Certificate Packs PunchBy Ram Tackett
Router and internetworking aficionados take notice: If you're looking for a way to boost your earning potential, you may want to consider becoming a Certified Cisco Internetwork Expert. According to Joe Pinto, senior director of global-support engineering at Cisco Systems Inc., , tacking the letters CCIE behind your name can increase your salary by as much as 10 percent to 15 percent.
It's no wonder that the San Jose, Calif.-based company packs so much punch behind its certification program. Cisco's total internetworking market share is more than 21 percent, nearly twice that of its nearest competitors, 3Com Corp. and Bay Networks Inc., according to Strategic Networks Consulting in Rockland, Mass.
But be forewarned: The certification isn't for everyone. Unless you consider yourself in the top 10 percent to 15 percent of the internetworking elite, Pinto says you may find yourself treading in deep water. More than 4,900 people have attempted certification since Cisco tossed its hat into the vendor-certification ring more than three years ago, but only 1,400 have succeeded in attaining the CCIE title.
Candidates must first pass a written test administered through Drake Prometric Testing Centers, which covers internetworking, maintenance, and support.
After passing the test, candidates must complete a two-day lab exam offered in San Jose; Raleigh, N.C.; Brussels, Belgium; Sydney, Australia; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Tokyo.
It's the lab element that distinguishes this certification from others in the industry. Designed to give candidates real-world experience under the gun, lab drills put them into difficult build, break, and restore situations.
If you want to take a stab at the CCIE, you're advised to have two to three years of networking experience under your belt. Aft er that, most candidates take 18 months to two years to get certified.
The tough program is not for beginners, according to James Lukesh, a CCIE who works as a principal network engineer at US West Communications Inc. in Englewood, Colo. "I passed my initial test, but don't be discouraged if you fail to pass on the first try," Lukesh advised. "I know several excellent people who didn't pass the exam at first."
Cisco's Pinto estimates that 57 percent of the students pass the written test, and 61 percent go on to pass the labs.
The total cost of the program depends on your experience. The Drake test costs around $100, and the labs cost $1,000. Background training classes, if necessary, cost an additional $5,000 to $7,000.
Once you're certified, the CCIE brings several tangible and intangible benefits. You get peer access when you call into the Cisco support center, which means you get to bypass the company's front-line support. You'll be invited to extremely technical, invitation-only CCIE c onferences. And you get entrance to a CCIE-only chat forum on Cisco Connection On-line.
For continuing certification, Cisco will soon offer current CCIEs four options: They can either return and take the lab test again, or they can take one of three Drake online exams, which cover IBM's SNA architecture, switching, or ISP (Internet service provider) technology.
If you want to learn more about the CCIE, visit http://www.cisco.com/warp/public/625/ccie/index.htmlor send E-mail to mailto:email@example.com.
Ram Tackett is an industry analyst at Currid & Co., an IT consulting company in Houston. Contact him at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.