Why VoIP and why a Cisco certification?

Routing and Switching certifications are fairly common among IT pros today, but Voice over IP (VoIP) certifications are still considered new and are certainly in demand (as the certification survey shows). When it comes to choosing a VoIP certification, there are a few options like the CompTIA Convergence+ and the Nortel Certified Technology Expert (NCTE) in Converged Networks. However, just as Cisco is the leader in VoIP, so are its VoIP certifications. If you’re choosing, it makes sense to go with a VoIP certification that covers the most popular VoIP implementation in the world today.

What are Cisco’s options for VoIP Certification?

Cisco offers three different options for VoIP certification with some building on others. Essentially, the three options are CCNA Voice, CCVP, and CCIE Voice. Let’s explore each one.

CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) Voice

The first level of Cisco’s voice certifications is the CCNA Voice, which requires that you already have a valid CCNA certification as a prerequisite. This is important. As my article “What You Need to Know about Cisco’s New CCNA Specializations” discussed, the CCNA Voice is an advanced version of a “normal” CCNA. To obtain a CCNA Voice specialization, you have to pass a single test — the 640-460 Implementing Cisco IOS Unified Communications (IIUC) exam. The CCNA Voice is the best place to start for anyone wanting to obtain a VoIP certification.

CCVP (Cisco Certified Voice Professional)

From the CCNA Voice, you can move on to the CCVP. However, the CCVP doesn’t actually require that you have a CCNA Voice, just a regular CCNA. Similar to the CCNP, the CCVP is a mid-level certification requiring a number of exams. The CCVP is, no doubt, a challenging certification, requiring you to pass five different exams (for those using the Unified Communications Manager; there is a slightly different track for those using the older Unified CallManager):

CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) Voice

The CCIE Voice is the highest voice certification you can obtain. Just like all other CCIE certifications, there are no strict prerequisites to begin the CCIE process. However, don’t think that you can become a CCIE without years of experience and preparation. Just like other CCIE certifications, the requirements are that you pass a qualification exam and then a hands-on, full-day, rigorous lab exam at a Cisco office.

If you don’t already use VoIP, the best way to start learning is to try it out for yourself by building a test system. Don’t let that suggestion scare you off; you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started learning about VoIP. For more information on trying out VoIP on a low-budget, read my article “Exploring Entry-Level Options for Using VoIP.”

By obtaining a Cisco VoIP certification, you can not only gain a great deal of useful knowledge but also give yourself a strong chance of an increased salary. Cisco’s VoIP certification path is to start the Cisco CCNA Voice (which requires a CCNA), move on to the CCVP, and then if you are up for the challenge, tackle the CCIE Voice.

What are your 2009 certification plans? Share your thoughts in our comments section!

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