Cisco Career Certifications CCNA, CCNP, CCIE 2020 Major Update – Everything You Need to Know
Long overdue update to Cisco Career Certifications was announced on June 10, 2019 at #CiscoLive2019, where Cisco unveiled a major and quite a sweeping update to its entire certifications program, something that I have frankly not seen in probably a decade. If you want to get a scoop on the New CCNP Certification update, you can do so by hopping over to Cisco Career Certifications Professional Track 2020: Meet the NEW CCNP Program.
Cisco also dubbed it as next level, but don’t worry let me unpack everything for you, so read on.
If that doesn’t sound big enough, all changes are supposed to go into effect at the same time on Feb 24, 2020 but before that everything existing stays in place with reasonable migration options. Let me try to unpack those for you based on what we know so far.
The Scope of Cisco Career Certification 2020 Announcement
Brace yourself, everything from certifications as well as rules for qualification and recertification from CCNA to CCNP to CCIE are going through a major change. Not that it matters, but even the entire Cisco Training and Certifications website also seems to have gone through a big change, i.e. revamped to document the nuts and bolts of the actual changes – go figure!
What’s Not Changing in Cisco Career Certification 2020 Update
Now, before, we get into the actual changes, and to calm everyone down, let me first jot down the stuff that is NOT changing.
- Cisco Career certifications continue to have five well known specializations, i.e. in the order of difficulty, lowest to highest
- With the exception of R&S, all other specializations such as Data Center, Security, Service Provider, Collaboration and CCDE keep the same name as today (with entirely updated exam topics and versions). R&S is now known as Enterprise Infrastructure with the exception of CCNA track. Topics within each of those tracks are carried over as well.
- There continues to be NO perquisite to CCIE Lab other than a pre-qualification or a written exam, a new one in this case (350-401 ENCOR) for CCIE R&S.
- CCDE and CCAr program remains intact, at least as we speak.
What is Cisco Trying to Achieve with These Changes
- more flexibility and more choices as to how you approach each certification level and transition from one to another. There are no perquisites for certifications at associate and professional levels anymore, i.e. CCNA will no longer be a perquisite for CCNP.
- Better alignment with evolving job market, where focus long moved from being a CLI monkey to one more focused on enabling activities that directly matter to the overall business.
- Making Entry level certification more general and broad than ever, where specializations are moved up the chain to Professional and Expert levels.
- Acknowledging the fact that R&S, i.e. routing and switching are now a total commodity (thanks to SDN and the disaggregation of the networking stack going back to 2009). New name for R&S is “Enterprise” for both CCNP and CCIE levels.
- More focus on pedaling Cisco’s own training programs and continuation education credits by dropping the continuing education administrative fee and widening the scope to include recertification credits to CCNA and CCNP besides CCIE.
- Accepting the fact that folks who completed their CCIEs 20 years ago likely not be working as a Network Engineer today, so giving them an option to stay certified with Emeritus status for life with no ongoing fees (Cisco to also keep the bragging rights with more “technically” certified experts)
- Drop overall certification cost, e.g. CCIE pre-qualification exams cost go from $450 to $300.
- Design exams, i.e. CCDA and CCDP, are slated for retirement once changes take effect on Feb 24 2020.
Entry Level and Associate Track – Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) and CCNA
There is one entry level optional Cisco Certified Technician or CCT track which will be available for both R&S and DC specializations (Goodbye CCENT exam!). In the older format, we have 11 Associate level exams, which now shrinks down to 3 in the new format including DevNet exam. Entry level is not a perquisite for CCNA.
|Exam Name/No.||Recertification Policy||Exam Fee per take||Old Exam(s) Retire On||New Exam(s) Go Live On|
CCENT, 100-105 ICND1
CCNA Cyber Ops
CCNA Data Center
|Every two years||$165-$300||Feb 23, 2020|
CCT, RSTECH 640-692
CCNA Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions (CCNA)
|Every three years||$165 (same)|
$300 ($25-$30 less)
|Feb 24, 2020|
Professional Track – CCDP/CCNP
In the older format, we have 8 Professional level exams, which shrink down to 6 in the new format including DevNet.
Professional track will now be organized around two major exams, core (aka fundamentals or horizontal knowledge base) and concentration (aka specialization or vertical knowledge base).
CCNP Technology Core Exam
A technology core exam is one of the two exams required for CCNP, CCIE, and Cisco Certified DevNet Professional certifications. For CCNP, there are five technology core exams available, focused on Enterprise, Security, Service Provider, Collaboration and Data Center. Technology core exams cover the foundational and common concepts that are required for a candidate to be proficient in a technology architecture. For Cisco Certified DevNet Professional, there is one DevNet core exam.
Core exam, such as 350-401 Enterprise Core or ENCOR are doubled up as the new CCIE Written exam, since it would qualify for CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure Lab exam. For specific details on CCNP exams changes, check out Cisco Career Certifications Professional Track 2020: Meet the NEW CCNP Program.
CCNP Technology Concentration Exam
Concentration exams take a deeper dive into a relevant and related technology to the core, allowing the candidate to choose a topic that is either of interest or related to his or her chosen technology area of focus. For CCNP, there are concentration exams for all five technology tracks, Enterprise, Security, Service Provider, Collaboration and Data Center. There are also multiple concentration exams available for Cisco Certified DevNet Professional.
|Exam Name/No.||Recertification Policy||Exam Fee||Old Exam(s) Retire On||New Exam(s) Go Live On|
CCNP Data Center
|Every two years||$300||Feb 23, 2020|
CCNP Data Center
|Every three years||$300 ($150 less when used for CCIE pre-qualification or Recert)||Feb 24, 2020|
CCIE Pre-qualification Exam
Technology core exams are the new CCIE written exams, i.e. they cross over Professional and Expert level boundaries. Today, CCNP level exams are not a perquisite for CCIE lab exams since it has its own 400 series exams (e.g. 400-101 for R&S) however that changes in the future where you must take a CCNP level core exam to qualify for a CCIE lab exam. Now, keep in mind that in order to qualify for CCIE Security lab, you will need to take the corresponding CCNP Security Core exam (SCOR or 300-701), likewise for SP, DC, and Collaboration core exams.
ENCOR 350-401 doubles up as both CCNP Enterprise core exam as well as CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure and CCIE Enterprise Wireless pre-qualification exam. Again, note that there is no “R&S” nomenclature in the new CCNP and CCIE certifications.
Great news! CCIE pre-qualification exam i.e. CCNP core exam, would cost $300 as opposed to today’s CCIE written exam which sets you back $450. Yay!
CCIE Lab Exam
The CCIE lab exam is being updated in order to assess candidates’ skills through the entire adoption lifecycle of designing, deploying, operating and optimizing complex network scenarios. The lab format will change to assess these skills end-to-end.
The CCIE lab format is changing to assess candidates’ skills through the entire adoption lifecycle of designing, deploying, operating and optimizing complex network scenarios.
The lab exam will consist of 2 modules that are fixed in time and will be delivered in a fixed sequence:
- Module 1: Design (3 hours)
- Module 2: Deploy, Operate and Optimize (5 hours)
New CCIE Enterprise Infra Lab contains two variants, i.e. Wireless and Infrastructure. All other CCIE lab exams will be standardized to the technology track, including Security, Service Provider, Collaboration and Data Center remain as they are today but obviously the actual exam topics or content are changing big time.
For specific details on CCIE program changes slated for 2020, hop over to Cisco CCNP Core Technologies Track: Meet The New CCIE Written and Lab Exams.
There are no proposed changes to CCDE and CCAr, however design element from these exams has now formally made its way into CCIE lab exam.
Brand New DevNet 2020 Certifications
Cisco has announced new DevNet certifications focused on validating the skill sets of software developers, DevOps engineers, automation specialists, and other software professionals. The new offering will help unleash the full capabilities of the new network by educating network infrastructure engineers and software developers in application development, automation, DevOps, Cloud, and IoT. This definitely sounds promising, as long as Cisco can find a happy medium between their unending desire to add proprietary Cisco topics and open standard and bodies-led innovation (e.g. CNCF, OpenStack etc.). DevNet automation exchange sounds like a cool idea.
There is currently no information available as to how a DevNet certified individual will recertify. Cisco confirms that there will be an exclusive DevNet Expert level certification – looking forward to it.
- I am glad to see Cisco making major changes to their career certifications as it was way overdue, however proof is in the pudding so we shall see how this goes. CCIE is no longer enough to be a full stack networker today, since the “stack” continues to evolve with cloud, automation and DevOps technologies.
- No pre-qualification to CCNA and CCNP is a good step in the right direction because it brings the flexibility and more options.
- Retirement of design related certifications such as CCDA and CCDP is also a welcome change as design element is integrated horizontally into all certification tracks.
- Evolving Technologies V1.1 (currently @ 10% weight only in written exam) topics are now merged into automation and programmability section which apply to both written as well as CCIE lab exams.
- While new certification update for CCIE Enterprise Infra contains software-defined infra, automation and programmability exam topics, it is disappointing that they consist mostly of proprietary Cisco solutions, technologies and protocols.
- I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me that Cisco is using DevNet to move and maintain their lock-in from hardware to software and APIs.
What This Cisco Career Certifications 2020 Update Means for You!
I am planning to do my CCIE or CCNP or CCNA, but have not yet started.
For CCIE, CCNP or CCNA candidates: At the time of this writing, you have 8 months between now and Feb 2020, which is a plenty of time to start and achieve your certification within that timeframe. What am I talking about? Use this deadline is a positive forcing function to achieve your certification goal. Once you are certified, esp. CCIE, no one will discount your hard earned certification just because you are certified in the older version or format. For CCIE Lab, you need to get your lab date as early as you can before all available slots fill out. I do not recommend waiting until the new exams take effect, i.e. Feb 24 2020.
I am already Cisco certified, i.e. CCIE or CCNP or CCNA, are my certs worth anything?
For CCIE, CCNP or CCNA certified candidates: Absolutely! your certifications remain valuable, remember at the end of the day, certification is just a piece of paper, value lies in the actual journey that you took in achieving your certification. There is no need to panic.
I am an existing CCIE or CCNP or CCNA, and my certification expires in next 12 months.
For CCIE, CCNP or CCNA Re-certification candidates: Effective immediately, your existing Cisco Career Certification will remain valid for three years, as opposed to two.
Your certification status will remain active for three years from when you earn your certification. Each time you complete recertification requirements, your certification status will now be extended for an additional three years from the date you recertify. This marks a change for CCIE certified individuals, as previously CCIE certification was active for 2 years, and each recertification event extended certification status for an additional two years from the original certification date.
For reference, and let me summarize with an example of how the new recertification cycle will work:
- You Certified: Jan 1, 2019, your new expiration: Jan 1, 2022
- You need to Recertify: Jan 1, 2019, your new expiration: Jan 1, 2022
- You need to Recertify: Jan 1, 2020, your new expiration: Jan 1, 2023
I am in the middle of completing my CCNA or CCNP exam, what am I supposed to do?
For CCNA Candidates:
- If you have started working toward any current CCNA or CCDA certification, you can keep it going. You have until February 23, 2020 to complete your current CCNA/CCDA which is obviously plenty of time to finish it off. If you complete any current CCNA/CCDA certification before February 24, 2020, you’ll receive the new CCNA certification and a training badge in the corresponding technology area.
- If you already have existing Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification and would like to earn CCNA certification, you have until February 23, 2020 to complete your CCNA certification in the current program. As of February 24, 2020, you will need to take the new exam to complete your CCNA certification.
For CCNP Candidates:
If you have started working toward the current CCNP Routing and Switching, CCNP Wireless, or CCDP certifications, you can also keep it going. In the new program, you’ll receive credit for work you’ve completed in these current certifications. However, please note that come February 24 2020, Cisco will retire CCDA, CCDP, CCNP Cloud, and CCNP Wireless specializations.
- If you pass any exams in these certifications before February 24,2020, you’ll receive badging for corresponding new exams and credit toward the new CCNP Enterprise certification.
- If you complete any of these certifications before February 24, you’ll receive the new CCNP Enterprise certification and badging for corresponding technologies-enterprise core technologies, advanced routing, wireless, or design.
Last but not least, Cisco also published a detailed FAQ to cover the most common questions as well as a migration tool to help learners figure out a path who may have half way to their next level certification. If you prefer listening over reading, you can head over to Cisco Learning Network podcast.
Please note that Cisco seems to have revised the ENCOR exam number from 300-401 to 350-401 since the publishing date of this article. While images in this article still show 300-401, it is now rebadged as 350-401 (perhaps 350 is cooler than 300, who knows ;).
Finally, I’d like to hear from you, what do you think about the Cisco Career Certifications 2020 update? Is that a step in the right direction, or is that a mix bag? Leave your comments below.