Whether it’s a farmer checking crop prices on the Internet, a small business working with remote suppliers or a huge corporation conducting business worldwide, local and global economic growth depends on networks.
In fact, by enabling communication, collaboration and automation, networks have become so essential that the demand for IT professionals who can build, manage and update them is growing exponentially. The worldwide gap between skilled networking professionals and available networking jobs of all types is expected to reach nearly 3 million by 2012. Further, an IDC white paper found 60,000 new IT professionals will be needed each year for the next three years in North America alone.
The roles and needed skills of networking professionals are changing as well, as networks are changing to deliver new capabilities. In fact, as more and more critical business functions move into the fabric of the data center, entirely new job roles are emerging. The next generation of IT workers will be able to specialize more quickly than their predecessors and focus on new technologies such as voice, security and wireless mobility.
And employers increasingly will look to hire such specialists. A worldwide study by Forrester Consulting found that more companies expect to add dedicated jobs for network security, voice and wireless LANs within five years.
Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents to the Forrester survey said professional certifications will become essential for candidates who want jobs involving advanced networking knowledge and skills. To better prepare the architects of the networked economy for today’s challenges, Cisco has aligned its portfolio to these new job roles and has updated a number of its certifications, increasing the pathways that IT professionals can take to develop their careers.
Cisco CCENT: Expanding the Entry-Level Workforce
Cisco’s newest associate level certification, Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), validates the skills required to successfully install and verify small routed and switched networks. Students who attain this level of certification have developed basic network configuration, verification and other operational skills required for positions such as help-desk technician and technical support assistant.
The certification is an accessible point of entry for people beginning a career in networking and an optional first step to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification, which signifies a comprehensive understanding of networking fundamentals. CCNA also is a prerequisite to earning higher-level Cisco career certifications.
CCNA: Specializing Early in a Networking Career
Although IP telephony, security and wireless mobility are considered advanced networking technologies, they quickly are becoming a standard part of many networks. Knowledge of only the networking fundamentals may no longer be enough for career success. Networking professionals today benefit from a specialty focus early in their careers.
CCNA Voice, CCNA Security and CCNA Wireless certifications verify that networking candidates have the specialized skills that are in high demand among employers. These new concentrations extend a candidate’s knowledge of routing and switching gained from attaining the prerequisite CCNA certification.
CCNA Voice certification helps prepare learners for jobs such as voice administrator, voice engineer and voice manager. This certification indicates that students are familiar with unified communications applications and architectures, and it validates their skills in configuring and managing the latest technologies for a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) infrastructure.
CCNA Security certification offers a valuable credential for those in jobs such as network security specialist, security administrator and network security support engineer. This certification verifies the ability to manage security devices, implement security policies and mitigate risks. For those ready to advance in an exciting security career, the CCNA Security certification serves as preparation for pursuing the Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) certification.
CCNA Wireless certification is designed for those working as network associates or administrators, wireless support specialists and wireless local area network (LAN) project managers. This certification confirms skills in configuring, implementing and supporting Cisco wireless LANs in small and medium-sized business and enterprise installations. In the future, CCNA Wireless certification holders will have the option of pursuing higher-level Cisco certifications for wireless networks.
CCDE: Designing Next-Generation Networks
Responding to strong customer demand for professionals who can collaborate on network architecture strategy and not just implement, Cisco has introduced an expert-level certification focused on design: Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE). This certification program applies a solutions-based educational approach and serves the growing number of networking experts who have the knowledge to assess network business requirements and translate them into effective network designs.
Approximately 30 percent of those who hold Cisco’s highest certification — Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) — are responsible for network design each day. However, these design experts are no longer involved in hands-on configuration, but rather in strategic design and architecture. The CCDE certification was created to provide IT professionals who specialize in network design with a credential that recognizes senior-level expertise and provides incentives for experienced practitioners to continue their professional development.
The CCDE curriculum includes sophisticated, multi-vendor network design principles, theory and analysis, as well as strategic architecture concepts that go beyond the network. Modeled after the CCIE expert-level certification, the CCDE credential requires passing a two-part exam: a qualification exam and a practical exam.
Developing Expert Talent
To support the development of expert-level talent, Cisco created the Cisco 360 Learning Program for CCIE Routing and Switching. The 360 Learning Program prepares high-potential networking professionals to meet the challenges of managing sophisticated networks, as well as solve the configuration and troubleshooting scenarios found on CCIE examinations.
The Cisco 360 Learning Program is a six-month blended learning experience incorporating advanced skills assessments, targeted learning modules and hands-on practice labs.
Learning From a Global Online Community
All these certification programs make it easier for networking professionals to open up powerful new forms of communication. Just as the free flow of information is changing how we live, work, play and learn, it also is transforming the way Cisco is delivering information to the certified community.
This evolution is evident in the new Cisco Learning Network, an online community open to anyone interested in entering or advancing a networking career. Users can join the Cisco Learning Network community to find training, information, resources and support, as well as make connections with other individuals or companies nearby or across the globe.
Providing social networking features such as blogs, wikis and discussion forums, the Cisco Learning Network enables participants to discuss top-of-mind issues and interact with many of the industry’s thought leaders. Downloadable documents on a wide range of technology and certification topics, videos, podcasts and links to a full range of certification-specific information on the site provide additional learning tools.
Because the Cisco Learning Network is designed as a collaborative site, users can share their experiences, best practices and advice about any topic related to networking or Cisco certification. Users are invited to collaborate with Cisco experts on creating useful content and services for the community site.
Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn is general manager of Learning@Cisco. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.