Life after the CCIE: What's Next?
The CCIE is often considered the Ph.D. of Cisco certifications. We discussed its value to your career and the demands required to achieve becoming a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert in a previous blog post. It's an amazing accomplishment, but there's also the inevitable question — what do you do next?
Here are a few things to do for career progression (and your sanity) once you've accomplished CCIE greatness.
The First Thing: Recover
Take a vacation. You earned it. Like we discussed previously, preparing to test for the CCIE is a grueling, life-consuming process. Months and months of hard work grinding away surely put a strain on your family life, friendships, stress levels, and sleep habits. But it was all worthwhile in the end. You accomplished a big goal and reached a high standard of networking excellence.
What to do first? Take. A. Break. Go away with the family for a long vacation. Reconnect with friends who are unsure if you're still alive. Re-engage with the non-tech based hobbies you've had to put aside. Enjoy glorious sleep, unhindered by dreams of killer packets and route tables. Seriously, work and career accomplishments are important, but the rest of your life is too. Get back into the swing of your real life and away from networking for a while.
Next up: Start Recertification
Now that you're rested up, it's time to face the cold hard truth of certification. Without recertifying, certs expire, and all your time and effort is down the tube. Don't fret though, Cisco is very clear about what their recertification will require. It will benefit you to start planning now, so the two-year deadline doesn't sneak up on you.
The first option for recertifying is earning credits through the Cisco Continuing Education Program. Participants take courses to earn credits, and 100 credits within two years re-certifies you. The course offerings include a variety of breakouts, technical seminars, and instructor-led labs designed to keep your skills sharp and diversify your skill set.
Recertifying with Cisco Certs
Another option? Take another CCIE! It was so fun the first time, why not do it all over again? Like the CCNA and CCNP, the CCIE has separate certifications for different concentrations. Have your CCIE in Routing and Switching? Why not try for Security, Voice, or Data Center next? Each can provide a unique layer of specialization to your already impressive resume.
For example, the Service Provider cert will prepare you to build infrastructure for ISPs, providing managed services to businesses and homes. The Wireless cert goes deep into the nitty-gritty of building and fixing massive and robust Cisco wireless deployments.
The bonus of pursuing a second CCIE? Passing any CCIE written test or lab will automatically recertify all your existing CCIE, CCNP, and CCNA certs. So, it pays dividends to continue up the cert ladder.
Maybe you're ready for something completely different now. Another alternative to both re-up your CCIE and take a step in a new direction is to go after the Cisco Certified Design Expert or CCDE. In Cisco's words, "the CCDE curriculum prepares designers to develop design solutions at the infrastructure level for large customer networks." They place particular emphasis on effectively translating business strategies into evolutionary technical strategies. It's a twist on knowing just technical answers by bringing in the often-messy real-world requirements.
The certification requirements are similar to the CCIE, a two-hour written exam followed by an eight-hour practical lab exam. Don't think you can just sign up at your local testing center, like any other test. CCDE tests are only proctored four times a year at centers featuring special security measures to protect the test assets.
Overall, if you are really a glutton for punishment, don't forget about certifications outside of Cisco as well. To many CCIEs, the certification is a stepping stone into management, where something like the CISSP would serve them better than more Cisco certs.
Succumb to the Siren Song of the Headhunters
Now that you've bagged your CCIE, it might be time to turn that cert into a new opportunity. The CCIE is invaluable when interviewing for expert-level networking jobs.
Passing the CCIE isn't just about the technical knowledge. You took on a huge goal, budgeted your time and sanity over a long period of time, rose up to a challenge faced by few, and came out victorious. That's valuable to employers — and headhunters.
And, yes, the CCIE definitely sets you apart in the field as having expert-level experience and skills. On the salary side, CCIEs do make on average a much higher salary than CCNPs and CCNAs. Keep in mind though, a CCIE isn't a magic big paycheck bullet, someone at that level also brings years of experience to the table. Ultimately, all these certs hold value to your career, but remember to think beyond just a better paycheck. When asked about the value of the CCDE, one astute Redditor commented:
"It depends on how you measure value. Valuation in dollars isn't there, but as a CCIE RS/SP and CCDE myself, the knowledge gained from these 3 journeys has set me head and shoulders over my peers. The certs themselves are just byproducts of the learning."
The CCIE clearly isn't for everyone. But for the select few who accomplish slaying the beast, their careers look bright. That is, after they take a nap and come back from that Disney vacation.