Cisco certification programs offer continuing education for online IT degree holders, with targeted training in various areas of computer networking, security, voice systems, wireless, routing and switching, and network administration.
The world of Cisco certifications
Cisco certification programs help IT professionals at all stages of their careers develop skills to work with Cisco Systems products efficiently. These professional education courses prepare students to take a particular Cisco certification exam, covering the exam's topic area and level of expertise. For example, the popular entry-level CCNA course covers the knowledge necessary to sit for the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification exam and covers Cisco router configuration procedures and other skills related to the installation, configuration and operation of local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs).
Certification paths focus on the following network components and issues:
- Network design
- Network security
- Service provider
- Routing and switching
- Storage networking (Data center solutions)
- Wireless LAN
- Voice (Collaboration solutions)
There are several levels of Cisco certifications: associate, professional, expert and architect. Specialist certification courses are also available, focusing on a changing array of topics in security, IP communications and wireless technology. Cisco specialist courses may offer training relevant to a particular technology, such as VPN or Web security, or a particular job function, such as sales, application support, infrastructure design or field engineering.
Cisco certification program options
Cisco training is available in-person at vocational schools, community colleges, private training centers and universities worldwide, in partnership with the Cisco Networking Academy. In addition, online Cisco certification courses offer flexibility and convenience for working professionals. Through the Cisco Networking Academy, both campus and online certification programs access vendor-approved course materials, interactive tools and hands-on network simulation projects.
Moving ahead with Cisco certifications
Cisco certifications help ambitious network professionals accelerate their chances at career advancement. Cisco Systems calls its education program "a complete lifecycle of learning tools and resources that can lead to recognition, job opportunities and better compensation," citing a list of major employers (including Budweiser, LabCorp and others) that rely on Cisco-trained professionals. Cisco certification programs are best suited for network professionals with some background in IT. Because Cisco products are so widely used in enterprise networking, courses offer versatile training applicable in most networking roles.
According to Cisco Systems, IT professionals who complete a Cisco certification typically go on to careers as:
- Network administrators, analysts or architects
- Security specialists
- Database administrators
- Cisco networking equipment field or sales representatives
Networking careers offer some of the strongest job prospects in IT. Network systems analysts rank second on the Bureau of Labor Statistic's list of fastest growing occupations from 2008 to 2018. In 2009, Certification magazine observed that "a general focus on network and security issues continues to be a growing trend--and lucrative career choice--within the IT industry."
Cisco certifications rank among the magazine's top-paying certifications. According to the 2009 Salary Survey, the entry-level CCNA certification yielded an average salary of $87,790. More advanced Cisco certifications such as CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Professional) and CCIE Routing and Switching (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) commanded some of the highest premiums on the list, with average salaries of $111,420 and $120,130, respectively.
At a glance:
- Professional-level Cisco certifications include: CCNP, CCSP and CCVP, all of which are associated with average salaries above $100,000.
- Cisco networking certifications can lead to careers as network and systems analysts, the second fastest-growing occupation in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.