A Cisco certification may not be the place to start

A TechRepublic member wants to get into the IT world by attaining a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert certification. Several other members recommend taking some baby steps first.

In the forums of TechRepublic, Luckyher asks about Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert certification. Luckyher offers 100 points for advice on how to get this certification as part of a career change.

Here’s Luckyher’s abbreviated question: “What do I need to do to get into a CCIE position and how long will it take me to get with no or little IT skills? What are the salaries for an entry-level job and for an expert as a CCIE? Which training programs would you suggest that I take?”

Not an entry-level certification
Schred said that CCIE is a great certification that pays extremely well but is also hard to get.

“There is a private consultant in the province where I live that makes $1200 per day and is smoking busy. The certification is very hard. The pass rate for CCIE is approximately 20 percent, which means 80 percent fail.

“You have to write a written exam. If you pass, you go to San Jose, CA or Dalhousie, Nova Scotia, Canada, and you are given a bunch of stuff and told, ‘Set it up this way and in this amount of time.’ You can have books for reference, but if you have to look, you will fail.

“Now if you pass that, the next day you come back and they give you your network back, but all broken. Engineers put in bad cables and bad routers and change settings, etc., and you have to fix it in a certain amount of time.

If you pass that, you are a CCIE. Now not to discourage you, but it is a certification that takes some serious brainpower and some serious devotion to get into. Not exactly your entry level certification.”

Spolsky agreed, saying that only the most dedicated can hope to achieve the CCIE certification, and that maybe the rewards of the accomplishment are not worth it.

“If your dedication is less than total at any time—forget it! If you do have the dedication, it may take you several months to years to grasp all that is necessary to pass all of the tests and retain the required knowledge. I have a close friend who is an expert in many networking areas (including TCP/IP) and he is still having difficulties retaining and learning all that is needed.

“The starting salary is still around $100,000 and will probably be there for quite a while. Expect to travel a lot! If a company hires you, they will use and abuse you to the best of their ability and contract you out at the least convenient times. Good luck and I hope you enjoy your decision.”

Start with something easier
Rbrewster is currently studying for a Cisco exam and recommends starting with an easier certification, such as the network associate certificate or the network professional certificate.

Starting with a “CCIE certification is like trying to add a 5000 pound roof to a house whose foundation is built in the sand. You are on the right track in choosing Cisco certification but you have to take small steps before you can run.

“Start with Cisco Certified Network Associate certification, that's what I did.

“I know a few CCIEs—one in New York works as independent contractor and his rates are 2K a day! He's been a CCIE for years, however. I also know another CCIE earning well above 100K with less than two years of CCIE certification.

“Just remember that to achieve this level of certification will require, as others mentioned, ’drive and dedication.’ Remain focused on your goal, which also happens to be mine and probably many others. I hope to begin exam testing for Cisco Certified Network Professional within three months.”

Cisco’s Web page, which explains its various certification programs, describes the CCIE program this way:

“CCIEs represent the highest-attainable certification level under Cisco Career Certifications and ideally represent at least two years of on-the-job experience, in addition to the knowledge associated with the CCNP level.”
It looks like Luckyher might be a little too ambitious in starting with this selection of certification. With no experience, this member might be better off with a certification that involves a more general introduction to IT and technological skills. To send an e-mail with your recommendation, click here.

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