Cisco Revamps Certifications Program To Meet Demand For Security, Voice, Wireless Experts

"An overwhelming percentage of enterprises -- around 80 percent -- are looking for dedicated roles in security, and about 70 percent [are looking] for voice, video and wireless," explained Ramesh Bijor, product marketing manager at Cisco. "So Cisco has been working over the last few years, and looking at what can we do to train the next group of engineers to fill the talent gap in these areas."

While network analysts and administrators have traditionally been the ones overseeing security, voice and wireless initiatives, Bijor said, this is no longer the case. CIOs are starting to seek out dedicated experts in these three areas, allowing network administrators to focus more exclusively on tasks like networking troubleshooting and debugging.

[Related: Cisco Rides Data Center, Wireless To Strong Q2 ]

As a result, Cisco is rebranding its entry-level CCNA program as "CCNA Routing and Switching," and it is revamping the curriculum in the program to focus more intensely on tasks like implementing Cisco networking gear, performing fault isolation and troubleshooting system administration issues.

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The new CCNA Routing and Switching program is also being updated to include content related to newer networking technologies, such as Cisco IOS version 15 and IPv6.

Meanwhile, Cisco is streamlining the process by which partners and other networking professionals can take courses specific to security, voice and wireless technologies.

"For the security, wireless and voice people -- who used to evolve from the route and switch world -- we have actually created a direct path so they can get to their security, wireless and voice areas much faster, with the right level of talent requirements," said Tejas Vashi, director of product management at Cisco. "The security person isn't the one troubleshooting the network anymore."

Cisco is doing this, Vashi said, by slashing the testing requirements for its CCNA Security, CCNA Voice and CCNA Wireless programs. Formerly, participants in these programs would have to complete two exams specific to basic routing and switching concepts -- the ICND1 and ICND2 -- in addition to a third exam specific to their area of concentration. Starting today, participants no longer need to take the ICND2.

"We have given them the ability to get right to security [or wireless or voice] without having to know things they don't necessary have to for their jobs," Vashi said.

Lastly, Cisco said its Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) certification program for network design engineers will require a valid Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification as of October 1, 2013. Vashi said the change is being made because network design engineers today are required to know more about basic routing and switching technologies than in the past.

"If you're a design person, you have a much more complex network to design today than you did just five years ago," Vashi told CRN. "Therefore, we want to make sure the design people have an appropriate base understanding of routing and switching as well."

Vashi said Associate-level certifications are necessary for any Cisco channel partner looking to enroll in the vendor's specialization programs. What's more, all Cisco certifications must be renewed every three years.

The changes rolled out Tuesday only apply to Cisco's Associate-level certifications, not its higher-level Professional and Expert certification programs.