Cisco Professional Certifications: An Overview
When Cisco announced in April 2003 that the total number of certifications it had awarded across all programs topped the half-million mark, the company entered a small and elite group of companies and organizations. To date, this includes only Novell, Microsoft and Cisco, with CompTIA hovering somewhere nearby as well.
This explains why this StudyGuide doesn’t cover all of Cisco’s many certifications, but focuses only on its Professional-level certifications. In its entirety, Cisco’s Career Certifications program includes many credentials across four categories:
- Expert: Cisco’s premier credential, the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), covers four concentrations: Communications and Services, Routing and Switching, Security and Voice. For details, visit www.cisco.com/go/ccie.
- Professional: The focus of this study guide, this intermediate-level program includes four credentials for professionals interested in network design, network infrastructure, management and administration, service-provider IP networking and implementing secure Cisco networks.
- Specialist: With more than a dozen individual credentials in communications, content networking, IP infrastructure, telephony, VPNs, wireless technologies and more, this is Cisco’s program for individuals who concentrate in specific technology areas, job roles or Cisco solutions. For more information, visit www.cisco.com/go/certification and click on the “Specialist” link.
- Associate: Cisco’s entry point, with a focus on networking foundations, this category includes both the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and the Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA). For details, visit www.cisco.com/go/ccna or www.cisco.com/go/ccda.
Cisco also does a nice job of laying out various certification paths for individuals who are interested in specialist roles, or who want to focus on the areas of communications and services, network engineering and design, network installation and support or network security. For more details, see “Certification Paths” on the Career Certifications & Paths page, located at www.cisco.com/go/certification.
Cisco Professional Certifications
All four credentials in this category serve as the focus for this study guide:
- Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)
- Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional (CCIP)
- Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
- Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP)
All Cisco Professional certifications are valid for three years, after which holders must meet recertification requirements. For holders of Professional-level Cisco credentials, this usually means additional testing for recertification, as explained further in this overview.
For all four credentials, the CCNA is a valid prerequisite (though a CCDA is also required for the CCDP, and the CCSP accepts either a current CCNA or CCIP as a prerequisite). Three of these four credentials—CCDP, CCIP and CCNP—share a common core exam, #642-801: Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (BSCI) as well. Cisco considers its Professional credentials as representing a “journeyman level of certification that shows expertise with networking foundations.”
Let’s look more closely at these certifications. As you read, remember that Cisco is renumbering its exams so that those starting with #642 (public) or #643 (beta) represent new offerings.
Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)
The CCDP focuses on network design topics, specifically in the areas of routed and switched networks that incorporate various components and technologies, including LAN, WAN and dial-access services. Important design considerations include elicitation and satisfaction of business and technical needs, plus high availability and reliability. Other topics covered include content networking, storage application networking, voice and video applications, plus infrastructure elements such as wireless access, quality of service (QoS) and multicast services. Ensuring that resulting networks are both secure and manageable is also an important concern. Table 1 sums up CCDP requirements, which include extensive case studies and simulation exercises as well. See www.cisco.com/go/ccdp for more information.
Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional (CCIP)
CCIPs generally work for service providers. Hence, they focus on providing and managing infrastructure IP solutions based on networking technologies that include large-scale IP routing, IP quality of service (QoS), the border gateway protocol (BGP) and multi-protocol label switching (MPLS). Strong skills in planning, managing and troubleshooting service provider networks are required, with extensive knowledge of IP infrastructure and protocols. Table 2 summarizes CCIP requirements, which include extensive hands-on knowledge and skills with numerous Cisco systems and products. See www.cisco.com/go/ccip for more information.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
CCNPs are the workhorses of the Cisco professional crowd; they install, configure and troubleshoot LANs and WANs for enterprise-level outfits, with networks from 100 to more than 500 nodes. Current CCNP content includes advanced networking technologies, routers, switches, converged (voice and data) networks, quality of service (QoS), broadband technologies and virtual private networks (VPNs) as well as security, management and troubleshooting. Table 3 summarizes CCNP requirements, which focus heavily on hands-on knowledge and skills for numerous Cisco products and platforms. See www.cisco.com/go/ccnp for more information.
Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP)
The CCSP is Cisco’s newest Professional cert, introduced in November 2002. The CCSP is derived from the Cisco Security Specialist 1 certification and concentrates on security matters, working with a variety of Cisco secure networking products and technologies, with an added focus on building complete end-to-end security solutions. CCSPs can design and deliver multiple levels of security to meet organizational needs and support safe e-commerce infrastructures. CCSPs are intimately familiar with Cisco authentication and identity, firewall, VPN, intrusion detection and security management systems. CCSPs can design complete security solutions using Cisco’s SAFE Blueprint, work with Cisco security devices and technologies to implement defense-in-depth strategies and can manage network security as needed. Table 4 documents CCSP requirements. See www.cisco.com/go/ccsp for more information.
Pursuing the Program(s) of Your Choice
With the exception of CCNP Exam #642-891 Composite, which combines two exams into one for a favorable price, all Cisco Professional certification exams cost $125 each. They’re administered through Pearson VUE or Prometric testing centers worldwide. (See www.vue.com and www.prometric.com for online sign-up or local phone numbers.) Although the CCNP is the biggest and best-known member of this fab foursome, all of these credentials—especially the CCSP, which meets burgeoning needs for security-savvy Cisco professionals—are enjoying strong market interest and uptake. Look into these credentials further, and you might just find one that works for you!