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Cisco certification is talked about among MCSEs like it's the Holy Grail. Well, isn't it? Cisco certification begins with the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or the Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA). Most MCSEs that I know of are moving toward the CCNA title because it relates closely to many of the concepts in the MCSE world. The CCDA however, is geared toward smaller networks. To earn your CCNA, you have to pass the Cisco exam 640-507. The CCDA cert requires you to pass the 640-441 exam.

At the Cisco Professional level, there are three certifications:

  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

  • Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)

  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional (CCIP)

Each of the Professional titles requires an advanced knowledge of the Cisco products and networking—and you have to pass a few exams to boot.

At the pinnacle of Cisco certification is the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). Most MCSEs that I've chatted with about this certification have to either catch their breath or wipe their mouth because they're drooling. This awesome title requires dedication, superior knowledge of the Cisco products, and your lucky four-leaf clover. You'll have to pass a qualification exam first. This two-hour, multiple-choice exam is not a walk in the park—more of a long distance run, really. Once you've successfully completed the exam, you qualify for an attempt at the two-day, hands-on practical exam. If you've set this certification as your goal you'll need plenty of training, studying, and experience. You will however, be in an elite group; there are only 5,974 CCIEs worldwide as of June 2001.

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