Cisco Certified Network Professional Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a Cisco Certified Network Professional career? Get actual job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a Cisco Certified Network Professional is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Cisco Certified Network Professional

Individuals credentialed as Cisco Certified Network Professionals (CCNPs) have passed examinations developed by Cisco, a computer services and solutions company. See some of the pros and cons of becoming a CCNP:

Pros of a Cisco Certified Network Professional Career
Steady job growth - employment predicted to increase 12% between 2012 and 2022*
CCNP certification available in seven areas of specialization**
Brand specificity and oversight results in straightforward, established standards of acquirable qualification**
Job may have no higher education requirements if certification and experience are possessed*

Cons of a Cisco Certified Network Professional Career
Must re-certify every three years and keep up with advances in cutting-edge technology**
May involve overtime or irregular hours when network-related problems arise*
Some employers may require a bachelor's degree*
Exam preparation and re-certification may be labor-intensive, expensive and time-consuming**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Cisco

Career Information

The CCNP process is a brand-specific training and education program designed to train information technology (IT) workers in advanced network design and handling. The certification is designed and overseen by Cisco, which specializes in network solutions. Cisco's certification program offers five levels of certification, and CCNP certification is level three. In addition, each level includes a number of different specializations, including data center, security, design and routing.

Job Description

CCNPs may hold such job titles as network engineer, systems engineer or support engineer, among others. They have received the technical training and preparation to create, enact, fix and perform other work on computer networks. These networks may be wide area networks (WANs) or local area networks (LANs) and can include voice, email, Internet and intranet systems. CCNPs are responsible for overseeing all hardware and software functions correlative to designing and launching networks.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while many professionals at this level may work regular daytime hours, some network engineers may be required to work more than 40 hours a week or in the evenings in order to deal with network problems or issues that may arise. In some cases they may even be asked to make themselves available any time such a problem occurs.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

According to the BLS, the job growth for network professionals is expected to be 12% from 2012-2022, which is the same as average for U.S. jobs. Salaries in this field can vary widely according to job title, experience and job location: PayScale.com listed the annual salary range for the majority of CCNPs as approximately $48,487-$145,035 in 2015.

Training and Certification Requirements

The CCNP designation is designed for people with a minimum of one year of networking experience and requires passing three exams on the topics of troubleshooting and switching networks, routing and network solutions. In order to qualify to earn the CCNP designation, you will first have to hold either a valid Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) designation or any of the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) designations, which are offered in all but one of the company's eight certification specialty areas. (Some of the CCNP specialties have more specific prerequisites within the training program that pertain to that particular specialty.) The CCNP designation is valid for three years and must be reacquired within that time by passing a re-certification exam.

Useful Skills

In addition to the technical expertise, there are a number of abilities networking professionals should possess in order to perform their jobs effectively. Some of these include:

  • Communication skills (including with colleagues with little or no expertise in IT)
  • Capacity to analyze and solve problems
  • Concentration and attention to detail
  • Ability to work as part of a team

What Do Employers Look For?

Because the CCNP designation indicates to employers that an applicant possesses the relevant job-related skills, formal higher education requirements may be secondary for some positions. However, some employers still require a bachelor's or associate's degree for network engineers, especially if an applicant has less work experience. The following are some examples of job postings by real employers seeking CCNPs in March 2012:

  • A computer-consulting firm in Michigan sought a network professional with at least five years of Cisco-related experience to create and oversee computer infrastructure and networks. The position involved working with a team and called for a bachelor's degree and several Cisco certifications in addition to the CCNP.
  • A financial services company in Ohio advertised for a senior network engineer to work independently on external and internal networks, including communicating with staff and vendors. Six to eight years of related experience was required.
  • A New York City Internet technology solutions company advertised for a CCNP to design and analyze networks and provide customer support. Cisco certification in or experience with network security was preferred.
  • A New Jersey-based IT consulting company looked for a senior networking engineer with data center experience and expertise in a variety of technologies. A college degree was preferred.
  • A telecommunications firm in Tennessee searched for a CCNP to provide sales and technical support, including customer service, network implementation and network design. The job required experience with multiple technical protocols and called for seven years of experience.

Getting an Edge in the Field

Beyond the CCNP, Cisco offers two higher levels of certification along with eight fields in which to specialize. These specializations generally correspond to different jobs; however, attaining certification at the professional (CCNP or equivalent) level in more than one area can give you an edge in the job field. For example, since security considerations continue to increase with the proliferation of networks in various business contexts, such as health care, the CCNP Security certification could grant you a valuable level of expertise and qualifications likely to appeal to employers.

In addition, acquiring additional Cisco certifications can open your job prospects further and demonstrate more advanced levels of competence to potential employers. In most of its areas of specialization, Cisco offers the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification, an expert-level qualification that requires passing a written exam and a hands-on lab intensive.

Other Careers to Consider

If a network job doesn't seem like the right fit for you, but you'd still like to work with computers, there are numerous other IT occupations you could look into.

Web Developer

Web developers oversee the development and maintenance of websites. Their duties may include creating a site layout, producing Internet applications or designing web pages. This position often calls for a bachelor's degree but has fewer certification and re-certification requirements than those of CCNPs. According to O*Net OnLine, the median salary for web developers was approximately $78,000 in 2011.

Database Administrator

Database administrators are responsible for the storage and organization of a company's data; this may involve updating or integrating storage systems, attending to database security or troubleshooting data storage or presentation issues. The occupation is expected to see a 29% employment increase from 2010 to 2020, and the median salary for this profession was $75,000 in 2011, according to O*Net OnLine.

Information Systems Manager

This tends to be a supervisory IT position that oversees a team of IT professionals in implementing, updating and maintaining the technical operations of an organization. Information systems managers may be involved with network issues, but they also attend to areas such as software production and project oversight. The BLS reported that the median salary for information systems managers was approximately $118,000 in 2011.

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