Thoughts on obtaining CCIE certification

CCIE – Why bother? There are plenty of individuals around the world, working in the same environments as CCIEs, who make a comfortable living as holders of other certifications that are were less difficult to obtain. CCNP, CCDP, CCIP, and other Cisco certifications provide career advancement and the respect of peers, so why embark on a study routine that will probably take months to complete, that place extra demands on you (and your family) and does not end until you have passed what is arguably the toughest practical exam in the IT industry?

The reasons are many and varied, but one of the commonest is the fact that CCIE certification is recognised worlwide by people, organisations, companies, and vendors throughout the communications field. It carries a great deal of kudos and is the closest a networking engineer can get to a guarantee of employment. Sadly, even CCIEs have to lower their sights when the market is depressed but at least they are at the front of the queue when jobs are few. As economies change the salaries for CCIEs vary but they remain consistantly higher than any other similar certification.

Some people now argue that the CCIE certification program is past its peak and that there are simply too many CCIEs now, but the program is evolving and changing year by year, and some CCIEs fail to recertify, retire, or move on to other things. Cisco Systems Inc. have ensured that the syllabus for both written and practical CCIE exams is updated to reflect the changes in technology. There will always be a demand for skilled and experienced internetworking engineers. Check the Cisco web site for details of the number and type of CCIEs in each country. There are still very few Security, Voice, and ISP CCIEs.

So how does one go about obtaining CCIE status? Amounts will vary according to your experience and ability, but generally speaking preparing for the CCIE lab exam involves months of daily study and practice, so be sure you can commit yourself to the task. Talk it over with your partner and family and be sure you have their support.

Due to the time an commitment involved you may also wish to consider taking several months study leave. However, few of us can afford to give up our jobs to study full time, but we may be able to persuade our employers to allow us a few weeks study leave immediately prior to the lab date. In any event your are going to be doing a lot of reading and practical work. Your first task is to pass the written exam. There are plenty of other resources online which cover this exam (just put “350-001” in the search bar below and you’ll see what I mean), but at the very least your study library will need to consist of these titles.

When it comes to equipment to practice on, there are several choices.

  • Buy your own personal CCIE practice lab
  • Convince your employer to buy a practice lab
  • Rent time on someone else’s lab
  • Practice on router and switch simulators

Of course, buying your own lab can be expensive so most people buy a mixture of second hand an new equipment over a period of time to spread the cost. For some people the advantages of owning their own lab far outweigh the costs involved.

Buy your own personal CCIE practice lab

  • It’s available for you to use at any time
  • It’s reserved for your exclusive use
  • It’s yours no matter what happens to your job
  • It’s an investment in your career
  • It can be sold on should you need to
  • It can be physically examined, unlike an online lab or a simulator

Once qualified, you’ll recoup the cost of the lab within a few months as a CCIE. Alternatively you could sell it and get most of your money back.

Convince your employer to buy a practice lab

It may seem doubtful, but it can be done if the company wants to increase their profile and revenue by expanding their skill range while at the same time becoming some form of Cisco partner. A lab within the company can be used not only to train employees at many levels but also to test scenarios before implementing them on a customer network. Besides, they may have equipment to hand that is surplus to requirements.

Rent time on someone else’s lab

There are several sites online now that offer this facility. They can be booked up for weeks in advance so be sure to plan accordingly. Plan your session in advance so that you do not waste your time slot preparing.