I was planning on going for my CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) later this year, but am now confused by the changes that have been introduced. Has it been downsized or streamlined? Is it even still worth it? If not, is there another cert I should target instead?
Every so often, vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft and CompTIA update their certification programs — whether it’s to reflect technology, working practices or certain standards (e.g., ANSI or ISO). The update to the CCNP is no different.
In answer to your question about whether the CCNP has been downsized or streamlined, I would say just as Microsoft changed the MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator) or MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) to the MCITP: SA (Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Server Administrator) and the MCITP: EA (Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Enterprise Administrator), which are more job specific and streamlined, Cisco has focused on the competencies that the CCNP holder should and will encompass: less breadth, more depth, and a more solid route to the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert).
Your question regarding whether it is still worth pursuing this cert is an open, fuzzy one. If you are a network engineer with at least one year of networking experience — in particular working with Cisco kit — I would say yes, definitely. The value of the CCNP will not diminish because of this update; in fact, I believe that after the settling-in period, it will be of more value as a result of the realignment to the actual network engineer’s job role.
However, if you have no real-world experience, then I would say no. While some may disagree with me, I can honestly say I’m one of those IT managers who will disregard professional certifications if the experience does not match. More on the topic can be found at http://www.certmag.com/read.php?in=3515.
Regarding your question about other certs you could target, it really depends. As I mentioned earlier, if you’re working with Cisco kit already and have the experience, then stay on the Cisco track. However, there are other certification tracks depending on one’s experience and the kit used. For instance:
1. Juniper, with its Juniper Networks Certified Internet Expert (JNCIE); Juniper Networks Certified Internet Specialist (JNCIS); and Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate (JNCIA) certifications for those working with Juniper equipment. More information can be found at http://www.juniper.net/us/en/training/certification/.
2. CWNP (Certified Wireless Network Professional), with its CWTS (Certified Wireless Technology Specialist); CWNA (Certified Wireless Network Administrator); CWSP (Certified Wireless Security Professional); CWDP (Certified Workforce Development Professional); CWAP (Certified Wireless Analysis Professional); CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Expert); and CWNT (Certified Wireless Network Trainer) certifications for those working with wireless equipment. More information can be found at http://www.cwnp.com/index/.
3. CompTIA, with its A+ and Network+ certifications for entry-level, tier 1 tech support. More information can be found at http://www.comptia.org/certifications/listed.aspx .
Here’s a quick overview of the makeup of the CCNP program:
Current track: BSCI (Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks); BCMSN (Building Cisco Multilayer Switched Networks); ISCW (Implementing Secure Converged Wide Area Networks); and ONT (Optimizing Converged Cisco Networks); and you’ve also got the COMP (Composite) exam.
New track: CCNP Routing (642-902), CCNP Switching (642-813) and CCNP Troubleshooting (642-832).
While the current track is made up of four exams and the new track is made up of three exams, you could in theory complete your CCNP with only two exams up until July 31, 2010, by taking and passing the 642-892 Composite and the 642-832 TSHOOT exams. More information can be found at http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/le3/le2/le37/le10/learning_certification_type_home.html .
Ken Wagner is an IT network manager and part-time IT lecturer in the United Kingdom. He has lived in the United States, Asia and Europe. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.