With the advent of the so-called Internet of Things, promising to connect everything from household appliances to wearables tracking health and vital signs, this may be one of the most exciting times to be a network design professional.
Add in the fact that IT employment statistics are on the rebound, with tech jobs accounting for 11 percent of all job openings as of the third quarter of 2014, and the network development field is an appealing career path.
While it may seem logical to jump into a specific role once you enter the job market, it's a good strategy to take time to investigate various career options. Certification can be a must-have for various tech roles, and can prove to be an extra advantage when in the job market..
The Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) certification program is one of the best-known and respected in the network design field. According to Cisco itself, its certified professionals may earn more than they did before earning the certification, which the network vendor says is the highest salary boost of any certification program.
The Cisco certification program offers certification in network engineering/design at three levels -- associate, professional and expert. As with many certification programs Cisco advises IT professionals to have at least six months to nine months job experience before embarking on the CCDP path.
Several months of on-the job experience provide a good baseline and skill set foundation for the required course work in a CCDP certification program. An active Cisco Certified Design Association (CCDA) certification acts as a prerequisite for this certification. The CCDA exam (640-864 DESGN) does not require completion of a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) but Cisco recommends an understanding of Cisco Certified Network Associate (CNA) material.
The CCDP certification requires the following exams.
- 642-902 ROUTE: Implementing Cisco IP Routing
- 642-813 SWITCH: Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks
- 642-874 ARCH: Designing Cisco Network Service Architecture
Cisco CCDA and CCNA Routing and Switching or any Cisco CCIE cert can serve as a prerequisite. After passing CCNP and CCDA, the CCDP requires the 642-874 ARCH.
Training for CCDP certification can be done via Cisco Networking Academy in traditional classroom settings featuring instructor-led training located nationwide and online training. Many colleges and universities also offer Cisco courses. All certifications have official books called Certification Guides released by Cisco Press.
For those interested in certifying on the expert level Cisco offers CCIE Design. This program is geared toward those interested in designing routed and switched networks with a very high degree of specialization.
According to September 2014 data from the Department of Professional Employees, more than half of network designers have a bachelor's degree and nearly 40 percent have a master's degree for the network design career.
CCDP Exam Format
The pre-requisite exams are a mix of multiple choice, drag and drop, simulations etc, and vary in length and questions depending on the specific exam. Cisco certification exams are scored using a scale of 300 to 1,000, and passing typically requires scoring at least 850 points. The exams are typically two hours and tests feature 35 to 45 questions.
Exams questions range from analyzing campus network design to minimizing loss and theft of a campus network to deploying voice and video on a campus network. Questions may also include skills tied to policy based routing to implementing basic teleworker and branch services. The CCDP exam is a 120-minute test, which costs $250 in the U.S. and features 60 multiple-choice questions.
Cisco certs are valid for three years. After this time the candidate must re-certify in order to remain CCDP qualified. Cisco provides several ways to re-certify, including retaking equivalent CCDP exams or a higher-level Cisco cert.
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