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Cisco's CCIE is no longer the biggest cash cow of IT certification

Cisco's legendary CCIE is no longer the most valuable certification for IT professionals, according to TechRepublic's 2008 IT Skills and Salary Report. See what certification has replaced it and where the CCIE now stands.

When I was working in IT in the late 1990s, I remember the reverence with which everyone in the industry talked about the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification. At the time, it was the only prominent IT certification that tested practical skills, in addition to the book knowledge that all of the other certs tested.

Wild stories circulated about the CCIE lab exam. I remember hearing about how you had to set up a network for a complex scenario that took you all day, then Cisco experts came in overnight and trashed the network. Then you came in the next day and had to fix everything.

Whether those stories were hyperbole or not, it was well-known that almost no one passed the CCIE lab exam on the first try. And it was expensive -- $1,400 to take the lab exam, plus travel costs to get to a CCIE lab location, prep materials, and written exam pre-tests.

However, there was a big payoff at the end if you joined that elite fraternity of about 12,000 worldwide.

The word on the streets at the time was that as soon as you passed your exams you would be bombarded with phone calls from recruiters and Fortune 500 companies tripping over themselves to offer a job with a six-figure salary. That was the perception. The reality was a little more sober, but still very attractive. Many CCIEs were hired directly by Cisco, and others got lucrative gigs as high value consultants.

However, the CCIE is no longer the highest valued certification in IT. In fact, according to our extensive 2008 IT Skills and Salary Report -- which TechRepublic produced in partnership with Global Knowledge -- the CCIE has actually slipped to fifth.

Three certifications that involve business management in addition to technology have grabbed the top three spots: Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), and ITIL v2 Foundations. That shouldn't come as much of surprise to anyone who has been in IT over the past decade, as we have seen IT professionals with strong business skills become hot commodities.

The CCIE isn't even the most valuable technical certification any more. That distinction belongs to the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) cert, which was fourth in our survey. Nevertheless, CCIEs are still pulling down good money, with an average salary of $93,500.

How about the world's most popular (and sometimes most infamous) certification -- the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)? It came in 19th on the list, with an average salary of $71,980. That's not too far off the average of $67,000 for MCSEs when I got an MCSE back in 1999.

Here's a look at the top certs on the list:

What do you think about PMP being the most valuable certification for IT professionals? Join the discussion.

Also, don't forget to download the entire 2008 IT Skills and Salary report:

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

37 comments
io_zen
io_zen

ITIL v2 Foundations holders get more than ITIL v3 Master holders? Two top spots are occupied by project management certification and assocciate of project management? This study cannot be right

Casey645
Casey645

I think these statistics and the conclusions derived are bit skewed. When someone tries to correlate one certification to a specific salary, it is almost impossible. I think the high salaries of the admittedly less technical (Cisco certs. for ex. are much tougher than the CISSP) and more managerial certifications (i.e. PMP, CISSP) can better be attributed to another commonality of people with the CISSP and/or the PMP. The people (like myself) who have these certifications are general IT managers, and have myriad other skills, education (Bachelor's in EE, IT or CS, Master's, MBA's) and experience in addition to the certifications. For most (I can't say all) of the people I speak with with these certs, they have other professional and technical certs., and the CISSP and/or PMP are icing on the cake (both the CISSP and PMP require more experience without bachelor's degree). Conversely, I have met CCIE's who have many cisco cets, and not much else. They do very well for themselves too.

sa1111
sa1111

Considering PMI is Project Management Professional, I would hope my boss makes more than me

darbyweaver
darbyweaver

Hah! Are you telling my that I get paid more with my puny CCNP than I might for my CCIE? Let's see... over $93k consistently for the past three jobs in the lowly paid deep south of Florida. With a mere CCNP. I guess you could argue I have the ITIL v2, but no one seems to notice it. You might argue I'm a MCSE+Everything but no one seems to ask about it much these days... They do care about my CCNP and they seem to love the idea that I'm a practicing CCIE Lab Candidate who has been to the lab. I earn more than your other certs as a failed CCIE Lab Candidate. So I fully expect that my CCIE will earn a little more luster upon completion of one or more labs. Paper hold anything is a fond saying of my wife. Bank accounts hold cash. I invest my green cash in gree Cisco Gear, Training, and other materials. It's a wide investment. Hard times are hear and ITIL and PMP don't hold the sand a CCIE does. I could have passed my ITIL without even studying it was that common sense and in a word "dull". I mean a lot of the questions had the correct answer embedded in them... I guess you can argue the CCIE Lab does have the CCO close by... good luck trying to use it to solve a lot of problems in the Lab. People making a nice living with certs like the PMP probably are doing based on a decent living they earned before achieving the cert. I doubt many 22-25 year olds can get a PMP or a ITIL and walk into a Fortune 500 and earn $100k. A CCIE can get paid that with a mom and pop Cisco Partner at 18-22 years old just cause he's a certified newbie and the certification alone is worth the cash to a partner. A CCIE can rent the cert for over $20,000.00 a year and never do more than sign the contract. Can a PMP or ITIL or other certification do that? Hmmm...

Neil
Neil

Now I don't know a lot about these certificates - but surely a V3 Master is more difficult and up-to date than a V2 Foundation ? Is this due to insufficient data (on my part - or the surveys) ?

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

The best ones look like girls in bikinis.

CG IT
CG IT

as the complexity grows so does specialization. Also the what's hot now often makes salaries very high for what's hot. When it cools, then they drop. CCIEs was all the rage as the internet developed. Then MCSE to make company networks. Then DB guys. Now, it's project management... Next is Web 2 video guys.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]I invest my green cash in gree Cisco Gear, Training, and other materials.[/i] I hope you get your CCIE, but might I suggest you also invest some of this year's green cash in a refresher English class? Run-on sentences, poor punctuation, and misused words ("Hard times are hear..." ?:| ) do little to advance a professional appearance. Okay, yeah, I'm an @$$hole. Deal with it and take a flipping English class!

jjaschob
jjaschob

I completely agree with you. I know younger folks who have rushed out to get the PMP with the thought that they would be at the top of the money/certification heap with those three letters. That is not the case. They are sitting in line behind the PMPs who are currently out of work trying to get on a project. The CCIE truly tests experience and know-how....the PMP can be passed with good bookish knowledge alone, not to say that alone isn't a feat...but those who wish to certify as a PMP (especially in this economy) with a glut of PMPs are in for an unpleasant suprise. The CCIE may not be statistically #1, but it has since it inception been the gold standard for networking, in business and acedemics.

swm
swm

The translation of the above is that the ratio of certification to salary does not equal (or have much bearing on) the ratio of person to their experience level. So in response to the idea of an ITIL v2 Foundation showing MORE than a v3 Master is just a "feature" (problem?) with surveys. We don't know any more about the people filling that out. So whoever had that v2 Foundation may have had other certifications as well or lots of experience making their salary higher. (or just a cooler employer?) The v3 Master may have drawn the short stick on those different pieces. Like all statistics, your mileage may vary!

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Maybe we'll start seeing listings for "Web Multimedia Engineers."

linabritney
linabritney

Greetings All, What are the best simulations exams for the 640-802 ? I took the ccna 640-802 exam and received a 785 and needed a 825 to pass (44 questions). I prepared for this exam by making a lab with two 2650 routers and two 2950 switches. I read several books and completed both the Boson and Transcender practice exams with almost 100% correct on all the prep tests the first time around. The problem is that the actual exam questions are far more complex then what the Boson and Transcender offered even though these exams are geared for the new CCNA exam. Is there a better exam prep option? Iam going to purchase certmagic.com 640-802 as i heared great reviews about them. Anyone tried them? Let me know plz

Todd.Peterson
Todd.Peterson

Ok, whom ever decided to place a PMI, CAPM and CISSP in the Technical Certifications bucket is obviously not technical. I currently hold a BS in CIS, a MS in IST from GWU, CCNP, CCSP, CCIP, CCDP, MCSE, GSA CIO, and have passed the CCIE Written for Routing and Switching. I am also a CCSI Cisco Certified Systems Instructor, which means I teach Cisco Courses. So being Highly technical myself only makes me laugh when someone tries to put a PMP, CAPM and a CISSP and refer to them as technical. Their is nothing technical about them at all, those are all management Certifications. The only thing which remotely can be considered technical about the CISSP is when they ask you what type of encryption you should use to protect something. The CISSP exam is 250 Multiple Choice questions! Takes about 4 hours to do, most of that time is putting Dark Lead Pencil Number 2 Circles on the answer sheet. Give me a break CISSP's are a a joke!! I have meet many whom have never even installed a network or created an infrastructure of any kind, but yet because they have a CISSP they are a Security Professionals, ya right. Other than that give me a break. The CCIE is still the most revered and coveted Certification on the planet. $93,000.00??? Where are you getting your salary inputs from Alabama, or Mississippi?? Most of the CCIE's I know have to turn down work, and wouldn't have time to even complete your salary survey. I would like you all to print a retraction, comparing the CISSP to the CCIE is like comparing a Ph.D. to a Highschool Graduate, give me a break!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Serously you need to recant this article I am having way to much fun laughing at it. TP

ktkha
ktkha

I think like any certification, whether it is CCIE, MCSE, and now PMP, you do have to have the right experience to complete that project successfully. Being a PMP and was formerly a system administrator for both Windows and UNIX platforms, when it comes to managing any technical projects, having those technical experience help tremendously to get them completed successfully. When it comes down to it, you still have to know your stuff to be a good CCIE or PMP...the certification helps you get in the door or on that project, you still have to prove yourself...and NO, not everyone is from an Ivy League college.

lee.blue.com
lee.blue.com

Just a few years ago this was not an IT skillset, and most people seeking this cert. did not have a clue about IT. Project managers with no clue about IT integration capacity and the like have now fully infiltrated our world, only to keep our professonal salaries and skills at bay when compared to thiers. Funny how things have changed thanks to a few envious Ivy league grads entering the market with IT envy; folk who replace us in a heartbeat with a well written automation program. Screw all those who follow suit with this obvious attempt to monopolize on those with legitimate IT skills, not just CRM, or Project applications apptitude!

yostc
yostc

... is that when economies cool off the amount of projects to manage decrease. With less and less projects to manage you need less project managers. Being in an a field that is largely dependent on the health of the economy is a tuff field to be in. There will always be network infrastructure to keep running :)

swm
swm

The scary part of averages is that for all who are making good money as a CCIE, there are apparantly just as many people making not-so-good money in order to average out like that. On the other hand, your article and the distribution of CCIE's goes worldwide. So a US-based salary idea really isn't much bearing for those who live in different countries. I'm not sure the worldwide distribution of PMP's compared to CCIE's, but it would be interesting to see that salary "weighting" be carried in the next salary survey. Just my two cents. The sky isn't falling. :)

jenbo3000
jenbo3000

Don't be a snob. This is a forum not work. You can understand what he means and the point is to communicate, not pick at people.

iaingeddes
iaingeddes

Along the same line ... the difference between CAPM and PMP in the survey was a mere $600 (0.6%). In the real world, the biggest difference between CAPM and PMP is that PMP also requires a minimum of 4500 hours actively leading projects, vs 0 for CAPM. Only $600 more for someone with 2 years full-time experience in running projects vs someone with 24 hours in the classroom .... ??!!!!!

dmikole
dmikole

Try the How2Pass test it's updated whenever there's new questions and Labs! Most "98%" of the actual questions are on the exam engine. Try it and Good luck

Max Phillips
Max Phillips

"Ok, whom ever decided to place a PMI, CAPM and CISSP in the Technical Certifications bucket is obviously not technical." Agreed that these are more higher-level, mostly non-technical, managerial certs. "Give me a break CISSP's are a a joke!! I have meet many whom have never even installed a network or created an infrastructure of any kind, but yet because they have a CISSP they are a Security Professionals, ya right." If the CISSP is such a joke, why is it consistently one of the top IT security certs, and why is demand still high? Also, given the breadth of material covered by the CISSP, no one has experience in all CISSP domains. So, being able to install a network as a requirement of the CISSP does not make sense for all who attain the cert (especially those with a physical security or policy backgroud). As you stated, this cert is more management-oriented.

dauda2
dauda2

Absolutely brilliant response. There is no comparison at all between the CISSP and a CCIE. Some of these article writers just come on this forum and spout garbage just to feel relevant in a discussion. What utter nonsense MAKING SUCH A COMPARISON!!! The writer of this comparison needs to retract this and go back into the field and do some more research and learning. Don't bother to repost anything in praise of CCIE for correction. It's not needed. Just go out and talk to people in the field and get a REAL perspective of technology certs.

jjaschob
jjaschob

The value of the CCIE has weathered all types of storms in terms of demand and still has business and even acedemic credibility. The PMP is great, but there are more and more PMPs floding the market. I know PMPs with five to ten years of experience that are working at Home Deopt becuase of the economic conditions. But the folks that I know that are CCIE certiified are still in high demand.

eric.pederson
eric.pederson

What happens when money gets tight is that some IT projects do not get their funding, and the project is put on hold, de-scoped, or canceled. If the project is not active, you don;t need to spend money on a PM, and when there are a lot of PMs on the sidelines, you may consider bringing one on board as a contractor, instead of as an employee, when a new project launches. I would say that project management skills at a medium organizational lower level is a particularly strong tool for getting IT projects completed. At the higher organizational levels, however, such as managing all IT projects across a company, I think the jury is still out. I have definitely seen examples where the PM rigor at the overall level became bureaucracy which thwarted progress from a business user point of view... mountains made of molehills, only a limited number of mountains allowed on the radar, and then progress in climbing the mountains tracked at a meaningless level. ... but that might be a centralization problem... toward centralization for control, back toward decentralization for execution, the trends are cyclical. Overall, some project management rigor can really pay off.

PM Hut
PM Hut

Anytime soon. There's a shortage of Project Managers all over the world right now, even with the current economy... Additionally, Project Managers are right now a necessity and now longer a luxury. You cannot get anything done right now without a Project Manager.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

They are still in demand and are still making very good money. It's just not the king of certifications any more, and it doesn't hold the iconic place in the industry that it did 5-10 years ago.

Todd.Peterson
Todd.Peterson

Look Nick Nielsen, you must be playing south of the border! Only a catcher would harp on grammer in this thread. Little board are you? Love the pic you have used for your posts, it shows a long neck, does this help you with your on the road trips in the DEEP SOUTH? Ya I thought so, your grammer comments are not wanted on this tread, go back to your gas station, the one you hang out in with the holes in the walls!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Part of being professional is appearing professional in all you do, in this case communication. You get lazy on a forum, you'll start to get lazy elsewhere. Should his resume carry the same grammatical and spelling errors as his post, CCIE or no CCIE, employment will probably not be forthcoming. After all, if he doesn't care enough to use the correct words in his writing, how sloppy will his network setup be? And yes, it does carry over; I've seen in more often than not.

swm
swm

I didn't read the previous message as an attack. I guess it's all in perceived tonality. Needing to go back and do research to support any particular point rather than relying on the "reality" of the survey isn't a bad idea. Dunno, guess getting back into work is good. Mailing lists provide much needed breaks once and a while. Too busy otherwise. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The party's over. Go back to work. ;) Your point is excellent. There are problems with the survey methodology, but that is no reason to attack the competence or question the motives of the blog writer, as the previous poster did.

swm
swm

Really? Came from a survey of real people... Heard of anything called "statistical sampling"? I know that may be a hard term, but I'm pretty sure that even PMPs should be aware of the concept. You have a voluntary survey of people who may or may not show up, and may or may not tell the truth since nothing is verified. I could put in that I have a CCNA and earn $325,0000 a year. Kinda skews things, ya think? They may throw out "obvious" ones like that, but it doesn't take much to skew the statistics either way. I'll go with the other approach. And good CCIE was likely too busy working to bother filling out the survey. I know I was last year. So if someone wants to take a REAL survey and REALLY set the statistics up to be realistic and VERIFIED then perhaps I'll believe it. In the meantime, given many of the PMPs I happen to know... I'd say SOMEONE is way over-paying for something that shouldn't be that difficult is plan is well developed. (e.g. poor planning = more management) Just my two cents. Scott

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]Just go out and talk to people in the field and get a REAL perspective of technology certs. [/i] The data came from a [u]survey[/u] of (guess who?) people in the field. There's a link to the survey in the article; the first few pages discuss the methodology.