Achieving professional certification, which validates knowledge and skills in critical network areas, can help students strengthen their position for capturing the career opportunities available in any economic climate.
Cisco certification indicates that individuals have attained specific skills and knowledge-, making them more valuable to their employers and more productive while opening further avenues for career advancement. Cisco has found that people with certifications also share a sense of common purpose and are committed to a high standard of conduct.
Cisco works continuously to maintain the relevance of its certification and training programs for evolving job roles and changing student and employer training needs. These programs make use of the latest tools for learning, social media and online collaborative communities. Cisco also regularly updates existing certification programs and develops new certifications to meet the needs of employers for experts in new and specialized areas of network technology.
New Certifications for Data Center Specialists
One example of current network advances is in the data center, where network engineers are working more frequently with storage, server and security professionals. The traditional separation of these roles is blurring as data center technologies converge throughvirtualization and unified computing.
To reflect the multiple skill sets required of data center specialists, Cisco is introducing two new certifications. The Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist certification is suitable for data center architects who focus on designing data centers to support unified computing and data center virtualization. The Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Support Specialist certification is for engineers who deploy unified computing, virtualization and related technologies in data centers. Both certifications will confirm an individual's ability to design and manage revolutionary data centers that will help Cisco customers grow their businesses.
New Cisco TelePresence Certifications Support Business Collaboration
Today's business environment means employees are increasingly collaborating through high-quality voice, video and rich-media communications such as those provided by the Cisco TelePresence solution. Yet evolving an enterprise network to support video collaboration requires professionals with distinct skills in rich-media network design and support.
A new Cisco certification track will build knowledge and validate these skills for IT professionals. Attaining the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist certification will help a midcareer voice specialist or network engineer master the planning, design, implementation and maintenance of Cisco TelePresence systems. Attaining the Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist certification will help an installation professional master the physical deployment and construction of single-screen Cisco TelePresence systems.
Wireless: New Certifications for a Rapidly Growing Field – Borderless Networks
Employer demand is growing for wireless professionals who can design, implement, secure and operate wireless networks and mobility infrastructures. Cisco is addressing this market need with the new Cisco Certified Network Professional Wireless (CCNP Wireless) and Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Wireless (CCIE Wireless) certifications.
The CCNP Wireless professional-level certification serves as the next step for individuals who have completed Cisco Certified Network Associate Wireless (CCNA Wireless) certification and are interested in advancing their careers in Cisco wireless technologies.
The CCIE Wireless certification verifies that candidates have the necessary expertise to design, manage and support wireless networks. This certification distinguishes wireless engineers in the industry and gives experienced professionals a path to be recognized as wireless experts.
CCIE R&S: Reflecting New Expectations for Network Experts
To reflect the growth of the network as a service platform, Cisco is revising the requirements for the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Routing and Switching (CCIE R&S) certification, the expert-level certification for network engineers. Specifically, the CCIE R&S written exam will add scenario-based questions and new topics such as multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and virtual private networks (VPNs), which are common technologies used to design highly secure, scalable connectivity for the industry. The lab exam will now include hands-on troubleshooting of preconfigured networks to validate a candidate's skill in diagnosing and resolving network faults.
CCDA: Designing for New Network Services
The updated Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) certification validates the knowledge and skills of associate-level network designers addressing increasingly complex network infrastructures. This certification now reflects job skills such as data center design, application networking design and network preparation for the integration of voice and video in a network.
New Ways to Prepare for Certification
With the goal of making learning easier, Cisco gives certification students a variety of ways to learn in addition to traditional book study and classroom instruction.
The Cisco 360 Learning Program: Expert-Level Training
The Cisco 360 Learning Program for CCIE Routing and Switching allows qualified network professionals to gain the latest skills, knowledge and training necessary to pass the rigorous CCIE certification exams and especially to acquire expertise in the new troubleshooting, MPLS and VPN topics on the revised CCIE exams. This comprehensive program optimizes study time through 24×7 access to online training content and labs, optional classroom-based workshops, expert-level mentoring and training from elite instructors and frequent progress assessments.
In as little time as six months to a year, participants can learn the technical topics and develop the skills needed for the expert-level work tested on the CCIE lab exam. Cisco regularly updates the curriculum for continued alignment with the latest Cisco products, services and technologies. Students who take the entire 360 program are often able to pass the lab exam after the first try. The average student studying without the program may need to take the exam three or four times before passing it.
Learning Games: Clarifying Complex Subjects
Cisco has been using serious learning games for many years to help students develop networking skills and prepare for certification exams. Played almost 1 million times, games such as Cisco Mind Share have proven to be a highly popular and valuable way to learn complex subjects. Learning games are available for topics in the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certifications.
The Cisco Learning Network: Connect With Experts and Peers
The Cisco Learning Network is a premier online social learning community for networking professionals at all levels. It is the place to go to collaborate with others and exchange ideas on career paths and job opportunities, develop work experience, solve problems, learn about the latest network technology and find up-to-date resources for certification.
Since being launched in 2008, the Cisco Learning Network has attracted more than 2 million people who use the site's wikis, blogs and discussion boards. Today, people who sign up for the Cisco Learning Network can take advantage of new features and resources to prepare to certify, find a job and support their ongoing career advancement.
Job portal: Cisco has partnered with CareerBuilder.com to provide access to one of the largest job databases on the Internet. Registered users can search for job listings, post resumes and access information and tools for career planning.
Groups and friends: The Cisco Learning Network's new Groups feature is based on interest areas, such as voice, wireless or IP networking, and provides a place for members to ask questions and share ideas while preparing for certification. Group tools include discussions, blogs and document sharing, all within a focused group structure.
With its Invite and Friends features, members can expand their networks and tap into the expertise of the Cisco Learning Network community. Members can send and receive messages from friends, view feeds of content posted by friends and check friends' status and recent activity.
Localized and mobile content: To serve users from more than 200 countries, Cisco aims to provide information that is relevant to networking issues and needs in different areas of the world. The Cisco Learning Network is regularly updated with selected certification content in local languages and locally sourced English-language content. For easier access, selected learning content is also formatted for mobile devices.
Learner self-assessments: Learning@Cisco Self-Assessments provide network professionals and people who may be interested in a career in Cisco networking technologies with a tool to assess their knowledge in specific networking areas. The assessment identifies current networking knowledge and areas for study and then recommends training resources on the Cisco Learning Network. Self-assessments are available for routing and switching, security, voice and wireless technologies.
Keeping Pace With Changing Networks
As networks become more complex, networking professionals must evolve their skills to embrace and integrate new technologies and architectures. Cisco Career Certifications have long been valued because they help employers find and validate skilled workers and because they give networking professionals the knowledge and capabilities to remain competitive in an ever-changing job marketplace.
Cisco is committed to the continuing evolution of its certification and learning programs to keep them relevant to the changing requirements of employers, the goals of professionals who want to upgrade their skills and the needs of newcomers who are looking for a successful start to an IT career.
Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn has nearly 25 years of experience in the IT industry and currently serves as general manager of Learning@Cisco. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.