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Cisco recertification program gets flexible, but cost is high

The latest Cisco recertification program adds continuing education as an option to keeping the CCIE and CCDE current. But the cost of courses will make the offering expensive.

Cisco is letting engineers keep their expert-level certification up to date by earning continuing education credits....

The expensive, but welcomed, option would let participants in the Cisco recertification program skip the written exam required every two years.

The Cisco Continuing Education Program, launched this week, lets engineers earn credits through online courses, instructor-led training, writing technical content or taking designated sessions at Cisco Live, the company's annual training and education conference. The offering applies to holders of Cisco's Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certifications.

To take advantage of the offering, certification holders have to enroll in the program and pay a $300 administrative fee. After that, they would have to earn 100 credits before the certification becomes inactive to skip the exam, which would still be a requirement for first-time certification seekers.

Cost of Cisco recertification program

The program would cost a lot more than paying about $450 every two years to take a recertification exam. For example, attending Cisco Live, where someone could earn up to 70 credits, costs up to $3,000.

The continuing education courses are also expensive. For example, the CCIE Routing and Switching Advanced Workshop 1 and Workshop 2 cost $4,600 and up to $5,000, respectively. Each workshop is worth 50 credits.

Engineers who plan to take advanced courses anyway will benefit from the new Cisco recertification program. "Otherwise, it [recertification] may cost a fortune," said Brandon Carroll, a CCIE holder and CEO of Global Config Technology Solutions Inc., based in Menifee, Calif. Global Config provides network training.

Nevertheless, CCIE holders attending Cisco Live last year asked for a program similar to what Cisco announced, Carroll said. Most of those engineers were taking continuing education courses to prepare for new networking roles in their organization.

"To do that and also study for an exam that covers topics that you no longer use is quite a waste of time," Carroll said. "So, overall, yes, it's a really good thing."

Controversy behind Cisco certification programs

The latest changes, however, are unlikely to alter the longtime debate over the value of CCIE certification. Critics have said the certification does a poor job of covering real-world scenarios related to open and software-centric networking -- both major trends in the industry.

"The quality of these written exams have varied over the years," Daniel Dib, a senior network architect at Swedish consultancy Conscia Netsafe, recently wrote in his blog. "Some revisions have been very difficult to pass, even for people that are masters of their trade due to the pool of questions not being as high quality as can be expected from an expert-level exam."

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