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1 Year anniversary: Did the CCNA Specializations Become Valuable?

Gauging the Cert Zone Community's Perception of the Value of CCNA Specialization

Cisco frequently announces changes to their certifications at the Cisco Live conference (formerly known as Networkers). I'll be at this year's US Cisco Live event next week in San Fran, and I plan to blog several times about relevant announcements. But in the mean time, I wanted to review Cisco's biggest cert announcement at Networkers 2008, which was the introduction of the CCNA Voice, CCNA Wireless, and CCNA Security certifications. And the overriding question is this: have these certs become accepted and perceived as valuable?

First, a little background seems appropriate. Before last June, there was the age old CCNA, as well as the pre-cursor CCENT that you get if you take the 2-exam (ICND1 and ICND2) path to CCNA. The most common next logical step after CCNA in the Cisco Career Certification pyramid was one of the professional level certs. As of last June, those certs included:

  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) - Route/switch oriented towards Enterprises
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional (CCIP) - Route/switch oriented towards ISPs
  • Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP)
  • Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP)

In the mean time, in 2009, Cisco has announced that they will announce at Networkers next week the new CCNP Wireless. So it's public, but with few details.

Continuing the backstory for today's post, last June at Networkers, Cisco announced the CCNA specializations, as follows:

  • CCNA Voice
  • CCNA Security
  • CCNA Wireless

As part of that announcement Cisco made CCNA - good old, age old CCNA - as a pre-requisite for all the new CCNA specializations. Cisco also made the CCNA specializations pre-requisites for the associated CCxP (my shorthand, not Cisco's) - in particular, CCNA Voice as pre-requisite for CCVP, and CCNA Security as prerequisite for CCSP. When Cisco completes the CCNP Wireless announcement, I would expect the announcement to include CCNA Wireless as a prerequisite.

Finally, Cisco made room for an easier transition by not enforcing the CCNA specialization prerequisite requirements for 1 year - until today, June 23rd, 2009.

For background, refer to the following posts from around this time last year:

Cisco Expands CCNA

The New CCNAs: All Carrot, No Stick

Now to what's on my mind today. I wondered last year, and still wonder today, if/when the CCNA specializations would be as highly valued as the other Cisco certs, at least by those of us who have to study and pass the exams. I have my own opinion, but this time I want to get yours first, and then make my own comments. I hope to set this up so that next year I can ask the same questions, and the next, and see if our collective opinion grows over the years.

First, to see who's responding, I want to know what your end goal is for Cisco certs. It needs to be a realistic goal, but it can be long-term. If you can look yourself in the mirror, knowing you've not even begun study for CCNA, and tell yourself your true goal is CCIE, that's great, and answer that way. But if you know that CCNA is as far as you'll reasonably go, that's fine as well - I just want to get some read of who's answering the surveys.

Now, on to the value proposition. I'll leave it up to you to determine "value" - feel free to comment on why you see value, or lack thereof. What I'm after here is your perception of value - you can write comments to day why if you like. But for some attempt at a numeric measurement, here's a survey that asks CCNA specializations have value, don't have value, and one in between answer. The tweener is whether it's of any value to have a cert that shows you are progressing towards one of the CCxP certifications.

Finally, I wanted to broaden the scope a bit with the whole generalist/specialist argument. I blogged about this some a while back (http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/37465). In this earlier post, we discussed whether a multiple CCxP was more valuable than someone with a single CCIE R/S. We had some interesting discussion, and interesting survey math (look to the 2nd page of the blog post for the survey if you follow the link.) Anyway, I think the same analysis might tell us all something about the value of the CCNA specializations. Is someone with 4 CCNA's - the base CCNA plus all three specializations - more or less valuable in the market than someone with a single CCxP cert? (I'll call these "4X CCNA" and "1X CCxP" to make the poll formatting work.)

Answer away, and comment away. I'll let the polls run for a few weeks, past Networkers week next week, and come back to some analysis after Networkers. If you've got anything in particular you want me to ask of the Cisco cert folks while I'm out there, let me know.

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