As far as certifications go inside the tech industry, Cisco’s CCIE ranks as the most difficult and one of the most sought after. The benefits of getting a CCIE are not just to join the elite ranks of only 30,000 people worldwide, but for personal gratification and it is commonly reported as the highest paid certification.  What follows is a beginner’s guide to passing the CCIE exam.

Started in 1993, the certification process has evolved from two days of labs into what is now a written test followed by one day of hands-on practical labs. Commonly, CCIE candidates spend thousands on training and lab attempts and study for around a year and a half. Some candidates even build practice-labs at home from used equipment on E-Bay.

Prior to taking the lab portion of the exam, candidates are required to pass a written test, in a two hour time frame, which consists of 100 questions and are given. After successfully passing the written portion of the exam, you have 18 months to pass the lab portion. This is what separates the CCIE certification from other IT certifications. Candidates must know theory as well as master the application of that theory.

More general CCIE information can be found at the Cisco Employer’s Website.

CCIE Motivations – Why should I get certified?

This is a question asked by a large number of IT professionals. After seeing the success rates and the investment of both time and money, many people ask why they should get certified. The number one factor is salary. Recent IT salary surveys show it being number one at a mean of $120,000. Besides what benefits this has from your employer, it also has benefits to the clients and customers you server. Also, for many, it is a huge personal achievement.

It’s rewarding to be part of small group of the IT elite.

CCIE Studying – How do I pass?

The first thing you need is to find the right track for you. There are several to choose from, but the most common is Routing & Switching. It is not a necessity to obtain lower level certifications in order to take the CCIE, but it is typically the best way. Not only do you get feedback at each step of your training, but you will also be passing milestones and goals along the way. If you are looking for more information on these tracks, visit CCIE Track Comparison. For information on the entry level, associate level, and professional level tracks, you can visit Cisco IT Certifications.

Once you’ve selected a track, it’s time to prepare for your written exam. There are a number of resources that you can use to prepare for this, but you first need to look over the blueprint for the track you have selected. This will give you most of the topics covered by the exam. Next you should pick up a few books. Here is a short list of a few for Routing & Switching.

Passing the Lab Exam is tough, and your preparation should not be taken lightly. You need to first consider where you are going to get your training. There are books as mentioned above that give you a good theoretical understanding of the topics covered by the CCIE, but they aren’t the best things to study when preparing for the lab exam. You need to choose a training vendor that has a good reputation for helping students pass their exam.

**Important tip** Once you’ve chosen a training vendor do not try to stray to another vendor. This will cause you much more trouble than it’s worth. Flipping back and forth between vendors is the best way to waste your time.

While choosing the right training can be difficult it’s not impossible. There are several factors that are important besides reputation, such as cost. Cisco 360 program may offer the Cisco brand, but the training was mainly developed by third parties from Russia, Poland and a few other countries. This outsourced development of training clearly creates a disjointed study approach when it comes to studying the topics. Other large companies, such as Global Knowledge, provide physical live bootcamps to attend, but their size means increased costs.

Third party smaller venders are your best bet. They give you personalized training at a much lower cost. Their instructors sometimes completely outweigh the instructors from larger companies. Brian Dennis, CCIEx5 2210, for example, holds five CCIEs. So you know when you attend a class he is teaching or a recorded lecture that you are getting someone who knows their stuff.

Issac Dempsey writes for INE, an IT training company offering online CCIE training which has helped thousands of IT professionals earn their Cisco certification. The INE All-Access Pass provides access to an extensive library of training videos led by highly trained instructors.

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