Whether you're just entering the IT job market, or have a few years' experience and looking to carve out a niche role to advance your career, there's no better time to a network professional.
After a few tough years tied to recession economics the IT field is bouncing back with more jobs, higher salaries and a growing demand for specific talent in areas such networking. Business are striving to boost mobility in and out of the enterprise, consumers are demanding expanded network access and the advent of the Internet of Things promises has made network connectivity a top priority for both big and small enterprises.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average unemployment rate at 2.5 percent in the third quarter of 2014 for tech professionals, a healthy drop from the overall employment rate of 3.6 percent in 2013.Among network certifications, one of the most highly regarded is the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). The networking vendor's certification program offers five levels, from entry and associate to professional, expert and architect. The levels are divided into nine subject tracks: routing and switching, security, design, data center, wireless and video to name a few.
The Cisco CCNP Routing and Switching cert is aimed at network engineers who want to spend their workdays planning, installing, configuring, verifying and troubleshooting Local Area Networks (LANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs) that are now connecting anywhere from 100 to 500 more end devices.
What a CCNP certification provides
With a CCNP Routing and Switching certification, IT professionals have the potential to work as a network administrator, network engineer or network analyst. Part of the cert includes attaining skills in using the following protocols:
- Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP)
- Open Shortest Path First (OSPF)
- Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)
- Serial Line Interface Protocol
- Ethernet channels
- Network security technologies
In the CCNP Routing and Switching program students are typically certified to supporting business-critical services like switch virtualization and scalable VPN technologies. These services are typically needed to support branch offices and to enable the mobile workforce.
A CCNP cert validates a network professional's ability to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks and work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions.
Cisco advises IT professionals to have at least six months to nine months' job experience before pursuing the CCNP path. Cisco recommends network professionals interested in the CCNP Routing and Switching certification attain at least one year of networking experience.
Obtaining CCNP Routing and Switching certification indicates one has demonstrated skills typically required in enterprise roles such as network engineer, support engineer, systems engineer or network technician. Routing and switching protocol knowledge can provide a valuable set of skills for building, managing and troubleshooting today's physical networks and tomorrow's virtualized network functions.
CCNP certification exam
Once completed, network professionals must pass three separate exams for CCNP certification. In July 2014 Cisco revamped its CCNP exams and courses in light of changing industry job roles and issued new exams, labeled as v2.0 exams. The updated CCNP Routing and Switching cert provides professionals with extensive knowledge and needed skills to build, manage and troubleshoot everything from a LAN and WAN with Expand on IPv6 to Cisco StackWise, VSS and DMVPN technologies.
In order to attain CCNP certification, network professionals must pass these required exams:
- 300-101 ROUTE: Implementing Cisco IP Routing (ROUTE)
- 300-115 SWITCH: Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (SWITCH)
- 300-135 TSHOOT: Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks (TSHOOT)
The fee for each professional level exam is $250. Exams typically take 120 minutes. Exam question formats include traditional multiple-choice questions, drag-and-drop type questions and simulation questions. Exam questions range from the type of frame needed for multiple stations (a multiple choice question with potential answers being unicast, multicast and broadcast) to the command needed for configuring the default gateway on a Catalyst 2900XL switch.
The exams can be taken in any order, but the Cisco-recommended order is for network professionals to take the ROUTE and SWITCH before the TSHOOT course, as the latter incorporates knowledge from ROUTE and SWITCH into the lab scenarios used for course work.
"IT jobs outlook: High demand, higher salaries," InfoWorld, January 27, 2015, http://www.infoworld.com/article/2875516/it-careers/it-jobs-high-demand-higher-salaries.html
"Tech pros ride hot hiring streak into new year," InfoWorld, January 20, 2015, http://www.infoworld.com/article/2872701/it-jobs/hiring-streak-stays-hot-for-tech-pros.html
"Goodbye, CCNP: Say Hello to the New CCNP Routing and Switching," Intense School, July 29, 2014, http://resources.intenseschool.com/ccnp-retirement-say-welcome-to-new-ccnp-routing-and-switching/
"What Do Exams Costs?" The Cisco Learning Network, January 2015, https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-12825
"CCNP 642-811 Practice Test," About.com Tech Certification, January 2015, http://certification.about.com/library/quiz/bl_ccnp642811.htm
"CCNP Routing and Switching," Global Knowledge, January 2015, http://www.globalknowledge.com/training/certification_listing.asp?pageid=12&certid=290
"CCNP Routing and Switching Certification," The Cisco Learning Center, January 2015, https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/community/certifications/ccnp