Preparing for your CCNA journey opens our eyes to what networking truly is. We start on the path of routing and switching, learning different topology architectures and more in what takes place at each layer of the OSI model. But once you’ve conquered the CCNA exam, one question should enter your mind if it hasn’t already. What other worlds beyond networking are there? What paths await you on your IT journey? I’ll review some of the different paths you can follow past your CCNA certification and some different areas you could begin studying after you’ve completed the exam.
When Cisco redesigned their certification paths in 2020, there were many questions that arose. But one of the biggest was how would the certification paths differ from the past? The answer: multiple areas were restructured to focus on five different specializations past the associate level: Service Provider, Data Center, Enterprise, Security, and Collaboration. These exams are structured in two parts. Your core exam focusing on the primary area, and then a concentration exam of your choosing into many different areas of those exams. Each path essential to our industry, lets take a closer look at what these specializations are.
CCNP Service Provider
The 350-501 SPCOR exam is focused on more service provider technologies. Ranging from core architecture, services, quality of service & security are just a few of the areas covered in this exam. This was designed and geared more towards engineers or specialists for a service provider, in delivering better services and newer technologies to customers all over. If growing in the provider arena is where you want to be, SPCOR is defiantly going to be your next stop on your certification journey. I haven’t looked much into the service provider side of these certs, but if you’re looking to expand your skill set or this your primary area of expertise, I would advise to check out some of the different areas of focus more in depth to decide if service provider is the right fit for you. The authorized Cisco training for this specialization is Implementing and Operating Cisco Service Provider Network Core Technologies (SPCOR).
CCNP Data Center
The 350-601 DCCOR exam is for professionals working in data center environments and looking to expand their skills in implementing LAN and SAN infrastructures. Touching base on the fundamentals of automation, security as well, the DCCOR specialization will also give you a ton of exposure to different technologies such as MDS and Nexus switches, blade servers and rack servers among a list of other topics which you’ll explore more in depth in the concentration areas. The CIsco authorized training for this specialization is Implementing and Operating Cisco Data Center Core Technologies (DCCOR).
I haven’t decided what’s next for me after my CCNA, but this is one of the two exams I’m heavily considering once its completed. The 350-401 ENCOR exam is in my opinion an exam some or most professionals look to first in my opinion. It takes what you’ve learned on your journey to the CCNA and furthers it with more detail into advanced topics of routing and switching, including SD-WAN which is a huge topic. Also, it touches on design in enterprise level networks, wireless and automating tasks in your day to day work. If you start anywhere after your CCNA, I would recommend looking to enterprise and branch out from there once completed. The Cisco authorized training for this specialization is Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies (ENCOR).
The second of the possible paths I may take is the 350-701 SCOR exam and specialization, which will test your will and knowledge of all security infrastructures. Once that’s completed, you’ll move into more concentrated areas of security such as next-gen features, ISE, different security appliances, and VPN solutions to broaden your skill set in this arena. The Cisco authorized training for this specialization is Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies (SCOR).
I can tell you from working briefly on some collaboration projects in my day to day work that it’s an entirely different breed in itself. I can only imagine the 350-801 CLCOR exam is no different. For even the most experienced professionals, the collaboration certifications, focused on applications, call control and mobility services, and edge-based solutions, will test you. The Cisco authorized training for this specialization is Implementing and Operating Cisco Collaboration Core Technologies (CLCOR).
One of the most exciting things about any of these paths is the feeling once you’ve completed any of them. There’s one key area that ties into all of them that you’ll constantly hear me talk about which is automation. No matter which path you choose, automation plays such a big role since almost any task can be automated. Once those CCNP studies are done, I would strongly suggest checking out the incredible DevNet certification paths to expand your mind and tool sets. There’s quite a few Cisco authorized DevNet training to help you along the way.
One of the biggest problems I have is I want to learn everything. I know we’ve all faced that problem or have yet to experience it. But when you do, its okay. I say embrace it. Learning these amazing technologies will take you down different paths, and into challenging and uncharted territories. We may not be ready for. But like any journey, the further we go the more our minds expand. It’s only then we realize, be it our certification challenges or day to day struggles, these are merely obstacles placed in our way to overcome and conquer. Learn from it and grow as professionals.