Cisco’s New Exam Tracks Reconstruct the Certification Pyramid

Cisco’s certification pyramid strategy allows users to move up the career ladder by upgrading lower-tiered certificates to higher ones as their skills and knowledge improve. The Entry level, which is represented by the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician credential (CCENT), is at the bottom of the pyramid. The Associate level, or Cisco Certified Network Associate, (CCNA), is a step above that. Candidates can begin their certification journey at the Entry level, and then move up to the Associate level by passing the Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices 1 exam. Then, they will need to take ICND2. Candidates can also skip the Entry level and jump straight to the Associate level by passing the CCNA exam. Cisco does not require an Associate-level credential.
This is not true for a Cisco Certified Network Professional candidate (CCNP), at least not until February 24, 2020. To move up to the Professional level, you must first climb to the Associate level. If you are already a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), you can also attain CCNP. CCIE does not require formal prerequisites, just like CCNA and CCENT. After Cisco introduced CCNA and CCNP in late 1990s, most candidates first climbed to the Professional level. Then they attempted CCIE. This is second only to Cisco Certified Architects (CCAr). The tiers of Cisco’s pyramid are supposed reflect the candidate’s level and expertise. This is what in the real world of work should translate into pay grade.
CCENT will be gone completely effective February 24, 2020. Officially, CCNA is the lowest Cisco credential tier. Cisco is also removing the prerequisites for obtaining CCNP credentials, which may surprise some. If you feel that your skills and experience are sufficient to meet the Professional grade of the pyramid’s requirements, you can skip the Associate level. Instead, you can focus on obtaining the new Cisco Certified Specialist credentials which eventually make up a CCNP credential. The Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Core credential is awarded by passing the core CCNP Enterprise exam (CCNP 300-401 Enterprise Core) The CCNP Enterprise credential can be completed by passing one of the Professional-level concentration exams.
You can also take and pass the CCNP 300-401 (ENCOR exam) to be eligible to immediately pursue the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure credential, even if you have not completed the CCNP Enterprise credential through a concentration exam. Passing the 300-401 exam after February 24, 2020 qualifies you for the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure v1.0 lab examination (an eight-hour-long hands-on exam that completes CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure credential). Only the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr), which is the highest Cisco credential, will be accepted after February 24, 2020. Cisco recommends that you have a valid Cisco Certified Design Expert credential (CCDE) before you can obtain CCAr.
Does this mean that the pyramid is disappearing? It’s not. It has been remodeled. With the CCNP prerequisite removed and the possibility of better employment with a higher starting wage, why would a new Cisco certification candidate bother achieving Associate level? The world of business is the answer to this question. A university degree doesn’t guarantee you a job or a lifestyle that is comparable to your field of study. Likewise, a CCNP certification won’t guarantee you a CCNP position with any compa.