Cisco Certifications: All 5 Levels in One Guide with Prepaway

Cisco is best known for its communications and networking products and services, especially the routing and switching products. Cisco routing and switching is focused on directing data, video and voice traffic over networks across the world. In addition to this, the company also offers various applications for unified communications, storage network, collaboration and tele-presence and various other services ranging from simple product supports to total solutions for Cloud management and data centers.

To equip the professionals in the field of IT with the knowledge needed to support the Cisco products and proffer solutions to the technology problems of its customers, Cisco offers an all-inclusive certification program and career paths for the individuals specializing in its products and services. Anyone can pursue thecertification path with Cisco because the organization presents its credentials from the Entry level to the Expert level. It is important to mention that each of them has more than one certificatein most cases and earning acertification often requires that the candidates pass one or more exams. There are also some specific prerequisites that the students must know. The test takers can find the details atthe official Cisco website. Most of the certification examsoffered by Cisco are administered through Pearson VUE. In this article, we are going to provide you with general information regarding the Cisco certificates.

Overview of Cisco certification pathway

There are many credentials under the Cisco certification program. Cisco offers some specialized certificates that validate the skills of professionals in specific technology of Cisco, such as data center application services, rich media, messaging and voicemail. These specializations are grouped into two. One category is focused on technical specialists while the other is concentrated on digital transformation specialists. The Technical Specialist credential covers Collaboration, Network Programmability, Data Center, Internet of Things (IoT), Service Provider and Operating System Software. The Digital Transformation Specialistcertificatesare focused on Customer Success and Business Architecture. To earn any specialist certification, oneis expected to pass one or two exams.

The validity of Cisco certifications also varies. The entry-level, associate-level and professional-levelcertificates are valid for a period of three years. CCIE and the specialist credentials are valid for a period of two years. If to speak about CCAr, it is valid for five years. To maintain the validity of the certification, the candidates are required to recertify by advancing to a higher certification level or passing exams. The necessary details are available at the official Cisco website.

Now, let us look at each of the certification levels in detail.

  1. Entry Level

There are two entry-level certifications offered by Cisco: Cisco Certified Technician, or CCT and Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician – CCENT. There are no requirements to earn these two credentials. However, the candidates need to pass a single exam to earn the certificate. A professional with the CCT certification works on-site at the customer locations. He/she diagnoses issues and carries out repair on network related equipment. The individuals pursuing this certification can choose from the various specialty paths, which include Routing and Switching and Data Center. A professional with CCENT has the capacity to install, troubleshoot and maintain small networks, as well as deploy essential network security. This certificate is a prerequisite for the associate-level certificates.

  1. Associate Level

The associate-level credentials offered by Cisco involve CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) and CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Associate). To earn the associate-level certificate, one is required to pass 1 or 2 exams. It depends on the choice of certification path. CCDA validates the skills in the design of basic wired and wireless networks, integrate security and voice solutions. The students with the CCDA certification can pursue the CCDP credential. To earn CCDA, the candidates must have a valid CCNA Routing and Switching, CCIE, or the CCENT certification and pass a single exam. CCNA validates the fundamental skills in troubleshooting, installing and supporting wired or/and wireless networks. The applicants can choose from various certification tracks, such as Cyber Ops, Cloud, Data Center, Collaboration, Routing and Switching, Industrial, Wireless, Service Provider and Security. CCNA is a requirement for pursuing the CCNP credentials. The requirements for Cisco Certified Network Associate largely depend on the specific certification track.

  1. Professional Level

This level includes two major programs, namely CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional) and CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional). To earn CCDP, the students are required to pass three exams in addition to having the CCNA Routing and Switching or the CCDA certifications. Any CCDE or CCIE credential will also serve as a prerequisite. The individuals pursuing CCNP, with the exception of Routing and Switching, are required to pass four certification tests. The CCNP Routing and Switching credential requires three exams. The requirements for all the CCNP certificates include any CCIE or lower-level CCNA. The CCNP certification validates the skills to plan, troubleshoot and deploy local networks and some wide area networks.

  1. Expert Level

It covers two major certifications: CCDE (Cisco Certified Design Expert) and CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). There are no specific prerequisites for earning either of the two credentials. However, the candidate has to pass an extensive written test and a thorough practical exam. For many professionals in the networking field, CCIE is the peak of the certification path. The specialists with this Cisco certificate have the technical knowledge and skills of Cisco network solutions and products in one of technical tracks of CCIE, including Collaboration, Routing and Switching, Service Provider, Data Center, Wireless and Security.

  1. Architect Level

CCAr (Cisco Certified Architect) is designed for the experts looking to work as a data center architect or a network architect. It is the highest level offered by Cisco. The CCAr certificate validates the knowledge and skills of a senior network infrastructure architect.

This guide has provided the basics of the Cisco certification path for those who want to pursue it.

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