Cisco Certifications – Which One Is Right For You?

People hoping to start and expand a career in Information Technology (IT) can benefit greatly from earning a Cisco certification. Cisco Systems offers several different types of certifications, with each one focusing on a specific set of skills. There are five different certification levels, ranging from Entry level to Architect. Each certification addresses different skill sets and needs, as well as different prerequisites, so it is up to the applicant to determine which qualification is right for them.


Both the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) qualification and the Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) qualification are a way of beginning a career in IT. The CCENT certification has no prerequisites, but the CCT certification has three different stages, each of which must be passed before moving on to the next. The CCENT focuses on installing, configuring, and troubleshooting simple networks, as well as learning about wireless technology, security, and WAN technology.

CCTs are qualified to diagnose and fix issues with Cisco systems and networks at different sites where they are used. There are three areas of training: CCT Routing and Switching, followed by CCT Data Center and CCT Telepresence. Training for the CCT can be done online, which makes it easy to earn this certification while maintaining a job or other obligations.


A Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) and a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification are another way for professionals to advance their IT careers. A CCDA certification requires at least CCENT qualification. An exam is administered on designing networks and solutions for networking issues.

There are no prerequisites for earning a CCNA Routing and Switching, though one to three years of experience are recommended. Classes and exams are required in order to show that the applicant has a sound understanding of networking knowledge. After earning this qualification, applicants can go on to earn CCNA qualifications in Voice, Wireless, Video, Security, and Service Provider Operations.


The Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) and the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) are certifications that reflect the experience of the IT professional. The CCDP requires both a CCDA and CCNA Routing and Switching certification before applying. Three exams, Route, Switch, and Arch are administered to the applicant. Each of these exams focuses on the ability of the applicant to plan IP routing, design switched networks, and design the infrastructure needed to maintain a network.

In order to earn the CCNP qualification, applicants must hold a CCNA or CCIE certification. There are three exams that must be passed.

The first, called the 642-902 Route, focuses on the ability of the applicant to use IP addressing and routing on an advanced level. The second exam, 642-813 Switch, certifies that the applicant can utilize switching technology for networks using Cisco’s own programs. The third exam, 642-832 Tshoot, focuses on the problem-solving abilities of the applicant. The exam also certifies that they are able to perform routine maintenance on networks.


The Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) qualification is reserved for top-quality network design professionals. While there are no prerequisites required in order to earn the certification, most applicants will have significant industry experience as well as a stellar portfolio. Applicants will first take a two-hour written exam which asks them questions on subjects such as security, capacity, routing, and more. After this exam is passed, a practical exam is scheduled. This eight-hour exam asks applicants to develop design implementation for network systems. In addition, applicants must be able to explain and defend their work to examiners.


This is the highest certification level offered by Cisco Systems. The Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) requires at least ten years of experience as a prerequisite to earning the qualification. In order to earn this certification, applicants must pass a board exam. The potential applicant will create a portfolio that consists of previous projects and experience. A team of Cisco-approved Cisco Networkingcommittee members will then interview the applicant and present them with a network challenge to complete. Once this is finished, the applicant and the board members meet again and the applicant defends their work.

Ultimately, earning a Cisco certification can be a great asset for IT professionals who want to advance in their careers. As Cisco systems and their certifications are so widely accepted and used, people who possess them are generally trusted to have the knowledge and the skill-set necessary to complete the tasks that are asked of them. Anyone interested in earning Cisco certifications should start exploring which type is right for them.

Featured images:License: Creative Commons image source

Author Alex Faubel enjoys writing about topics related to business and technology in career-focused education programs.

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