Cisco announced upgrades to its certification and training program on Monday. The program now features Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), and Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) written exams, as well as brand new Cisco DevNet Associate Cisco DevNet Professional exams, according to a blog post.

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Certifications are sweeping the IT enterprise, with 85% of professionals earning their most recent certification in the last 12 months, a Global Knowledge report found. These certifications not only help sharpen IT skills, but can earn these professionals more money and sought-after jobs.

“Certifications have been a way to validate yourself to others,” said Joe Clarke, distinguished services engineer at Cisco. “It’s a door opener; it says, ‘I have achieved this level.'”

Candidates who have certifications on their resume are displaying that they have up-to-date skills and can demonstrate those skills, which is appealing for hiring managers, Clarke said.

As a major certification provider for the past 26 years, Cisco attempts to offer the most relevant certifications that reflect the evolving tech landscape. With networking significantly shifting over the past few years, the company said it decided it was time to reflect those changes in its certifications.

“This huge trend around software-defined networking permeated its way into everything,” Clarke said. “We have a software-defined data centers, then ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure), and then we had this whole push towards software-defined WAN, and now software-defined access layer networks.

“It’s not enough anymore just to do these incremental, evolutionary steps,” Clarke noted. “The fact that the network engineer has to be more software-aware and embrace more software.”

Updated Cisco certifications

  • CCNA

The updated CCNA program helps prepare associate-level IT professionals for a successful career in networking by adding security, automation and programmability to the course. The certification also covers network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity, and IP services.

Before the update, Cisco had 10 different CCNA tracks. This new CCNA certification presents a unified, single version of those 10 originals, while incorporating modern skills employers look for in networking engineers, Clarke said.

“We started asking hiring managers, what is it you really expect from an associate-level professional? We found that they wanted someone who was a little broader in networking, someone who could be a little more malleable in different areas of the network,” Clarke said.

“The new, single CCNA focuses on routing and switching; it focuses on security, because security is so integral to networking; and, we wanted to start to introduce those fundamentals of programming and automation, because any network that’s being at scale is going to get back candidate,” Clarke added.

  • CCNP

The CCNP is a more advanced version of a CCNA, geared toward more experienced network engineers, who want to bolster their skills and look ahead, Clarke said.

Within the Cisco courses, professionals at this level can choose between five tracks to focus on, including enterprise, collaboration, data center, security, or service provider.

“The new Cisco NP has two exams. They used to have varying numbers of exams depending on the track,” Clarke said. The first exam taps into the student’s specialized track, and the other is a technology core foundation applied across all five tracks.”

“You don’t need any prerequisites anymore,” Clarke said. “If I jumped in and I go from my, let’s say, CCNP Enterprise, I’ll walk out of that with three certifications: Two specialists, one for the technology core and my concentration, and the CCNP.”

  • CCIE

The CCIE is the expert-level certification for network engineers, also offering the five specialty tracks included on NP.

The previous IE certification had a written component, but the new certification includes the same technology core offered for the NP to serve as the foundational exam, Clarke said.

“However, whereas in NP I could take either the concentration or the core first, in IE, I must first pass the technology core in a given technology space and then I can go and sit for an eight-hour lab,” Clarke said.

“The new eight- hour lab consists of a three-hour low-level design component upfront, a situation or scenario-based design, and then five hours of implementation, operation, optimization, and troubleshooting,” he added.

“We wanted to thread software through every one of our certifications for the network engineer,” Clarke said. “It’s critical that the network engineer now embrace software as a means of delivering reliable, likable, scalable network solutions.”

  • Cisco DevNet Associate

The new DevNet Associate certification validates the emerging skills of software developers, DevOps engineers, automation specialists, and other software professionals.

The associate-level program requires one exam and focuses on understanding and using APIs, Cisco platforms and development, application development and security, and infrastructure and automation, Clarke said.

  • Cisco DevNet Professional

The DevNet Professional is the more advanced certification, helping developers master design and debugging with Cisco APIs and platforms.

“The Professional [certification] structurally looks just like the network engineer [certification]: You have a core exam and a number of concentrations,” Clarke said.

“This person might very well be a team leader of software development; they have five or more years of experience designing and developing software,” Clarke added.

All programs are currently available for enrollment, however, the CCIE lab exam centers are temporarily closed, in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

For more, check out 11 popular IT certifications and cross-certifications that pay the most on TechRepublic.

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