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In this series, we’ll be talking about what you need to be successful as a network engineer. Whether for career advancement or because you are making a career change, the Cisco path will definitely be a benefit for you. If you decide you want to follow the Cisco path, there are some key things you should know. There are different levels of certification. After successfully completing the required exams for each stage, you are given a certificate. Below are the levels one can attain.

  • Entry Level Certification
  • Associate Level Certification
  • Professional Level Certification
  • Expert Level Certification

Entry-Level Certification

The lowest level of certification is Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), which covers basic networking knowledge. It is appropriate for an entry-level network support position. CCENT certified staff can install, manage and troubleshoot a small enterprise network, including basic network security. CCENT is the first step toward a CCNA certification. The CCENT certification is earned upon passing the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1) Exam (640-822).

Associate Level Certification

Cisco Certified Network Associate

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification covers skills necessary to administer devices on small or medium-sized networks. The first associate exam normally gives you a CCNA routing and switching certificate. This certification requires the ICND1 640-822 and ICND2 640-816 exams. Examinees may take the exams separately or the composite 640-802 CCNA exam. It is generally a prerequisite to more advanced certifications, such as the CCNA specialty exams and Cisco professional level certifications, e.g. CCNP, CCNP-Wireless, CCNP-Security, etc. The CCNA certification has been revised to ICND1 100-101 and 200-101 for ICND2. The composite exam is 200-120 CCNA.

Specialty Paths

CCNA-certified individuals specialize by technology. All specialized tracks require passing and maintaining a CCNA certification.

Data Center

CCNA data center validates knowledge of data center design, equipment installation, and maintenance.


CCNA security validates knowledge of security infrastructure, threats, and vulnerabilities to networks and threat mitigation. Required skills include installation, troubleshooting, and monitoring of network devices to maintain the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data and devices. This certification is earned by passing IINS 640-554 exam (IINS v2.0), which is a required exam to earn the certification and for continuing the security certification path to the CCNP.


The CCNA voice certification validates skills for voice technologies, such as voice technologies administrator, voice engineer, and voice manager. The certification involves implementing Cisco IOS unified communications. It validates skills in VoIP technologies, such as IP
PBX, IP telephony, handset, call control, and voice mail solutions. Candidates get exposure to the Cisco unified communications architecture and design covering mobility, presence, and TelePresence applications.640-461 ICOMM V8.0 (Introducing Cisco Voice and Unified Communications Administration) is the required exam.


Audiovisual professionals working with traditional analog solutions can extend their skills into a video-over-IP networked video environment with our Cisco certified network associate video (CCNA Video) certification. This certification track is a job-role-focused training and certification program for video and collaboration products. You will learn to deploy video end-points, set up new users, and operate networked video solutions. The required exams are 200-001 VIVND and 640-461 ICOMM. This certification has no prerequisites.


The CCNA wireless certification covers wireless LANs, including networking associates/administrators, wireless support specialists, and WLAN project managers. The certification validates skills in the configuration, implementation, and support of wireless LANs. 640-721 IUWNE (implementing Cisco unified wireless networking essentials) is the required exam.

Service Provider

CCNA Service Provider focuses validates the ability to configure and implement baseline Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation networks. The required Exams are 640-875 Building Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation Networks, Part 1(SPNGN1) and 640-878 Building Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation Networks, Part 2 (SPNGN2). Standard CCNA certification is not a prerequisite.

Service Provider Operations

CCNA service provider operations certification provides skills in a prescriptive troubleshooting environment within a carrier class, IP NGN core network infrastructure. The required exam is 640-760 SSPO (Supporting Cisco Service Provider IP NGN Operations (SSPO).

Cisco-Certified Design Associate

Cisco-certified design associate (CCDA) certified engineers can design switched or routed networks of LANs, WANs and broadband services. CCNA is not required to take the CCDA exam (640-864 DESGN), but Cisco recommends being familiar with CCNA-level material, as well as BCMSN or SWITCH-level knowledge of Cisco-based LANs.

Professional Level certifications

Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification validates knowledge and skills required to install, configure, and troubleshoot converged local- and wide-area networks with 100 to 500 or more end-devices. A valid CCNA certification is required to obtain a CCNP certification.

Network Professional

The CCNP validates the ability to plan, implement, verify, and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks and work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless, and video solutions. In addition to CCNA exams, professionals must pass three separate professional-level exams. The certification track changed in July 2010, with various migration paths available for those that had begun, but not completed, the CCNP certification process.

Required exams:

  • 642-902 ROUTE: Implementing Cisco IP Routing (ROUTE)
  • 642-813 SWITCH: Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (SWITCH)
  • 642-832 TSHOOT: Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks (TSHOOT)

Design Professional

With a CCDP certification, a network professional can discuss, design, and create advanced addressing and routing, security, network management, data center, and IP multicast enterprise architectures that include virtual private networking and wireless domains. An active CCDA certification is a prerequisite for this certification.

Required exams:

  • 642-902 ROUTE: Implementing Cisco IP Routing (ROUTE)
  • 642-813 SWITCH: Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (SWITCH)
  • 642-874 ARCH: Designing Cisco Network Service Architecture)

642-902 ROUTE and 642-813 SWITCH are also required for CCNP. After passing CCNP and CCDA, CCDP requires only 642-874 ARCH.

Service Provider

The CCNP service provider certification replaced the retiring CCIP certification.

Required exams:

  • 642-883 SPROUTE: Deploying Cisco Service Provider Network Routing
  • 642-885 SPADVROUTE: Deploying Cisco Service Provider Advanced Routing
  • 642-887 SPCORE: Implementing Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation Core Network Services
  • 642-889 SPEDGE: Implementing Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation Edge Network Services

Data Center

CCNP data center validates knowledge of data center design, equipment installation, and maintenance.


The CCNP security certification program is aligned to the job role of the Cisco network security engineer, responsible for security in routers, switches, networking devices, and appliances, as well as choosing, deploying, supporting, and troubleshooting firewalls, VPNS, and IDS/IPS solutions for their networking environments. The CCNP security certification requires CCNA security or any CCIE certification.

Required Exams:

  • 642-637 SECURE Securing Networks with Cisco Routers and Switches
  • 642-618 FIREWALL Deploying Cisco ASA Firewall Solutions
  • 642-648 VPN Deploying Cisco ASA VPN Solutions
  • 642-627 IPS Implementing Cisco Intrusion Prevention System

Service Provider Operations

The Cisco certified network professional service provider operations (CCNP SP operations) certification validates knowledge and skills required (of a Tier II or Tier III support engineer) to troubleshoot and maintain service provider IP NGN core (PE-PE and PE-CE) network infrastructures. With a CCNP SP operations certification, a network professional demonstrates knowledge and skills required to isolate network performance problems, implement proactive fault measures using operations management processes, frameworks, and network management systems. The CCNP SP operations curriculum includes maintaining carrier class routing protocol environments, MPLS VPN and TE deployments, and QoS mechanisms using Cisco IOS and IOS XR.

Required Exams

  • 642-770 OFCN Operation Foundations for Cisco Provider Core Networks
  • 642-775 MSPRP Maintaining Cisco Service Provider Routing Protocols
  • 642-780 MSPVM Maintaining Cisco Service Provider VPNs and MPLS Networks
  • 642-785 MSPQS Maintaining Cisco Service Provider Quality of Service


The Cisco certified network professional for voice (CCNP voice) certification validates the skills required to determine the right technology and solutions for creating secure networks. With it, a network professional can demonstrate the skills required to implement and manage network infrastructures to provide unified communications services. The curriculum emphasizes Cisco router IOS and Catalyst switch UC features. CCNA voice certification is a prerequisite.

Required exams:

  • 642-437 CVOICE : Implementing Cisco Voice Communications and QoS Implementing Cisco Unified Communications
  • 642-447 CIPT1 : Implementing Cisco Unified Communications Part 1
  • 642-457 CIPT2 : Implementing Cisco Unified Communications Part 2
  • 642-427 TVOICE : Troubleshooting Cisco Unified Communications
  • 642-467 CAPPS : Integrating Cisco Unified Communications Applications


CCNP wireless covers all aspects of wireless networking principles and theory. This certification requires four tests, covering wireless site survey, wireless voice networks, wireless mobility services, and wireless security. The prerequisite is a valid CCNA wireless certification.

Required exams:

  • 642-732 CUWSS: Conducting Cisco Unified Wireless Site Survey
  • 642-742 IUWVN: Implementing Cisco Unified Wireless Voice Networks
  • 642-747 IUWMS: Implementing Cisco Unified Wireless Mobility Services
  • 642-737 IAUWS: Implementing Advanced Cisco Unified Wireless Security

Expert-Level Certifications

Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)

CCDE runs in parallel with the more established CCIE program, in some areas providing a higher skill set than CCIE. Specifically, CCDE identifies network professionals who have expert network design skills. Network design translates business requirements into end-to-end network designs and a solutions approach to network expansion and integration. CCDE focuses on network architecture and does not cover implementation and operations. CCDE supplies a vendor-neutral curriculum, testing business requirements analysis, design, planning, and validation practices. The course came about because employers needed a way to identify experienced network designers and architects who could address all aspects of existing and new networking technologies and trends. While engineers (including many CCIEs) had been fulfilling this role, certification had not advanced beyond the CCDP certification. CCDE numbering adopts a different format than CCIE and appears to be split into a year and number within that year. The same CCIE tools are used to verify qualified status. CCDE certified individuals can use CCIE qualification exams to re-certify and vice versa. CCDE provides advanced network infrastructure design principles and fundamentals for large networks. A CCDE can demonstrate an ability to develop solutions that address planning, design, integration, optimization, operations, security, and ongoing support focused at the infrastructure level.

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)

Cisco certified internetwork expert is Cisco’s highest certification, comprising nine tracks. The CCIE consists of a written exam and a “lab” exam (in each track). The written exam is a prerequisite of the lab exam and costs $350 per attempt. The written exam consists of 100 questions that must be completed within two hours. Upon passing the written exam, the candidate has 18 months to take the lab exam. The candidate has three years after passing the written exam to successfully complete the lab. The lab is an eight-hour, hands-on exam designed to demonstrate that the candidate knows Internetworking theory and demonstrates advanced hands-on mastery. Candidates that do not pass the CCIE lab in that interval must re-pass the written exam before again attempting the CCIE lab exam. The minimum waiting time between attempts is one month.

As of May 29, 2013, the CCIE Lab costs $1500 per attempt and is offered at 10 Cisco locations worldwide. Some CCIE tracks are not offered at all 10. There are no formal prerequisites for the CCIE written exam, but Cisco recommends at least 3–5 years networking experience. CCIE was the first Cisco Certified qualification and no other certifications were previously available. The associate and professional certifications recognized the fact that CCIE is overkill for many networking personnel. Cisco has chosen not to make lower level certifications prerequisites for the CCIE certification.

It is possible to hold multiple CCIE certifications.

CCIE Numbering and Recertification

Upon successful completion of the lab exam, a new CCIE is awarded a CCIE number. The first CCIE number allocated (in 1993) was 1,024 and increased thereafter. As of August 2011, the highest CCIE number allocated was just over 30,000. The first number was allocated to the first CCIE lab location, rather than to an individual, and was featured as a plaque at the entrance to the lab. Number 1025 was awarded to Stuart Biggs, who created the first written exam and first lab exam. The first person to pass both CCIE written and lab exams was Terry Slattery, who was consulting at Cisco when the lab was devised. Slattery was the first CCIE who was not an employee of Cisco. Each CCIE retains their number regardless of how many certifications he or she receives. Every two years a CCIE has to take a written test to retain the certification. If this is not done, the certification is suspended. After one further year without passing, the certification is revoked. The certification can then only be regained by starting from scratch. Recertification can occur up to two years before the expiration date. After certification/recertification, a CCIE must wait six months before re-certifying.

CCIE Exam Paths

Routing and Switching

CCIE Routing and Switching certifies the skills required of expert-level network engineers to plan, operate, and troubleshoot complex, converged network infrastructure.


The security track covers advanced topics in subjects such as ASA, IDS, IOS security, and many others.

Service Provider

The service provider track covers advanced topics in optical networks, DSL, WAN switching, voice over IP, content networking, broadband cable, and metro ethernet.


CCIE voice is evolving to become CCIE collaboration, reflecting advances in networked collaboration solutions beyond simple audio phone calls. The new CCIE collaboration certification will expand to include Cisco’s leading solutions for voice, video, IM, presence, and call centers. The CCIE collaboration written exam availability begins November 21, 2013. The CCIE collaboration lab exam availability begins February 14, 2014.


The voice track covers advanced topics in subjects such as quality of service, MGCP, call manager (Cisco’s VoIP
PBX), Cisco Unity Connection (Cisco’s voice messaging platform), Unity Express, Unified Contact Center Express, Cisco Unified Presence Server, Cisco’s HWIC-4ESW, and the 3750-24PS. The CCIE voice will be retiring on February 13, 2014. The last day to take the CCIE voice written exam is November 20, 2013. The last day to take the CCIE voice lab exam is February 13, 2014.

Storage Networking

CCIE storage networking validates expert-level knowledge of intelligent storage solutions using multiple transport options over long distances. This certification will be retired on July 01, 2013.


Candidates who pass the CCIE wireless certification exams demonstrate broad theoretical knowledge of wireless networking and a solid understanding of wireless local area networking (WLAN) technologies from Cisco.

Service Provider Operations

CCIE service provider operations candidates must show expert skills in troubleshooting and maintain complex service provider IP NGN core (PE-PE and PE-CE) network infrastructures in both IOS and IOS XR operating environments.

Data Center

Cisco has announced the availability of a CCIE data center certification, which certifies the expert-level skills required to plan, prepare, operate, monitor, and troubleshoot complex data center networks.


This is a board administered certification. The Cisco certified architect (CCAr) certification assesses the experience and competency of network designers who can support the increasingly complex networks of global organizations and effectively translate business strategies into technical strategies.

Certification Process

  • The Cisco certified architect certification is administered as a board exam.
  • Candidates propose and defend an architecture solution to a set of business requirements. Candidates are asked to modify their proposals “on the fly,” based on additional requirements presented by the board.
  • Prerequisites include a CCDE certification, approximately 10 years of industry experience, and acceptance into the program via an application process.

Becoming Cisco certified is one of the best things you can do to your career. So make that choice today!!!!