Cisco's Still Doing Certification Right
The Cisco Learning Network and its collection of specialist and professional certifications offers the real deal. The more you dig into their program and its supporting materials and infrastructure, the more you'll find to like about it.
I've been following the IT certification game since the mid-1990s or thereabouts. If there's one true stalwart and standout that's been a shining light for what an IT certification should be, and still is, it is the Cisco certification program. Looking over the current roadmap for its many credentials (40 and counting), there is depth and breadth that few other programs can match, with history and a certified professional population to match. Other companies or organizations seeking to launch a new cert program, or embellish or improve upon an existing one, could do much, much worse than to take a few pages from Cisco's book. Simply put, they've got it all – or at least, all of the important stuff, anyway.
Here's a laundry list of the items Cisco brings to the party, based on a somewhat deeper dive into the CCNA Cloud certification.
- Easy access to all the key information for any given certification, organized by exam. This includes exam overviews, topics (aka objectives), study materials with occasional supplementary reading lists, and practice tests.
- Active online communities for unstructured Q&A (discussion forums) and formal study groups.
- Well indexed and described training videos and seminars, that include both free and for-a-fee materials on most certification topics.
- Cisco has led the way into continuous/lifelong learning and cert prep with a variety of subscription plans that include seminars, videos, study materials, hands-on labs, and practice exams all bundled together (monthly fees vary from $11 to $75, annual fees from $110 to $450). IT professionals with substantial Cisco certification portfolios can keep them up at relatively low cost (not including exam fees).
- For those who work for Cisco partner companies, or who pay for Cisco Learning Credits as part of their annual fee structures, access to self-study e-learning tools, subscriptions, labs, and practice tests is simply a matter of setting up the right accounts and permissions.
And here's a another laundry list, this one of other noteworthy items in Cisco's training and certification arsenal:
- Cisco Press: working in tandem with Pearson Certification, the company steers digital and in-print content for most of its certification credentials (and all of the popular ones) including study guides, practice tests, technical manuals, and a well-respected set of practitioner materials.
- Cisco has a great network of education partners and providers who offer official curriculum for training in a variety of formats (instructor-led classroom and online, video-based training with instructor access, video-based self-study, and more).
- Cisco certification has enough heft, history, and people involved that a substantial aftermarket has also emerged. Sybex/Wiley and Pearson offer substantial coverage through in-print and digital study guides, Exam Crams, …For Dummies titles, and more. There's a huge market for practice exams and other prep materials as well. There's also a significant training aftermarket as well, outside the Cisco official curriculum.
- Cisco also offers serious information and career-related resources to its certified professionals as well. They even offer a Career Toolkit that guides people through job search and interview, as well as professional development, career enhancing strategies, professional networking, and more, with a variety of videos and reading material.
All in all, Cisco does a great job of delivering value through its certification and training, including value to the individuals who earn those credentials, those who employ them, and the IT workplace as a whole. Great stuff, as much to serve as an example, as in and of itself.