What you need to know about the new Cisco CCDE certification

In January, Cisco launched a very important, new high-level certification: the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certification. Will it live up to the hype? Find out the specifics of the CCDE, see how it fits in with other Cisco certifications, and learn why you should consider the CCDE.

In January, Cisco launched a very important, new high-level certification: the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certification. Will it live up to the hype? Find out the specifics of the CCDE, see how it fits in with other Cisco certifications, and learn why you should consider the CCDE.

Before even thinking about security- and VoIP-specific certifications, Cisco offered design certifications: The Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) and the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP). Both entail strictly computerized tests that focus on the proper design of networks.

Since I've earned my CCDA certification, I can tell you -- and it's no secret -- that the test consists of many long scenarios. The single test can be challenging primarily due to the complex scenarios that you must read, dissect, and understand before you can make the right design choice for that network. I suspect that the CCDP certification isn't too much different, just more complex and challenging with many more requirements for technical knowledge mixed in.

I've heard comments for many years from networking designers that they wished Cisco offered an expert/top-level certification for network design. With last month's announcement of the CCDE, Cisco answered their call.

What is the CCDE?

The CCDE is the expert-level certification that those network designers have been waiting for. Similar to the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification, the CCDE requires passing both a two-hour computerized test and a full-day, hands-on lab/practical exam, which you must complete at a Cisco testing facility.

You must first past the computerized test before you can schedule the lab exam. The exam name for the CCDE written test is ADVDESIGN, and that's what you need to know: How to design advanced networks. Cisco recommends that you have at least five to seven years of experience designing advanced networks before taking the test.

The exam lasts two hours, and the exam blueprint covers just about anything that anyone could ever think of related to complex networks. In addition, passing the CCDE written exam recertifies any other Cisco certifications you have, including the CCDA, CCNA, and CCIE.

After passing the computerized exam, you can schedule your lab exam at a handful of Cisco offices. However, Cisco hasn't currently announced specific locations and time slots for the practical exam.

Like the CCIE practical exam, the CCDE practical exam will be an eight-hour scenario-based exam that will "test your ability to identify, manage, and create advanced infrastructure design solutions for large-scale networks." Having taken more than one CCIE hands-on practical exam, I have no doubt that the CCDE practical exam will be just as grueling.

Why isn't there a network design CCIE?

Like the CCIE, CCDE candidates will receive a unique number and other benefits. Why didn't Cisco just create a network design version of its CCIE certification? Cisco was considering it, but the company decided to create a separate expert-level exam for design instead because the topics were just too dissimilar.

The CCIE and the CCDE are now "peer" certifications and are equivalent to one another. Only time will tell if the CCDE becomes as well-known and respected as the CCIE.

Recruiters and managers like to throw around the CCNA and CCIE appellations; you'll often hear something like "we have five IEs and two NAs on staff." So can the new "DE" become as popular?

Certainly, other Cisco certifications, such as the CCNET, CCVP, CCSP, CCIP, and even the CCDP, have struggled to become as well-known as the CCNA and CCIE. While not necessarily a popularity contest, network administrators justifiably flock to the most well-known certifications because they what might help them land that next big job or pay raise.

Four reasons to consider the CCDE

I'm considering pursuing the new CCDE certification, and I think you should consider it as well. Here are four reasons to think about it:

  • Unlike a CCNP, CCDP, or MCSE certification, the CCDE doesn't have a long list of tests you must take. You only have to take one written and one hands-on exam.
  • For those of us who enjoy designing complex networks instead of tweaking and troubleshooting complex network routing or security, the CCDE may be something that interests you more than other certifications.
  • Cisco has done a great job representing, improving, and marketing the CCIE. Because of this, I think the CCDE will become highly recognizable, just as the CCIE is today.
  • The CCDE proves that you can design some of the most complex and advanced networks in the world today. The documentation of this skill can be invaluable to your career.

However, don't jump the gun: Make sure you have the recommended design experience on large networks, get ready to prepare for some grueling tests, and make sure you're willing to pay a much higher price than other certifications -- both in time and in dollars.


The CCDE is an exciting, new expert-level Cisco design certification similar to the CCIE. Because it's brand-new, study material and test information is limited to what's available on Cisco's CCDE Web site.

The CCDE is the pinnacle of Cisco advanced network design expertise. Cisco network design professionals have been asking for this certification for many years, and only time will tell how popular it will become.

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Im frankly very tired in the lack of evolution of Networking and IT certifications. I got my CCIE back in 1994. Once upon a time there was a CNE... and then there was an MCNE... then the whole slew of Microsoft Certifications.. and of course yet another Cisco Cert. Im just bored of it. In order to move beyond this and be taken seriously, IT needs some recognised standard exams akin to those taken by lawyers, doctors and yes.. even building architects. I cant go out and call myself a building architect without the correct certifications, but in IT we regularly make up fancy titles. We also damage the profession by not following the correct hiring practices. If I walked into a building architecture firm and asked for a job on the basis I can draw, they'll tell me to come back when I have a degree and the right credentials. IT.. we'll hire anyone that knows how to work a keyboard! Don't like my building analogy.. odd.. I can't get a job in finance because Im really good with numbers and odd thet they dont feel that doing my home finances qualifies me... so.. why does IT go ahead and employ people because theyre "really good with computers". These slew of industry and company specific certifications exist for one reason only... to make money for the sponsoring company. Ed Ridland @ Edginet.com


I still dont understand why its not CCIE Design? Why they refer it to CCDE? Also, Cisco needs to increase the Design training? Regards!


@Ed. The fact someone has industry experience, does not mean he/she is current or familiarized with technology or market advancements. CISCO or most others make a point and that is the effort to be current. It takes time, effort and several aspects of dedication to fulfill exam pass requirements. More than likely a part of the drive is revenues, but it does provide results for employers as well as certified individuals. So while manufacturers are making some revenues with certification programs which I estimate can not be anything substantial compared to product or solution sales... For the currently certified ones out there... Remember, money talks!


As a friend of mine pointed out, IT is merely a cottage industry. Some have no qualifications while other have PHds, yet there are little or no formal assessments of an applicant's ability. A possible exception is a skill within a very specific area but little more than that. If a guild model is not adopted (such as that for lawyers and doctors) IT professionals will never be taken seriously. Further more, if there is no way to distinguish between some hack and a true professional, how are engineers ever likely to be taken seriously?


It's really simple. CCIE it's the highest level of Cisco support track. CCDE it's the highest level of Cisco design track. The main difference lies in the fact that because you how to configure a router or switch that doesn't mean that you know how to design a network.

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