Cisco just moved the target for #CCENT and #CCNA. You’ve been studying, and now you are unsure whether to pursue the old exams, or the new. This post begins the conversation, with four posts planned. (It was going to be one post, but I think there’s just too much to talk about here.) Today, we’ll hit the big picture questions to ask, and ask for a little introspection as to “why CCNA?” and “why CCENT?”
What Can You Do?
First, ignoring what you should do, first think about what you can do, according to Cisco rules.
First, always check Cisco.com for the latest, with most certifications having a handy easy URL, like www.cisco.com/go/certificationname. For example, go to www.cisco.com/go/ccent and www.cisco.com/go/ccna for the two discussed here.
Second, Cisco gave us a new tool, called the Associate-level Exam Logic Tool. You have to look closely, but if you go to either the CCENT or CCNA page above, and search for the words “exam logic tool”, you’ll find a link to a web applet. The applet lets you click on the tests you have passed, both old and new, and it tells you what steps are left to get the next cert.
That said, the rule set is pretty simple, as follows:
Using the two-exam path to CCNA Routing and Switching:
- Pass both old exams before Sept 30th, 2013
- Pass both new exams starting now
- Pass the old ICND1 and the new ICND2 (tough)
- Pass the old ICND2 and then new ICND1 (yes, it’s legal)
Using the one-exam path to CCNA Routing and Switching
- Pass the old exam by Sept 30th
- Pass the new exam anytime starting now
Your specific choice ought to be based on your own goals, compared to where you are in your study right now. To get things started, consider this general advice, after which I’ll drill down a bit based on different types of goals
Don’t plan to pass the old ICND1 Exam and then the new ICND2 Exam.
Why not? It’s just a difficult path to take. Will Cisco allow it? Sure. But the content does not lend itself to a combination of old and new, because Cisco has moved so many topics from ICND2 to ICND1. For instance, for the new ICND2, you will have to be ready to troubleshoot VLANs, VLAN trunking, ACLs, IPv6 addressing, basic IPv6 OSPF, none of which you would have learned for the old ICND1. Check out the other recent posts here in this blog for more details on the content details.
No Matter Which Exams, You Get the Same Certification.
Cisco is clear on this point: no matter whether you take the old, or the new, it’s the same cert. Why do they work to make this clear? Particular with some Professional level certs in the recent past, Cisco actually had the old cert and the new cert. For example, the transition from Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP) to CCNP Security was a challenge to figure out, leaving some people upset about the transition.
Now, CCENT is CCENT, no matter what test you took. CCNA does change names, officially, to CCNA Routing and Switching, but for everyone – even for those who passed the exam before March 26th. So on paper, it looks the same, no matter what path you choose.
Future Market Perception: Are You an Old CCNA?
Once the dust settles, the people who care about Cisco certs may form an opinion about how good a CCENT or CCNA R/S is based on the exam they passed. Or they may not. I see three options forming, and it’s useful to think about all three while considering what to do
First, there may be no difference in perception. Sure, it’s obvious the ICND1 exam has more in it. But after 10,000 take it, and they talk to co-workers, post online, etc, people may say, “it’s about the same”, or they may not. Figure 1 shows a graph of the “no change” option; note that this graphs a guess at the market’s perception of the value of the certs, and is not showing efforts, number of topics, hours to study, etc.
First Option for Perceived Value of CCENT and CCNA Routing and Switching
Second, there may be a pretty quick change in perception that the new certs are better, just because it’s been over five years (August 2007 until March 2013) since Cisco changed the exams. Don’t forget, Cisco also removes some topics from these exams. (Personally, I think they should have removed more, but that’s my opinion). But we may just end up with a permanent view that the new is better than the old just due to age. (Call it age discrimination.)
Figure 2 – Second Option for Perceived Value of CCENT and CCNA Routing and Switching
On paper, the new ICND1 exam has more topics than the old. Frankly, I was shocked when I first saw the exam topics. I know most of the why/wherefores, and can guess at the others. But it’s more. And the exam is still 40-50 questions – clearly Cisco can’t ask you about everything in ICND1 in 50 questions.
I think the increase in exam topics in ICND1 makes ICND1 more of a real certification, rather than just a side effect of the 2-exam path to CCNA. And I think market perception will move more towards Figure 3’s view, with the new CCENT’s value being closer to the old CCNA’s value, but not quite all the way there.
Figure 3 – Third Option for Perceived Value of CCENT and CCNA Routing and Switching
Why mention all these? That market perception may matter more for some of you than for others. Do you work for, or plan to work for, a channel partner or consulting company? Perception matters more. Do you just want the skills? Perception matters less, or not at all. Also, note that if you had struggled with the choice of whether to stop at CCENT, or move on to CCNA, maybe the new CCENT is a better option.
Skill Rules, Certs Drool
…However, to temper that last bit, while market perception matters in some cases, your skills matter always.
As a bit of a tangent, I love an old Dr. Seuss story: The Sneetches. It’s a story about prejudice, and how silly it can be. Sneetches were either Plain-bellied, second-class citizens, or star-bellied upper crust. Or so they thought. And by the end of the story, they realized that what matters is on the inside, not the star on the outside. (And of course, much fun and loss of cash happens while they learn their lesson.)
Getting your CCENT or CCNA with the old exam, instead of the new exam, does not make you a 2nd-class, plain-bellied Sneetch. That is, you are no less valuable based on the letters on your resume or the number of the exam. What does matter? The inside.
What’s on your inside related to CCENT or CCNA?
Did you actually internalize how ARP works? Can you describe the data link frame addresses, and IP header addresses, of messages flowing from A to B through 5 switches and 4 routers? Can you configure OSPFv2, and then explain why it works? Can you explain why a switch forwards a frame where it does, in the presence of VLANs, port security, VLAN trunks, and VTP transparent mode?
In short, when it comes time to interview for a job, and do that job, skills rule. Whatever path you take, or exams you take, keep the skill-building goal at the front of the list. Passing is important, but the real-world skills are important, too.
Take Time Now, Not Later, to Think about Your Goals
To wrap up today’s post, this next topic gets up towards the next three posts: why do you care about this stuff in the first place?
What were your goals before Cisco announced changes to CCENT and CCNA? Do you want to concentrate on Routing and Switching, going for CCNP R/S, and maybe even CCIE R/S? Or for other R/S-focused certs, like the SP and SP Ops tracks? Or do you plan to go wide sooner, moving on to voice, security, or wireless? Or was CCENT or CCNA where you planned to stop with Cisco certs, as part of a plan to get certs throughout the world of IT?
Do not stop studying, but spend some time thinking about your goals. If your path is clear, great! Post and let me know why you chose your path. For the rest of you, stay tuned for the next three posts in this blog discussing the following:
- Going Deep in Routing and Switching
- Going Wide to Security, Voice, Etc
- Going Wide in IT, with CCENT/CCNA my Only Cisco Cert
I may not get to the next one this week, with Good Friday and Easter this weekend, but if not, look for all three of these the week of April 1st.