Cisco says less than 3 percent of Cisco professionals hold CCIE certification and those folks represent only about 1 percent of all networking professionals worldwide.

Sounds like a pretty elite group, right?

Well, it is. That’s because the CCIE is the mother of all Cisco certifications. Pairing both a day-long lab with an intense written examination, those who have taken it will tell you its difficulty is not for the faint of heart, with the majority of CCIE takers typically prepping from six to 12 months in advance.

The CCIE elite—What does it mean?

Widely recognized as the premiere level of Cisco education, CCIE Certification is both the most distinguished and most difficult to obtain IT certification there is. Those with this designation have historically been viewed as experts in their field as well as being among the highest paid IT professionals.

It should be noted though, the prestige of CCIE certification has begun to shift in recent years as more early career IT professionals have begun obtaining advanced credentials. For example, getting CCNA certified is highly valued in the industry. Here’s how to get your CCNA certification.

Does CCIE matter anymore?

Originally intended to demonstrate a serious level of skill and expertise in the industry, CCIE certification was something only attempted once you had spent many years, working hands-on, in networking. It was that level of experience, paired with the ability to pass such a rigid exam that earned CCIE holders their well-deserved reputation.

Nowadays though, despite the difficulty of the CCIE exam, many unqualified or early career applicants are taking the exam as a point of entry to network engineering, with little to no hands-on experience. Still, they have managed to pass the exam, understanding or putting to memory theoretical concepts, without any real working knowledge of those concepts.

This disconnection of the certification from the real life skill level and experience that once existed in tandem with CCIE credentials has begun to erode or devalue the certification itself, acting more as proof of understanding of Cisco command syntax, than true expertise in the arena.

This means, if you want to truly be apart of that elite club, you need to have both the practical experience and the CCIE certification to back it up.

Currently, Cisco offers seven different expert level certificates:

  • CCIE Collaboration
  • CCIE Data Center
  • CCIE Routing & Switching
  • CCIE Security
  • CCIE Service Provider
  • CCIE Wireless
  • CCDE

Should you get CCIE certified?

So, is obtaining your CCIE still worth it or not? Well, the truth is, it all depends on you. Maybe a better question is the one posed by Certification Magazine: Is CCIE the Right Certification for Your IT Networking Career?

In today’s market, whether or not it will be of worth to you (money and effort-wise) depends on your serious evaluation of a number of factors, including your current career status and future goals, your experience level in the industry, the status of the IT market you’re working in, and what’s currently happening in the industry. Does having CCIE certification align with your current goals, skill set, and availability at this point in your career?

How to get your CCIE

In I-Medita Learning Solutions’ post, 10 Tips to Pass CCIE in First Attempt, tips were given by CCIE Certified professionals for passing your CCIE the first time around. Summit included five of our own best tips below.

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1. Learning from experienced CCIE Trainers

Those who have gone before you are an invaluable resource. They know the experience of both taking AND giving the CCIE and they have likely picked up a few “Dos and Dont’s” over the years that could really assist you along the way. Pay attention to what subjects they call out as most important, as well as what they counsel not to waste your time on.

2. Get in the lab

Rigorous lab training is a must when it comes to attempting the CCIE—especially since you’ll need “the least of 500 hours of regular lab training to clear the CCIE Lab Examination.” Lab practice will give you hands-on practical experience that can help you really internalize these concepts and develop a true understanding of them. I-Medita recommends at least five to six hours of lab practice every day (with proper training).

3. Keep current

When you work in technology, there is no sitting on your laurels and getting comfortable. You need to keep your mind and your skillset nimble by staying up-to-date with the latest information. Remember, the CCIE is updated regularly and the exam version is changed to coincide with current technology and best practices. Make sure you know which exam you are preparing for and that you are practicing on the same lab equipment and software used in during lab examinations. You can check these details when you schedule your CCIE lab exam.

4. Plan—don’t cram

Not enough can be said for a solid plan of attack and good time management when it comes to preparing for your CCIE. This is not your college finals—pulling an all-nighter fueled by loads of coffee and armed with good note-taking isn’t going to cut it. You must really understand these concepts in order to ensure you don’t get tripped up. One small tweak in a concept-based question can change everything.

5. Practice exams

Completed all of the items above and still concerned about whether or not you’ll make the cut? Check out one of the websites offering virtual exams before you hit the real one. Pre-testing your concept knowledge and test readiness can help you tighten up times, expose weak areas, and even send you into the test feeling more relaxed, as you’ll have simulated the experience before.

Keep it in perspective

It’s important for you to know that even if you’ve decided the CCIE is good fit for your career trajectory and you feel ready to pursue this certification, it’s only one notch in your professional portfolio. To be the best, you need to continue to pursue and advance your technical knowledge in the field each and every day, even after obtaining your CCIE.

Working in networking and technology means the learning never ends. Keeping current is at the very heart of being and holding onto that elite status of being the best of the best. Another great certification to keep you up-to-date is the CCNA. Check out these helpful tips on how to get CCNA certified.