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: