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Summing Up

An unmistakable passion for technology and an almost unlimited appetite for learning, study, labs, and examinations are essential characteristics in individuals who excel at obtaining advanced pinnacle certifications like the ones mentioned in this article. Given that by the time most individuals attain such certifications they've been in IT for ten or more years, and have been focusing on their chosen specialty for four or more years — some might even say "obsession" given the amount of work and effort involved in obtaining these credentials — these are serious, committed people.

If you really want to tread one or perhaps even more of these paths (for example, we know several CCIEs who also hold one or more of the security certifications covered here) you've got to commit to at least two years of rabid attention to pursuing that credential. This means surrendering evenings, weekends, and most holidays to ride this hobby horse, and to expend the time and effort necessary to meet these programs' stringent written and lab examination requirements.

Then, too, there are additional costs to consider. Most aspiring candidates for these certifications spend upwards of $2,000 building professional libraries to support their quests for knowledge. Some spend $10,000 and up in the classroom as they seek access to equipment and qualified instructors to boost the odds of passing their exams and labs. I know several CCIEs who've needed three tries to pass the infamous lab exam, and who've spent upwards of $3,000 on travel and exam expenses for each try. This doesn't even include the countless evening and weekend hours in the six months before the exam, preparing for their encounters with fate.

Be sure you're ready to gird your loins, spend all your spare time, and open your checkbook wider than you might like, if you want to pursue one of these programs. But with persistence, application, and study you, too, may find yourself perched upon a pinnacle of certification yourself some day. Good luck!

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