IT professionals with Cisco certification are in good company -- and a lot of it. The networking giant announced that it recently granted its one-millionth certification and hinted at plans to help match certified professionals with jobs.
Since Cisco awarded its certification in 1993, the program has expanded dramatically, not just in who is tested but on what and how they are tested as well.
"At the beginning of the program, there was not much to choose from. There was one track: routing and switching," said Fred Weiller, director of switching product and solutions marketing. "As the types of networks that are deployed and operated … evolved, there was an expansion of the certification portfolio."
Today, there are dozens of Cisco certifications being granted at the company's various global testing sites and a new mobile testing website that serves markets where no facilities are available.
Ed Tittel, a training and certification expert and author, said the announcement of one million certifications means Cisco certifications outnumber those granted by Microsoft, which has been granting certifications since 1992. Tittel warned, however, that the news was not all good for those who are Cisco certified.
Cisco certifications advance in a pyramidal structure, with many individuals getting the base Associate certifications. Fewer are getting the Professional level of certification, and a very small number have attained the Expert level.
Tittel said that while Cisco's brand name remains very strong, the number of Associate certfications Cisco has awarded has somewhat saturated the market. To really stand out, engineers need to earn the more advanced certificates.
"Really what this means is if people want to walk the certification path, they need to spend more than a year to earn not just the CCNA but also one of the professional certifications before they can use it to advance their careers," Tittel said, adding that he still believes Cisco has one of the best certification programs around.
Weiller said the overall demand for networking professionals would only increase over the next few years.
"According to the Department of Labor in the U.S., networking is going to be the fastest-growing job in the next five years," Weiller said. "The best way to get a job and perform that job is to get certification."
He also predicted strong global growth for Cisco's certification program.
"In the past few years, there has definitely been an increase in places like India and China, and those are becoming No. 1 producers," Weiller said. "I think at some point they're going to be in the top producers of certified professionals in the networking space."
Cisco job boards in the works
Weiller hinted that Cisco was working on an official Cisco career marketplace to match certified professionals with jobs.
"We're going to make things more formal over the summer," he said. "We're working on it!"
Tittel said that a Cisco-backed job placement service had been rumored for years, and currently the exclusive Cisco certified member forums acted as an unofficial recruiting ground.
"I think it's a very good idea," he said.