This post has been shared: Earning Cisco certifications is a great way to climb the IT career ladder and attract employers. Many positions require candidates to have Cisco credentials. Employers often encourage employees to work towards higher levels.

It can be difficult to understand Cisco certifications if you are not familiar with IT or the certification process. There are five levels of certification, and many specializations within each level. You might feel overwhelmed and unsure of which path to take. The decision depends on your career goals, where you are skilled and interested, and how much time and effort it will take. It’s important to be familiar with the various certification options before you can get started.
Cisco Certification Levels
Cisco certification has five levels, each building on the previous level’s skills and knowledge.
Entry: These are the entry-level certifications. They are useful for those who are just starting out in their career or are looking to move up the ladder to Cisco certifications. This category includes the Certified Cisco Entry Network Technician CCENT and the Certified Cisco Technician CCT.
Associate: This intermediate level certification is the foundation for specializations. These associate level certifications include Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), which covers specialty areas such as routing and switching, security, and more. The Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) is for network designers.
Professional: This certification includes two main ones: Cisco Certified Network Professionals (CCNP), and Cisco Certified Design Professionals (CCDP). The Associate level CCNP carries some of the same specialties as the CCNP. The CCDP focuses on the design and implementation of scalable networks as well as multilayer-switched network.
Expert: The Expert credential is similar to the Professional designation. It includes two main certifications, the Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts (CCIE), and the Cisco Certified Design Experts (CCDE). These credentials are not pre-requisites for the Associate or Professional certifications. However, you must pass a rigorous exam in order to obtain the designation. You will need to have a solid technical knowledge and technical skills in order to earn the CCIE. The tracks currently include Collaboration, Data Center, Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, and Wireless. A CCDE is a certification that you are an expert in large-scale enterprise infrastructure solutions.
Architect: This credential is the Ph.D. in Cisco certifications. It is the most difficult technical certification to earn. This credential shows that you are able to plan and design IT infrastructures using business strategies.
The path to Cisco certification is fairly straight forward. There are many specializations within each level, so it is not unusual to be certified in more than one area. Are you ready to get started? Register today.
Finding Your Path
Experts recommend that you choose the path that you are passionately interested in when choosing the best certification. This is not necessarily the one that will have the greatest demand or highest earning potential. The job market is constantly changing and becoming more competitive. Choosing a certification that is trendy today but not something you are passionate about is unlikely to get you ahead. It might even backfire if you don’t like your work.
To earn your Cisco certification, you must choose an interesting path. This should include your existing knowledge, your ability to commit to a program, and your overall career goals. Cisco recommends that you aim to attain the CCNA Routing and Switching and CCNP Routing and Switching certifications at least before you move on to other certifications. These certifications provide a solid foundation in networking technologies and give you more insight into areas where you might want to specialize.
No matter what path you choose, you can expect to spend significant time training and preparing for your Cisco exams. You must pass at least one exam at each level. Most CCNP credentials require at least three exams. You need to be prepared. Online courses make it easy to train for CCNP Routing & Switching or CCNA Routing & Switching certifications. However, advanced certifications can take more time. It can take up to a full year of preparation and study to earn them. So it is important to not rush into a certification journey.
However, no matter what path you choose to follow, Cisco certifications indicate that you are certified.