10 things to know about Cisco's certification overhaul

Cisco’s network certification lineup is set for a major overhaul. The company is adding a new coding-focused track to its offerings, and it’s continuing to streamline its core designations: Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), and Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE). 

Gaps in the company’s certification curriculum became clear more than a year ago, according to Derek Winchester, CEO of consultancy Gotcha 6 Technologies and a member of Cisco’s CCIE Advisory Council. Job descriptions that hiring managers were posting to attract network professionals increasingly included many more skills than the CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE were providing. 

“Hiring managers had so much packed in there, including awareness of cloud and Amazon Web Services as well as Python [scripting language],” Winchester says. He felt Cisco was falling short on its promise to position CCIEs as leaders in technology. “All senior-level CCIEs are expected to be able to design the world’s most complex networks,” and, according to Winchester, their training was no longer supporting that. 

Even CCNAs, who were being funneled into specific tracks such as security or wireless, could no longer speak the same language, Winchester says. “They came out knowing security and wireless well, but they couldn’t communicate the fundamentals of networking infrastructure, and that became very noticeable.” 

Along with his fellow Council members, Winchester began to push Cisco for more substantial change than the incremental steps it had taken thus far, such as adding a few emerging technologies track questions to certifications tests. 

Meanwhile, Cisco was hearing not only from network professionals who need to learn how to support software-focused initiatives – including programmability, multi-cloud, machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation, the Internet of Things, SD-WAN – but also from developers who want to learn networking fundamentals to be able to interact with IT teams and to perform simple enterprise tasks. 

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