Cisco certifications are a massive boost to your IT career. There’s no replacement for hands-on experience. But certs like these demonstrate, and provide hiring managers with concrete evidence of, your technical skills and expertise. And because of the hands-on work you need to undertake to gain the Professional and Expert level certifications.
Cisco offers a variety of certifications that are generally split into three categories. Associate, Professionals and Expert level certifications. Chief among them being the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), the CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) and the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert).
What are the different levels of Cisco Qualifications?
The CCNA, CCNP and CCIE certifications outline the typical route of progression for IT professionals across the breadth of the IT industry who work with Cisco systems: From Network and Infrastructure, to Cyber Security and Software Development.
While Cisco offers additional certifications such as the entry level CCT, we’re focusing on the aforementioned three, as these are the most highly requested Cisco certifications we see here at Dynamic, and are the three that will help you in your career the most.
CCNA – Cisco Certified Network Associate
The CCNA is a fantastic certification for someone who is just starting out in their IT career, and is a foundational certification that is required for many junior roles. Cisco advises having one year of experience working with Cisco systems before attempting to earn the certification.
A CCNA certification shows employers that the certificate holder understands the fundamentals of networking, IP services, security, automation and programmability: Without forcing you to specialise into one particular area of Cisco systems.
The exam itself covers the widest array of topics compared to later certifications. This is due to Cisco combining all the previous associate level certifications (CCNA Wireless, CCNA Security etc.) into one more general certification, back in 2020.
For more information on the CCNA including how and why you should earn one, have a look at our complete guide on how to prepare for the CCNA here.
CCNP – Cisco Certified Network Professional
The CCNP is typically the next step in your career as a network professional. It is a more advanced certification that requires a much deeper understanding of working with Cisco systems. While the CCNA isn’t required to undertake a CCNP, it is generally advised.
Unlike the CCNA, the CCNP also offers you the opportunity to specialise into the area that is most beneficial for your chosen career, whether that’s cyber security, enterprise networks or data management.
If the CCNP is the next step in your IT career, then have a look at our complete guide here; for a breakdown of why you should earn your CCNP, and how to prepare for your CCNP.
CCIE – Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert
The CCIE is the highest level of technical certification offered by Cisco, and one of the most prestigious certifications in the networking industry. It recognises you as an expert in your chosen area of networking, and is an extremely desirable certification for employers.
You likely won’t find it on many “10 Highest Paying Certifications” lists due to how few there are out there. But part of the CCIE’s prestige is due to the time and money it takes to earn, and the difficulty in obtaining one.
Given the extensive cost of attempting and the difficulty of the CCIE exams, it can take years of studying before people attempt the exam. Cisco advises having at least “five to seven years of experience with designing, deploying, operating and optimising enterprise networking technologies and solutions…”
For everything you need to know about the CCIE exam including a breakdown of the exam format, the time and cost of earning the certification, and the benefits of earning your CCIE then have a look at our comprehensive guide here.
How Much Does it Cost to Become Cisco Qualified
“How much does it cost to earn your Cisco Certification?” is a valid question, because Cisco certifications aren’t cheap, and only become more expensive as you progress. Unfortunately, while there is the simple answer of how much each exam costs, the cost of time spent
Studying for the progressively harder exams isn’t so simple.
Despite the cost and time spent earning them though, Cisco qualifications such as the CCNA, CCNP and CCIE are incredibly worthwhile certifications to earn. The job opportunities and increased salaries that become available to you when you earn the next level of qualification are substantial, and these certifications quickly pay for themselves.
And businesses that are Cisco Partners are required to have a certain number of Cisco certified professionals in their business. This gives businesses yet another reason to than just their skills and knowledge.
CCNA Exam Cost UK
The CCNA exam, the 200 – 301 CCNA, costs £246 + VAT per attempt. This puts the CCNA exam as the least expensive Cisco certification by a large margin. However it should be noted that this is per attempt, so repeated failures can become costly.
The bigger cost of earning CCNA certification comes from the training and time you need to invest into studying for it. There are a wide range of courses online and some even offered by Cisco such as the Implementing and Administering Solutions (£613) and the CCNA Preparation Bundle (£904). These courses are specifically designed to prepare you for the CCNA exam.
CCNP Exam Cost – UK
As Cisco’s midweight certification the CCNP unsurprisingly sits in the middle of the three on our list in terms of price. The CCNP consist of two separate exams you must pass to become CCNP certified:
First is the CCNP core exam of your chosen CCNP certification, costing £320 + VAT. For example, to earn the CCNP Enterprise you must pass the 350 – 401 ENCOR exam. Everyone who earns a CCNP Enterprise will pass this exam. The 350 – 401 ENCOR exam is also the qualifying exam for the expert level Cisco Enterprise certifications, the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure and CCIE Enterprise Wireless.
Second is the CCNP concentration exam, costing £240 + VAT. Each CCNP certification has six CCNP concentration exams to choose from that allow you to specialise even further into the area of IT that interests you; but don’t worry, you still only need to pass one concentration exam.
CCIE Exam Cost – UK
Last, but certainly not least, is Cisco’s highest level of certification and the hardest and most expensive to obtain, the CCIE. Similar to the CCNP, the CCIE exam has two parts.
First is the CCIE qualifying written exam, again, costing £320 + VAT per attempt.
If you have previously earned your CCNP Enterprise certification, then the core exam, the 350 – 401 ENCOR exam, would count as the qualifying exam for a CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure or CCIE Enterprise Wireless.
So while it is not a prerequisite to earn your CCNP certification before attempting for your CCIE certification, it is the generally recommended path for IT professionals working with Cisco systems.
However, passing the 350 – 401 ENCOR exam only counts towards the CCIE certification if taken and passed in the last three years. So if over three years have passed since you earned your CCNP, then you’ll have to recertify.
CCIE Exam Part 2: The CCIE Lab Exam
Then comes the infamous CCIE lab exam.
This is the only Cisco exam that must be taken in person, whereas all the previous exams have remote options. So there are additional costs such as accommodation and travel costs that should be factored into the actual cost of taking your lab exam.
The CCIE lab exam costs either £1,300 or £1,500, depending on where and how you take your exam:
- You can take your CCIE lab exam at one of Cisco’s nine Lab locations around the world, costing £1300.
- You can take your CCIE lab exam at one of Cisco’s more numerous Mobile Lab locations, costing £1500: These are temporary lab locations with specific dates on which you can take your CCIE lab exam, so look here for scheduling information.
- Finally, you can take your exam at a Cisco mobile lab and opt to BYOD, ‘Bring Your Own Device’. This makes your exam cheaper, at £1300, and gives you the comfort of taking the exam on your own hardware. It does mean however, that there are certain requirements your hardware must meet.
The CCIE, as the most senior of the three, is the most expensive by far. This is even before you take into consideration the numerous other costs: travelling to a Cisco Lab location, CCIE training courses and learning materials, buying or renting hardware for you to practise lab scenarios on, and the fact it takes on average 2 – 3 attempts to pass the CCIE lab exam.
Earning your CCIE certification can cost upwards of £10,000 over time. So it’s wise to be absolutely certain that you want to dedicate so much time to your speciality, instead of broadening your skillset with a complimentary, second CCNP.
How Much is Cisco Certification Worth in the UK?
So we’ve discussed how much Cisco qualifications cost to earn and it can certainly be a lot: So are Cisco certifications worth it in 2022?
According to Global Knowledge’s Salary and Skills Report, IT professionals who obtain new certifications see an average salary increase of £10,000. This quickly offsets the financial cost of any new certification. And later certifications like the CCNP and the CCIE aren’t just any certification. These can come with huge financial gains and increases of employability.
Tied to this increase in salary, is the opportunities that come with receiving new certification. Between two candidates with similar years of experience, skill sets, proficiency in technologies, one with a CCNA and one with a CCNP Enterprise Infrastructure; for hiring managers it’s a no brainer.
Of course, earning new certification is more than just a financial gain. In fact the top three benefits IT professionals saw of receiving certification training were improvement in the quality of work (49%), finding their work more engaging (32%), and being faster at their job (27%).
IT certifications indicate that an individual is motivated to put time, effort, and money into improving their job performance: Attractive qualities to employers, aside from just the skills and knowledge that come with certifications.
CCNA Salary – UK
The average salary for a CCNA holder in the UK is £35,000. Of course, this is subject to variability based on multiple factors including: location, years of experience, other complimentary certifications you have, experience with other technologies and of course, your chosen career.
Lets look at a Network Engineer for example, a role that typically works with Cisco software. A Network Engineer could see a salary range from £25,000 at entry level, to up to £50,000 depending on experience and other factors.
Here at Dynamic, the jobs we hire for that require a CCNA regularly offer as much as £45,000, occasionally even higher for more specialist positions with additional complimentary certifications and skills. However, to reach higher salaries and more senior positions, you are likely going to have to gain higher levels of certification; such as the CCNP.
CCNP Salary – UK
The CCNP is the next logical step in the career of an IT professional working with Cisco systems, and qualifies you for more senior positions and the higher salaries that come with.
The average CCNP salary here in the UK is £48,000, a sizable leap from the average CCNA salary. However this is lower than the roles we recruit for here at Dynamic, with CCNP certified Network Engineers regularly earning upwards of £55,000.
Earning your CCNP certification allows you to specialise more into your chosen field, compared to the more general CCNA qualification, which is reflected in the differences in salary ranges when compared to the salary ranges of CCNA. Those with many years of experience working at a CCNP level or with multiple CCNPs can earn as much as £80,000.
CCIE Salary – UK
The average CCIE salary in the UK is £71,000. This increase in salary is much larger than the salary increase from CCNA to CCNP, and reflects just how exclusive and desirable a CCIE is to an employer.
Earning your CCIE certification can raise your pay ceiling to upwards of £100,000 depending on experience, location etc. For example, roles such as a Lead Network Architect that are willing to pay up to £120,000 for an architect with a CCIE. With the average that we see being around £80,000. Although this is likely to only increase as time progresses.
And of course the benefits of earning a CCIE aren’t just financial. Because of the CCIE certification’s exclusivity and desirability, it gives you much more bargaining power in your current role, as well as looking for a new job. This could be flexibility in working, the technologies you’ll get to work with or the projects you work on.
So, CCNP or CCIE?
There are some arguments to be made in the debate between CCNP or CCIE. Whether it is more valuable for your career to go for the prestigious CCIE or a second CCNP. Earning your CCNP certification is no small accomplishment. But earning a CCIE is an altogether different challenge and can take over your life for a year or more.
The traditional path for someone working in Network, Infrastructure and Cyber Security has always been fairly straightforward; earn your CCNA – CCNP – CCIE in your respective career route. But it may be worth expanding your skillset and earning a second CCNP in complementary technology instead of working towards your CCIE certification.
Mark Leary, former Directing Analyst of ‘Learning & Certification Services’ at Cisco, discusses the advantages of earning multiple CCNPs. “A double major in networking and security is a very valuable thing”.
The traditional route was to progress through the certifications, earn a CCIE, and become an expert in one area. But Mark argues that the IT industry has evolved and it’s important to factor this into your career plan. “The biggest permanent change of the pandemic is that networking and security teams are working more closely together. If you ask IT executives, someone who’s very good at both is more valuable to them than someone who is great at only one thing.”
Earning your CCIE is a difficult and long endeavour. But it can be incredibly rewarding. And for more reasons than just the financial reward. But whether it’s more worthwhile to aim for your CCIE or a second CCNP depends on you, your career goals, and the ever changing IT landscape.