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Is Cisco’s CCIE certification still relevant in today’s IT world? It depends

Knowledge is power today and this is why certifications and degrees play such an important role in job prospects and career advancement options. That said, not all certifications are created the same. But the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) has reigned as the networking industry’s most influential and knowledgeable certification for over two decades now. Cisco started this CCIE certification in 1993 and even today, you can find thousands of people around the world spending countless hours on it. At the same time, the IT industry has seen some major changes and upheavals in the last decade and the pace of advancements is increasing by the day. Given such a dynamic IT environment, is Cisco’s CCIE certification still relevant?

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this certification before we decide on its relevance.

Advantages of CCIE certification

If so many people around the world are still spending thousands of dollars and studying hard to clear this exam, it obviously means they think this certification is worth their money and time! Here are some reasons why this certification continues to attract the likes of so many people.

Cisco is the market leader

Cisco is the undisputed leader in the networking industry today. Though there have been many debates about Cisco’s future and criticisms that Cisco is not evolving fast enough to meet the changing needs of this industry, statistics clearly show otherwise.

Here is a graph that shows the market share of different players in the world enterprise networking and communication market.

Cisco

This graph clearly shows that Cisco is still leading the way in the networking market, even if its share has fallen in recent years. In addition, Cisco is one of the oldest companies in this segment today and they have built their reputation with stellar performance over many decades. Above everything, Cisco’s systems are used extensively in the U.S. military, top banks, government organizations, and major corporations around the world.

Because of these reasons, CCIE certification can open up many new job opportunities around the world.

Hiring managers expect it

Many hiring managers today believe that a CCIE certification makes you an expert in networking. And they are right too because this certification covers all aspects of the networking world and makes an individual a real expert in this field.

To give you an example, take the case of a Boston-based biotechnology company called Wave Life Sciences. When this company was getting ready for the commercial launch of its application, its network got a negative assessment and it had to be re-architected. The vice president of IT, Anthony Murabito, had only one requirement from potential networking experts who can fix this issue for him and that was CCIE certification.

This case study gives a glimpse into the prevalence of CCIE and the expectations of those in power.

There is no alternative

Though there has been a lot of debate on the relevance of CCIE certification, the truth is there is no alternative to it. There are a few networking certifications here and there, but none of it is as comprehensive as CCIE and more importantly, nothing can beat the reputation of Cisco.

Recent changes

Wikimedia

Cisco is also aware of the rapid changes happening in the IT industry and is working to make its certification relevant to the current technological and business world. This is why the company has added a section called “emerging technologies” to the written part of the CCIE exam. This section has questions about IoT, cloud computing, network programmability, and other emerging technologies. Though this additional section is definitely not as in-depth as the networking section, it is still a good start to ensure that candidates are aware of the emerging trends. Together, all these emerging technologies account for about 10 percent of the overall score.

This section was added in 2016 and Cisco is continuing to adapt this certification to include more emerging technologies as well.

All this means until another such top certification comes along, CCIE will continue to be relevant and it will be a benchmark for identifying the right talent and expertise.

Downsides of CCIE certification

As with everything, there are downsides to CCIE certification as well and some of the prominent ones are:

Expensive and time-consuming

Today, IT engineers are overworked, to say the least. In addition, they are constantly looking to strike a balance between work and personal life.

In such a scenario, a strenuous course like CCIE can throw their schedule off. According to Network World, it can take anywhere from six to 18 months to complete this course, depending on how many hours you’re ready to put in every day and your learning ability. It may almost feel like you’re back in college, except that you’ll still have to perform at work and spend time with your family. This can be too much of a burden for some people.

Besides time, CCIE is expensive too. It can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to complete the course, depending on how many additional books you plan to buy to clear this exam.

Other than time and money, there are logistics issues too. CCIE exams are split into written and lab portions. While the written test can be completed at any center, the eight-hour lab exam can be taken only at nine Cisco locations around the world or through their mobile lab facilities. This restriction may require some additional planning to complete the exam.

Without a doubt, this certification entails your precious time, money, and energy. So, unless you’re sure you can complete the course and you’ll get tangible benefits out of it, this course may not be worth your time and money.

Difficult exam

CCIE is so popular among hiring managers because it is comprehensive and covers all aspects of networking. But from your perspective, it is a difficult exam that requires extensive preparation because the volume of knowledge is vast. Worse, there are no fixed goals or syllabus as there are for other certifications like CCNA and CCNP. You are expected to know anything and everything about networking as you can get any questions on this topic.

Such stipulations can add to your stress and can even make the preparation process life-consuming.

Job openings

There is no doubt that a CCIE certification can lead to a fat paycheck and some of the best jobs in networking. But then, the reality is, you’re overqualified for most networking jobs because they don’t require such advanced knowledge!

This is truly a catch-22 situation. Though your career can get a big boost with this certification, you may not get the opportunity for this boost if you’re not in the right company.

Many times, you’ll be forced to take lesser-paying roles that don’t always need a CCIE certification and this can be quite frustrating.

Opportunities in emerging technologies

New technologies like IoT and blockchain are taking the world by storm and those with knowledge and skills in these technologies have excellent growth opportunities. Instead of going through the difficult grind of preparing for CCIE certification, many professionals believe they can earn the same amount of money, if not higher, and have great career opportunities when they focus on building their knowledge in these emerging technologies.

Also, we’re moving towards a more software-oriented and vendor-agnostic working environment and the relevance of CCIE in such scenarios may be limited.

Thus, these are some of the downsides of this certification.

So, is Cisco’s CCIE certification still relevant?

Now that you understand the pros and cons of CCIE certification, it’s time to decide if this certification is relevant and is worth your time, effort, and money.

Well, the truth is, there is no straight answer to this question and it completely depends on your career, situation, and expectations. Here are some scenarios where CCIE certification will be relevant for you.

  • If you’re going to be interacting with Cisco devices in the future, there is no other certification other than CCIE that will give you a high standing and reputation within your organization.
  • When you want to improve your career prospects and earning potential within the networking industry and are ready to relocate to new cities or even countries to get your dream job.
  • You’re starting off your career in networking and want to specialize in Cisco’s products.
  • When you want to show the world you’re dedicated and have everything it takes to be successful in a networking job. In this sense, CCIE is seen as a reflection of your personality and grit.
  • If you want to be an expert in networking, there is no better certification than CCIE.
  • Companies and hiring managers still expect CCIE and consider you to be an expert if you have this certification.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it goes to show that CCIE certifications are relevant only for some people and may not be as universally applicable as they were about a decade ago.

Also, the relevance of this certification is a personal decision that can differ from individual to individual and sometimes, even from situation to situation. So, ultimately, you’re the best judge when it comes to deciding whether you should take this certification or not. We hope the above advantages and disadvantages help you to make an informed decision.

Featured image: Pixabay

Lavanya Rathnam

Lavanya Rathnam is a professional writer of tech and financial blogs. Creative thinker, out of the boxer, content builder and tenacious researcher who specializes in explaining complex ideas to different audiences.

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Lavanya Rathnam

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