Deep and Wide - and Which Wide Choice - for Networking Jobs Today?

Discussion and Options for Two Key Cisco Cert Decision Points

As you grow your networking career, and if you embrace the idea of getting Cisco certifications to validate those skills on paper at least, then you have lots of choices to make. "Networking" is such a broad term today, with many job skills, and it is unreasonable to expect very many people to truly master all of what we consider to be Networking today. Cisco has certs that match up to a lot of those technology siciplines. Today I'll wrap up this brief series about career issues with a look at what disciplines to consider at two important inflection points of our Cisco cert journey - what to do after CCNA, and what to do after your first CCxP - with focus on how it helps you get that next job.

The previous blog in this post discussed some of the challenges of determining the true supply of jobs for a given skillset; feel free to comment further there. After noodling for a way to do something similar with the supply of networkers, I don't see a good way that fits my constraints. Cisco doesn't post stats about the number of certified folks, and to get a true read, I'd need to invest a lot of time and maybe some $.

I've settled for a tried but true mechnism - polls. It's not scientific, but we have large enough potential sample set to make it meaningful - at least more meaningful than our individual experiences can tell us. The polls should tell us some measurements of our collective experiences, and give us some insights.

(By the way, if you didn't see this week's Computer World article, "11 Hot Skills for 2011", by Stacy Collett about hot skills for 2011, it's worth the read. It lists 11 skills, about half of which have noticable networking content.)

I'm posing two sets of two polls today. The first pair look at the day after you pass CCNA. At that point, you have some simple but uncertain choices to make: go broad, or go deep? Do you stay with the route/switch track, and move on to CCNP? Do you pick one other technology, and work towards CCxP in that space? Or do you truly go broad, and go for multiple CCNAs?

(By the way, CCxP isn't a Cisco term or cert - it's just a shorthand way to write "any Cisco Professional Level Cert, most of which have a 4-letter acronym CC-something-P.")

To make the polls work a little better, I'm going to take some literary license. First, Cisco offers two Service Provider focused CCNP tracks - CCIP and CCNP SP Operations. I'm going to treat them as one category, since they both drive you towards jobs working for a Service Provider. Second, I'm listing a technology discipline - Data Center Networking (DCN) - for which Cisco has specialization certs, but not career certs. In other words, there's no CCNA DCN, or CCNP DCN, etc. This is clearly a big technology area for Cisco, and there's already plenty of specialization cert exams from Cisco in this track.

(Disclaimer: This is NOT an announcement of Cisco's plans - it's just an obvious area to build skills and get a job.)

When answering, put on your "get a job now" hat. Two weeks ago, our polls revealed that 75% of us thought that getting the next job was the number 1 reason for making a choice of what Cisco cert to get next. For today's polls, make that the only consideration, and consider it for your local job market. The first poll simply compares the deep vs wide strategy, while the 2nd examines the question of "which technology" if you choose to go deep rather than broad. Feel free to also post whys and wherefores as well.

The second poll (above) should be interesting in comparing CCNP vs the other professional level certs. CCNP has been around the longest, and as we discussed last post, CCNP gets the most hits on job sites compared to other professional level Cisco certs. On the other hand, more people pursue CCNP than the other CCxP certs, so the supply of workers is greater. Although Cisco doesn't publish stats, there are many ways to gauge the popularity of CCxP certs, and CCNP is the most popular professional level cert. You can look at the number of classes scheduled for cert classes by a single learning partner. You can look at bookseller web sites and look at rankings for the bestselling book for each cert. From that kind of info, it appears that CCNP is still the most popular Cisco professional level cert. But does that mean it's the best choice to get a job today? Weigh in above!

For this next pair of polls, let's assume it's a year further into a typical career path for someone who's embracing the idea of Cisco certs. They passed CCNA a year ago, they chose 1 technology area, and just finished their CCxP for that discipline. Now they have a similar choice - go broad, or go deep.

This time, we'll compare someone with three total CCxP certs vs someone that went deep into a single CCIE. Then we'll toss out a comparison of candidates that chose particular CCIE tracks. Again, I'm combining both SP tracks into one for the polling, and creating a new CCIE DCN (Data Center Networking) on Cisco's behalf. (Think of it as CCIE Storage with the other DC stuff thrown in.)

As before, keep the "get the next job now" hat on when answering, and tell us why in your market your choice seems to make sense. Anecdotes invited. Thanks!

August Posts:

Measuring the Supply Side of the Networking Job Market

What to Consider After Passing CCNA

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