, CCNA, does not require the CCENT certification. You can start with the CCNA exam directly. In order to become a CCNA, all you need to do is to pass the CCNA exam, exam number 640-802. It is a 90 minute exam with 45 to 55 questions, including router configuration using a router simulator. Like all Cisco certifications, the CCNA is valid for three years.
The CCNP, Cisco Certified Network Professional, is the intermediate level. You need be CCNA certified and pass three exams in order to become a CCNP. There are a number of different paths and exams to choose from, but the Routing & Switching path is the main path. If you are thinking of establishing yourself in the Cisco market, the CCNP certification is an absolute minimum. Once you have enough work experience, try the next level, the CCIE.
The CCIE, Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, certification is really what you need if you want to position yourself as a Cisco expert. Interestingly, the CCIE has no formal prerequisites, you just need to pass one written exam and one lab exam. So if you know your networking stuff, you do not need to become a CCNA and CCNP before going for the CCIE certification. The lab exam can only be done in a few locations, so it may involve substantial travel expenses. The lab test lasts 8 hours, divided into 2 hours of troubleshooting and 6 hours of configuration. Needless to say, the written exam is quite tough. At the moment, it is a 2 hour exam with 90 to 110 questions. You can not skip a question and come back to it later, so you need to be able to manage your time well.
CCENT, CCNA, CCNP & CCIE are registered trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc.
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