In this article, I will discuss the second level of Cisco certifications: the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). This level of certification was created to help administrators prove their competency with more advanced Cisco router and switch products and technologies than those required by the CCNA certification.
If you are reading this article, you are probably chasing one of the Cisco professional certifications: CCNA, CCNP, CCDA, CCDP, or CCIE. All of these are great goals and great career builders. Glance through any newspaper, and you'll find employment opportunities for people with these certifications. There are quite a few of these ads because finding qualified network administrators is a challenge in today's market. Having these certifications means you know something about the product, but more importantly, it means you have the ability, determination, and focus to learn—the greatest skills any employee can have.
You've probably also heard all the rumors about how hard the Cisco tests are—believe me, the rumors are true. Cisco has designed a series of exams that truly challenge your knowledge of their products. Each test not only covers the materials presented in a particular class, but it also covers the prerequisite knowledge for that course. (The only Cisco certification that requires a hands-on lab to prove your knowledge is the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert [CCIE] certification. The CCNA and CCNP merely require written exams.)
The new program
The CCNP certification is part of the new, hot Cisco certifications program. With the new certification programs, Cisco has created a stepping-stone approach toward the ultimate Cisco certification—CCIE. By first taking the exams for the CCNA, CCNP, CCDA, and/or CCDP certifications, you’re building up your knowledge and skills for the CCIE. (The CCIE is basically known as the doctorate of networking because you cannot fake your knowledge—you really must be able to design, build, and maintain large networks to receive your CCIE certification. When you have your CCIE certification, you'll always have a home, car, people who love you, etc.)
The new CCNP certification has opened up many opportunities for the individual wishing to become Cisco certified but who is lacking the training, expertise, or the bucks to pass the notorious, and often failed, two-day CCIE hands-on lab. The new Cisco certifications will truly provide exciting new opportunities for the Microsoft MCSE who doesn't yet have the experience to advance to that higher level.
The CCNP program will prepare you to understand and comprehensively tackle the internetworking issues of today—not limited to the Cisco world. You will undergo an immense metamorphosis, vastly increasing your knowledge and skills through the process of obtaining these certifications. (Remember that you don't need to be a CCNP or even a CCNA to take the CCIE lab, but to pass the CCIE, it's extremely helpful if you already have these other certifications.)
What are the CCNP certification skills?
Cisco is demanding a certain level of proficiency for its CCNP certification. In addition to those required for the CCNA, these skills include:
- Advanced routing techniques with multiple routed and routing protocols, including IP/IPX/AppleTalk, RIP, IGRP, EIGRP, OSPF, and BGP.
- Installing and configuring a network to increase bandwidth, quicken network response times, and improve reliability and quality of service.
- Maximizing performance through campus LANs, routed WANs, and remote access.
- Improving network security.
- Creating a global intranet.
- Providing access security to campus switches and routers.
- Providing increased switching and routing bandwidth (end-to-end resiliency services).
- Providing custom queuing and routed priority services.
How do you become a CCNP?
After becoming a CCNA, the four written exams you must take to get your CCNP are as follows:
- Routing 640-503—This is the new Advanced Router Configuration exam that covers all the advanced routed protocols and routing protocols.
- Switching 640-504—This covers the Cisco Catalyst series of switches and configurations.
- Remote Access 640-505—This tests your knowledge of dial-up, frame relay, ISDN, and multicast network configurations.
- Support 640-506—This exam is used to test your ability to troubleshoot and fix advanced network problems.
Where do you take the exam?
You may take the certification exam at any one of the more than 800 Sylvan Prometric Authorized Testing Centers around the world. For the location of a testing center near you, call 800-204-3926. Outside the United States and Canada, contact your local Sylvan Prometric Registration Center.
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