Value of Cisco Certifications: Making Money Vs. Study

August 25, 2014 - 41 Comments

Imagine that you see a Tweet today inviting you to apply for a part-time networking job, something you can do in addition to your normal job. You appear to be qualified for the job, and the work looks interesting as well. However, it requires enough of your time so that you would have to set aside your current professional development plans, including study for that next Cisco certification. The job lasts one year.

Would you take the job, setting aside your certification plans for a year? How much money would you need to make in that job before it would entice you to abandon your learning and certification plans for a year?

This post works through a couple of ideas (like the above) about how to quantify the value of a certification. Many people expect that more skills and certifications will give them more salary and better options after they get the certifications. But how can we quantify the value of a certification now, before you spend the time and effort? Quantifying the value up front would be a little more useful, allowing us to each make a more informed decision about whether to pursue a cert or not.

And for a bit of context… this post is my first guest blog post with Cisco as part of the Cisco Champions program. I spend a lot of work hours thinking about how to help people learn about Cisco technology. And lately I’ve had a few conversations about the value of Cisco certifications. Putting all those facts together, this forum seemed like a good place to throw out something a little off the wall, see what people find useful, with a little different way to look at the value of Cisco certifications. Hope you find it interesting.

For this post, I’ve noted two ways to quantify the value of a certification by focusing on the value of the labor spent to study for a certification.

Valuation 1: One-Year Part Time Job Vs. Cert Study


The first paragraph of this blog post set the stage for the first way to value a certification. Basically, you have to choose between an appealing part-time job and studying for your next certification(s). You set a value on the certification by deciding how much that job would have to pay to make you choose the job over the study.

To proceed, do an exercise in introspection, with these rules:

  • You will between two options, both of which last 1 year: work an extra part-time job, or study towards passing Cisco certs.
  • Both the job and the study options require the same amount of time each week – that is, the two competing options are equal in regards to time (labor).
  • You can choose the number of hours/week (write down this number).
  • You cannot split time between study and work.
  • The work content does not overlap with your certification goals. That is, the job does not give you on-the-job training to help with your cert. Why? Just to keep this exercise as an either/or exercise.
  • The work is interesting and you are qualified.

To begin, pick how many hours a week you would realistically spend studying. That’s really up to you. Anyone who starts studying for a certification ought to commit to some number of hours per week. Call it X.

Next, note the certification(s) you would pursue in the next year. Most people value some certifications more than others, so to make this a useful exercise, write down the cert(s) you think you could achieve in one year of study at X hours/week.

Finally, compare the two options (work vs. study). How much money do you need to make per hour to make you choose the job instead of studying for that next certification? For instance, if you would choose to study if the job paid $10/hour, but you would choose the job if it paid $20/hour, somewhere between $10 and $20 is the dividing line. What’s that number for you?

For example, if Fred was studying for CCNA R/S, and could devote 10 hours/week to that study, but he was really psyched about getting his CCNA R/S, he might post something like:  “I’d work 10 hours/week, but I would need at least $100/hour to forego my CCNA R/S studies.” His Buddy Barney who is less motivated, and might prefer a fun job, might tweet “I’d take the job (at the bowling alley) for 10 hours a week at $10/hour instead of studying for CCNA, for sure”.

By the way, that’s a literal question. Write it down, post your thoughts, and include X (hours per week), pay rate, and the cert you would forego if you took that job at that rate. Post here, or just tweet it with #CiscoChampion at the end (or to me at @WendellOdom), and I’ll see it.

Background: Time Spent Studying


Before discussing a second way to put a value on a Cisco certification, I need to lay a little groundwork. To do that, let’s drill down a bit on a fictitious hopeful networker named Fred. Like many folks getting started, Fred has excitement and energy about starting out in networking, and sets his goals high, planning to run straight through the Routing/Switching track, as shown in Figure 1:

Wendell's Blog Image 1

Figure 1: Cisco Routing and Switching Certification Track


Like many people just starting out, Fred has questions, like how much time and effort these exams will require. Without getting into why/wherefore here, Figure 2 shows some estimates of the total study time required to pass each certification, as shown in Figure 2. (Note that I’ve combined CCENT and CCNA R/S study into one category, just to align more clearly with the upcoming discussion.)

Wendell's Blog image 2

Figure 2: Additional Study Hours Per R/S Certification


To be clear, here’s a little explanation of the figure:

  • Starting with no Cisco certifications, I estimate about 250 hours of study to achieve CCNA R/S.
  • After getting CCNA R/S, the additional study time to achieve CCNP R/S is 450 hours.
  • After getting CCNP R/S, the additional study time to achieve CCIE R/S is 1000 hours.

So, to march through these certifications takes a total 1700 hours of study.

Yes, feel free to comment away at my estimates! While these estimates are not the purpose of this post, they’re here, so feel free to comment. I know you have an opinion. For the purpose of this post, we need a reasonable number to start, so we’ll use the numbers in Figure 2. Your mileage will vary.

Valuation 2: Value of Study Time


What is the value of those estimate 1700 hours of study from having no Cisco knowledge to getting a CCIE? Not the value once you achieve CCIE, but what’s the value of that time? That’s the question that this next method attempts to answer to give us another value to put a value on Cisco certifications.

This method uses a few contrived scenarios that let us include part-time job income as a way to put a numeric value on a certification. To study for a Cisco certification means that you take time away from some other part of your life. It’s hard to quantify the value of spending time with family and friends versus spending that time studying. However, if we again compare that study time to working a part-time job, we can quantify the value a little better. What’s the opportunity cost, in lost wages, if instead of studying you spent that same time working a part-time job?

This next method quantifies the value of a cert by looking at the entire CCENT through CCIE R/S track, based on that estimated 1700 hours of effort. It revolves around this question:

How much money could you make by working some part-time job instead of studying?

That’s a simple question if you compare only two options: working all 1700 hours versus studying 1700 hours (and getting your CCIE R/S at the end). But it’s also interesting to compare the person who gets CCNA R/S and then stops, or the person who gets CCNP R/S and then stops, to the person who gets their CCIE R/S.

For this exercise, instead of asking you to choose the numbers, I’ve made up some numbers for four scenarios using four workers. All four workers devote 1700 hours to their combined study and work effort (because my estimates total 1700 hours of study to go from CCENT to CCIE R/S). Each worker must transition to a part-time job when they quit their certification study. In the end, each of the four workers has a different certification level, with a different amount of money earned, but all four have labored for 1700 hours.

Finally, one last twist: the lesser the certification lever, the less pay in the part time job, at least in the numbers I choose to use. You can repeat the math with your own assumptions.

Summarizing the four scenarios:

  • Worker 1 only works; gets no certification; makes $10/hour.
  • Worker 2 gets a CCNA R/S and then works; makes $20/hour.
  • Worker 3 gets a CCNP R/S and then works; makes $40/hour.
  • Worker 4 gets a CCIE R/S but only studies.

Figure 3 shows the end result: the ending certification, and the total wages earned over that timeframe:


Wendell's blog image 3

Figure 3: Opportunity Cost of Study Labor


Now pick any two workers, and compare them for your own goals. Which worker would you prefer to be? Some examples:

  1. Worker 2 versus 4: Would you prefer to have a CCNA R/S with $29,000 extra cash, or a CCIE R/S and no extra money?
  2. Worker 1 versus 3: Would you prefer to have no certification and $17,000, or CCNP R/S and $40,000 cash?
  3. Worker 3 versus 4: Or the toughest choice: would you prefer to have a CCNP R/S and $40,000, or a CCIE R/S and no cash?

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone would go out and follow the plan of getting a cert and then getting a part time job. It’s just a mechanism to put a value on the time you spend. If four people spent 1700 of their precious time, away from the more fun parts of life, where would you want to land? Which of those workers would you choose to be?

And if you like the mechanism but don’t like my assumptions for time spent studying and pay rates, feel free to change the assumptions for yourself. (I’d be curious as to what/why you choose your numbers, so post away!)


In all my years writing books and blogs about Cisco certifications, I’ve never written about this particular perspective on the value of Cisco certifications. These mechanisms don’t attempt to give some sort of absolute value of a certification, but rather one objective comparison that might help you choose.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about these tools – good or bad. And if you work through that first exercise, do let me know what the hours/week, rate, and cert that you chose. Thanks for reading!

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  1. Hi,

    This is a nice one. I’ll organize my time.

    The thing is , I’m not confident enough to take the exam (CCNA R/S). can u help me out… there is any thing that helps to boost my confidence.

    • Hi Raja,
      Confidence can be difficult, particularly on your first Cisco exam. First off, given your question, I’d suggest that you consider taking the two-exam path to CCNA by passing the ICND1 exam and then the ICND2 exam. That lets you break the material in half, with less volume to study for.

      Second, practice applying your knowledge. That means: lots of repetition doing labs, lots of practice questions, lots of paper exercises, and any other review exercises that you can find. And when you answer a practice question and don’t confidently know the answer, stop, research, and figure out the details until you are confident in the answer.

      Finally, when working through that final preparation, engage at the Cisco Learning Network. Look around for posts of people asking how they gained confidence, what they did that worked to help them pass, and so on. There are lots of prior posts in which people state what they did that worked for them.

      On configuration, pick the top 10-12 topics that can be configured, and practice them on paper in your spare moments, until you can do those in your sleep.

      And of course, practice sub netting and the related math until it’s automatic.

      That sounds like a lot, and it is. But if you can get the right answer on sub netting math every time, configure the major topics correctly and quickly every time, and you fill in lots of holes in your knowledge by using lots of practice questions, then your confidence should grow.

      Hope this helps!

  2. This was an interesting post. I agree with the notion that passing and then maintaining a certification pays off in dividends. The hours spent studying do not need to be repeated whereas a part time job needs to recur to maintain the additional income.

    Wendell, do you have any current or upcoming posts regarding the new CCNP tests?

    Finally, thank you for all that you do. Your CCNA books and simulator were my primary study material while preparing for the exam. They helped launch my career further than I thought possible in a short period of time.

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks much! Always encouraging to hear of people getting going into networking. It’s been a looong time since I first started out, but I remember that excitement, and it’s great to hear peoples’ stories.

      As to your question, I did a brief overview of the new CCNP R/S around the announcement time (another blog space), but didn’t have much planned there, partly because I’m out of the writing loop with that cert. ping me somewhere on social media if you can’t find it.

  3. I have thoughts about this b4 but you have just clarified my Idea about it.
    In my perspective
    Certifications would grab you a good opportunity for an entry level job but our certifications should come hand in hand with our job experience, In my perspective if we have mastered the certifications we have studied and had applied it efficiently with our job, it would be goot to proceed looking for another opportunity that would help us grow and apply the new certifications we have worked hard for
    example: after passing CCNA you would look for a Network Engineer opportunity, then while working and studying after passing CCNP, it’s to proceed to Senior Network Engineer

    • Hey Daniel – hooray! Someone else had thought of this angle before! That lets me think it wasn’t too far off! 😉

  4. Hi, Great Article Wendell.. 🙂

    Cisco’s/ CiscoPress Literature, Blogs & Documentaions on IT Networking Technologies are the best in depth and quality content. It has a huge Cult Following and is The De facto Standard for anyone entering into the IT Networking Domain or the TCP/IP space. Even Corporate traniers for various IT Networking, Network Programming and Product Support Companies recommend CiscoPress books to gain insight and knowledge on Computer Networks. Afterwhich, they will concentrate on their respective Product Tech training.

    Thus, every Network Engineer I have known for the past many years in some way or another will be loyal & inclined to Cisco Systems and it’s IT Networking Technology adavancements/ achievements, plus they will find the Competitors networking technologies incomplete, inferior and lack of feature set when compared to that of Cisco.

    Hence, this will automatically built trust and respect for Cisco Systems Inc. which other companies lack alot (Recently, #EMC #VMware realized the same & is trying to enter IT Networking market by pushing forward it’s own IT Cert for SDN NSX to gain faith and trust for it’s technologies from the existing pool of Network Engineers who are currently knowledgeable in Cisco Products and Tech

    But Competitors currently don’t have a huge fan base when compared to that of Cisco’s. This is Cisco’s most powerful Advantage. I strongly believe this is the major selling point for Cisco as Enterprise/ Business CIOs/ CTOs, Enterprise IT shops, IT technocrats educated with Cisco Tech/ Products will trust cisco products for their innovations, efficency, reliabilty, stability and scalability. Which will promote them into Decision making tending towards choosing Cisco Products and Buying Cisco Equipments for their TCP/IP requirements to fuel Enterprise growth in the current information age.

    Neeraj 🙂

    • Thanks Neeraj! So, kinda like the entire Cisco community – certified folks, all fans, etc – has a quality and force all its own. Nice! Maybe that’s a great beginnings of a title to my next post here. 😉

      And that courses in that link you posted… very interesting. It indeed sounds like a great course for Cisco networkers!

  5. Hello Wendell,

    I just embarked on the journey of Cisco certs.

    I recently purchased your cisco press book for CCNA R&S, its simply awesome and I enjoy reading it.

    I’m here to say that this purposeful blog post and several useful coments from fellow readers provided me with insights on value of certifications and money.

    I want to go for CCIE R & S and later for CCIE Security.

    One thing which I can is, spend your time wisely based on your needs and also never get off the track of your long terms goals(CCIE’s in this context). They pay off much more than you can expect in he long run say 3-4 years.

    Thanks again for such wonderful books Mr.Odom. 🙂

    I believe

    • Hi Net Asp,
      Glad you enjoy the books, and happy to be of service! Keep up that enthusiasm – hope you enjoy your studies towards CCIE!

  6. This does not include the CCIE fairly. For validation of your efforts and monetary sacrifices this graph would need to incorporate the CCIE pay grade. I understand that isn’t the point as its just a visual representation of time vs money.

    I would be interested to see the time line and earnings of all incorporated in a 3400 hour graph.

    I believe the true value of the CCIE will be better show then.
    As time increase the value of the CCIE will trump the 1700 hours within a very short time.

    I am writing my practical in 2 months and studying it full time.

    • Hi Shaun,
      Thanks for the post, and feedback on this tool I’ve thrown out for discussion.

      If by “fair” you meant it doesn’t include all aspects of the value of CCIE, I agree with you completely. But your comment (and a few others) have gotten me thinking more about the tool zeroing in on the comparison of study labor to part time job. For what I was shooting for, I think to focus your comparisons on CCNP, you do the math for the hours that just completes CCNP (700 in this case). To focus on CCIE, then use the 1700 hours case. And you could even extend to dual CCIE even, maybe add another 1000 hours. The idea being: expend study labor and end with a higher cert, or end with the lower cert and some cash. We would all prefer to have the higher certification, but at that point, would the lower one plus the cash be better (to a particular person)?

      Now back to where I think you were heading. If we extend this model to many more hours, the model puts more and more weight on the value of the certification after it is attained. I personally don’t think the model works as well in that case. Just my opinion. However, the math is easy! 3400 hours? No problem in text! (I don’t know how to add figures in comments.)

      3400 hours:
      CCNA R/S + 3150 hours worked, @ $20/hour = $63,000
      CCNP R/S + 2700 hours worked, @ $40/hour = $108,000
      CCIE R/S + 1700 hours worked, @ $80/hour = $136,000

      Or pick your own pay rate guesstimates.

      Thanks for the thoughts!

  7. Well being a CCIE is an honor. It is not out the Salary . It is about reality, self satisfaction and respect. I am not a Cisco Certification Holder yet. I am just pursuing CCNA R/S.. and I have set a goal for my carrier is to be CCIE. This is my first step of Networking Carrier.

    Wendell Odom, Sir I need your few suggestions that what steps i should take to get the level of CCIE.

    Waiting for valuable comment…

    thank you

    • Aman,
      First, it’s great to have a solid goal. Write it down. Share it with a close friend and colleague or two. Put those goals in any education or development plan you have at work. And work the development plan! The path from CCNA to CCIE will take time, and you cannot sprint the whole way. Just keep at it!

      I’d suggest that if CCIE is the goal, that taking a little more time to study for CCNA and CCNP, rather than rushing through them just enough to pass, makes For CCIE, you will have to learn a rather large width and depth of topics. So, learn CCNA and CCNP topics thoroughly while you are there. That’ll make your initial steps in each CCIE area of study a little easier.

      I wish you well in the journey!

  8. Hi, good post, but i think the forth option which is 1700 Hours for CCIE is the preferred as per my prospective, and i think it not all about the earning money rather then self-motivation and self-development is the main goal in all the individuals career, i as a being CCIE Certified always want to develop my knowledge by prioritizing the tasks/work and give time to persue my second CCIE, which i am doing it and as i got my CCIE my earning is double then was as a CCNP certified, i think both knowledge, industry certification and experience count on the amount of earning. So overall 1700 is worth to spend and still need more to spend on other tracks as well.

    • Mohammad,
      Nice! So not only choose CCIE with the 1700 hour exam, but keep “spending” those hours investing in the next cert, next CCIE even. Inspiring opinion! Hope your 2nd CCIE study goes well!

  9. Josh I would say then you’re at a company that doesn’t use Cisco products or they don’t value their employees. If an employer downs plays your achievements then wants to use your number for discounts then you’ve been duped.

  10. I live in the midwest.

    I have been at my company for 5 years plus and am maxxed range for position.
    Being a CCIE is worth not 1 penny extra other than a minimal $$hundred for passing a certification test.

    Ditto for CCNP or other non base CCNA cert and if you use time at work to study you are actually going to be less productive on my team.

  11. Great post, however, this doesn’t apply on Guatemala, i earn $6.75 per hour, i’m CCNA RS, CCDA, and i spend a lot of time studying, and now I’m studying for CCNA Security i took around 6- 8 hours a week studying i’ve been studying 5 months XD i planning to take the test on octuber.

    • Hi Jacob,
      Sounds like you be somewhere around 175 hours of study for CCNA Sec? I had been guessing about 150 hours or so for the 2nd, 3rd, etc CCNA, so that’s some good data. Thanks! Hope the test goes well.
      On whether the example doesn’t apply in Guatemala – just substitute your own choices for typical pay rates, even in local currency, if you otherwise like the model.

  12. Hello Wendell!

    My opinion: the value of CCIE is obvious. If we will add to your chart only 300 hours more then we see that we can in the same time earn almost as much as without any certificate + make CCIE. I assumed that CCIE will earn ~$60. The more hours taken under calculation – the more valuable CCIE is in the longer period of time.

    Here’s my example:

    • And some additional calculation:

      For 2500 hours:
      CCNA + job = $45000
      CCIE + job = $48000

      For 3700 hours income for CCNP and CCIE is the same… but you have CCIE 🙂
      CCNP + job = $120000
      CCIE + job = $120000

      • I know this sounds like I’m beating the same old drum … but this is exactly why I mentioned that the view was a little too simplistic!

        Take it from a perspective employers view point. Sure there are situations where you need the CCIE to make the numbers for a Cisco credential. However, typically, the reason why CCIE would be listed as a requirement is because it assumes that to hold that level of qualification you already have considerable experience – not just gained through the process of achieving the CCIE, but real live operational experience. The increases in what a potential employer is prepared to offer is almost always based on the increased experience level that a person with those certs would have, they’re rarely going to be paying for the certs in isolation!!

        A CCIE with no experience is likely to have trouble finding a foot hold as they’re too knowledgable to place in an entry role to build that experience, but don’t have the wider skills and experiences required to hold those all so important CCIE positions. This isn’t just CCIE of course, the vicious cycle of experience vs education is well known by pretty much every school leaver!

        One final observation, you also need to take into account not just the cost of the time, but also of the resources. Serious study at this level requires access to training material, books, a lab, classroom/bootcamps to help reinforce the material, not to mention the cost of the exams, travel etc.

        I certainly wouldn’t try to talk anyone out of it, but the reality is that there always has to be a balance. CCIE is also in my road map but it’s more of a personal goal than something that I believe is going to radically change my income.

        Measuring the “cost” of the certification process in the way laid out by Wendell is certainly an interesting approach as it really provides something tangible to contrast against. However, it falls apart pretty quickly when you attempt to apply it in a real scenario. You aren’t ever going to get a tweat offering you a role at $x/hour, but they’re prepared to wait a few weeks and pay you $2x once you have your CCNA, or a further few months and pay you $4x when you get certified at CCNP … or wait for the equivalent of a year of full time study (40 hours/week) and pay you $6x. If you can find real life opportunities like that then please feel free to share – I’m more than happy to be proven wrong on this one 🙂

        • Hi again Iain,
          I agree with your more general points about the value of Cisco certs, and particularly CCIE. For sure, CCIE has a high value. So, if we open the discussion to no other constraints other than “how do we value Cisco certs”, I’d agree with much of what you wrote. However, it’s hard to put a number on those, and particular hard to put a number on those before embarking on the journey. So, I wondered aloud about some way to put a number on it. Clearly it sparked some interest! 😉

          On your last paragraph… don’t forget the absolute values rather than the relative. I picked $10, $20, and $40/hour based on what what I’ve seen people get paid on contract with CCNA and CCNP (around $20 and $40), and guessing around $10/hour for working the sub shop. it just happened to be 1X/2X/4X. FYI.

      • Hi Damian,
        Thanks for the numbers! I went through a few scenarios like that as well (actually put $80/hour on the CCIE in my guesstimates). Indeed, at some number of hours, no matter the hourly rate above $40, the CCIE of course catches up, plus you have the CCIE and all that means.

        I agree, in terms of absolute value, CCIE wins, no question. (I actually had that in the closing remarks of an earlier draft of the post, and removed at a small attempt to trim the length.) 😉

        As a tool to put a number on the cert based on labor, I think moving the number of hours the other direction is maybe more interesting. Say… 700 and 1400?

        700 hours: CCNA R/S plus $9000 part time vs CCNP R/S and $0

        1400 hours: CCNP R/S plus $28,000 part time vs a valiant but failed attempt at CCIE, ending with CCNP R/S, lots of CCIE study, and $0 part time

        Maybe I should have approached the problem with a little more attention to that last case. Let’s face it, many people find the leap from CCNP to CCIE to be too much – too much time, money, effort, too difficult, too much distraction from real life. But the value of CCIE is high. So maybe that’s where I head for a next blog post.
        Thanks again!

  13. Great, Whitney! Thanks for playing… And sounds like you’ve got some good strong motivation here starting out. If you think of it, let me know how the studying works out once you’ve gotten through CCNA!

  14. Yesterday, I started class to prepare for the CCNA. I am working full-time and am looking for perspectives of those who have done similar. Thank you for the post and the comments. Since I am just beginning this path, I can only offer my response to:
    “Write it down, post your thoughts, and include X (hours per week), pay rate, and the cert you would forego if you took that job at that rate…”
    For me:
    – 15 hrs/week either studying or working part-time
    – If working (PT), $50/hour is amount required for me to abandon the CCNA course of study
    Interesting to see how it goes and how many hours I spend in study for the CCNA.
    Thank you

  15. Hi Wendell,

    It is certainly an interesting approach about how to determine “value” but does seem to miss an important little “gotcha”, and places quite a high bias on time!

    The primary issue is that certification without experience is looked upon as a paper exercise – you’ve met one of the requirements but that doesn’t make the offers come flooding in. The number of times that I heard the an interviewer express something like:

    “Yes, you have CCIP and CCNP, extensive experience in routing and switching …. but have you ever logged into a Cisco 6500 or configured a Nexus 7k at 3am”?

    Clearly a nonsense question as each environment is going to offer something different. With a solid foundation the learning curve is hardly insurmountable, but that doesn’t seem to matter! I can understand to some degree, and things do get better if you can break the cycle, it’s just not that straight forward.

    My second “problem” is the model itself! clearly it’s vastly simplified as each opportunity runs to the same composite number of hours and is looked at with the benefit of a “guaranteed” return. Based on this logic alone then clearly if you know in advance that the hourly rate you can get for your skills as CCNP is 4x what you can get without the study then it’s a “no brainer”.

    Even if it took 50% longer than expected to gain the CCNP, you’re still considerably better off – even after taking into account the associated costs. However, per one of the initial rules, the role isn’t related to the certification:

    The work content does not overlap with your certification goals. That is, the job does not give you on-the-job training to help with your cert. Why? Just to keep this exercise as an either/or exercise.

    … so where does that premium come from?

    Personally, the value of the certification for me comes from the direction that it takes you. A structured path that helps you:

    * to learn a lot about an area that either you have yet to gain exposure to
    * to fill the knowledge gaps in an area that you’re already working

    or simply

    * to formally baseline your competence level.

    How you compare this to a position that pays for your experience and, presumably, since:

    “The work is interesting and you are qualified.”

    also builds your profile, I have absolutely no idea!!! Nice try though

    • Iain,
      Thanks for the thoughtful feedback! Truly, it was an exercise in thinking in a new direction. Thanks for giving specific reasons as well!

  16. Hey, Bongson.
    I am 28 and had some problems in the past.
    Now it is like a new beginning for me, a restart of let say everything and of course a possible networking carrier.
    I only have a CCNA(passed before a couple of years) and now I am focusing on Security.

    So the answer is NO. It is never too late if you want to do smth and feel confident about it.

  17. Hi was a very interesting article, I never see the value of cisco certifications of that point, I am in the worker 2 position a year ago I obtained my CCNA R&S certification and now I am with a full time job and I want obtain more certifications but I do not have enough time for study like a lot of people my goal is be a CCIE in some time but I feel I am going very slow to my goal, I have planned make a couple of certifications more before to going to CCNP cert, now I am study to obtain the CCNA Sec but I am taking more time of the estimated.
    About the figure I think the worker 3 is the best option but being in that position you can go for the next level CCIE with the difference you will have to take more time of the 1700 hours but is something relative because with that knowledge you earn more money with the time.

    • Miguel,
      Your post brings to mind an old saying that we overestimate how much we can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate how much we can do in the long term. I hope you can finish the certifications you’d like to achieve in the long term – but in the short term, try not to get too frustrated. Set reasonable goal, but set them, and try to stick to them. That’s my (unasked for) advice! Thanks for the comment.

      • “We overestimate how much we can accomplish in the short term, but underestimate how much we can do in the long term”

        This quote sums a lot of the people around me, too often I see them trying to achieve a long term goal in a short period, failing, then instead of continuing to pursue the goal they give up and go back to their old ways with the impression that they will never be able to reach their goal(s). Yet, if they were to continue, taking small steps at a time they would achieve much more than they initially intended.

        I enjoyed this article, it’s a great way to look at not only Cisco exams but any personal development one is trying to achieve.

        I have just recently achieved my CCNA-Voice and with CCNA-R&S already under my belt I have started studying for CCNP-R&S. I viewed this article not with a part time job but with another long term goal I’m working towards (not career related). At them moment I am sitting somewhere between worker 2 and 3. I would like to move more towards an even amount of time spent on each goal say 1 1/2hrs on one and 1 1/2hrs on the other – Currently it’s around 2 1/4hrs on only 45mins spent on study (per day).

        Anyway, great post! looking forward to future articles from you,

        • Thanks, Leon! It’s encouraging to hear an example of someone executing on their long-term plan, and even that they have one! I’ve been looking at some other other numbers along the same line of this post, and at some details of study activities and choices for that cert part of that long-term plan. Maybe one of those will end up in my next post here.

          And if it’s 45 minutes a day for CCNP, I love it that you’re thinking per day, and not just one day a week, say half your Saturday. That really helps retention!

  18. Bongson,
    Age 30 is plenty early to embark on a career in IT. Even if you hope to retire early, say age 60, that’s a good 30 years in that career area. I’d say it’s well worth it.

    As for job market outlook, I’m not an expert at watching the market, but I do have an interest. Here’s a couple of links that give some perspective. Also, there’s some interesting job outlook data spread around here at if you look a bit.

    Here’s one from a job site,, that’s recent, and related to certifications:

    And here’s a generic bit of study from the US Dept. of Labor, looking at the long term outlook.

    Hope this helps!


  19. I’m 30 and thinking of pursing a career in cisco networking. Is it too late? Is this a career that could last a lifetime? What’s the job outlook?

  20. Well Cisco is a pioneer in the field of networking and getting any of this certificates not only helps us to increase your income from networking profession,but also helps you use standard methodologies and professional approaches !

  21. Soud – first, hope your lab goes well next month!
    A year off to study and get to CCIE – wow. What do you think of my time estimates – are those anywhere close to what you will have spent by the time you take the lab next month?

  22. Hi Daniel
    Really interesting article, quite well put i would say this is small win situation, as you further continue towards studying you gather experience at the same time, I am myself pursuing the 3rd option or rather 4. I am on study leave for 1 year, I’m pursuing CCIE SP away from home Tanzania, im am in India, i started learning CCNA RS to CCIE RS bootcamp and continued to gather knowledge and finally settled on certifying on CCIE SP this Sept im sitting for lab, other thing i have noticed on some especially us people who pursuing certification that are narrow minded, for example knowledge of beyond router and switch, the application and interaction, may be because I am a network admin (linux+win env) and i design perhaps thus i see beyond what command or configuration is out to do and how further down repercussions it has

  23. Hi Daniel!
    Thanks for jumping in to comment! And on your “more challenging projects” comment, an old boss of mine at Cisco said that was one of his best tools for keeping his best technologists motivated – like feeding candy to kids. Thanks again!

  24. Great post, Wendell!

    Going for the CCNP might be the best from a financial position. There are things that are difficult to measure in money. By passing the CCIE:

    I learned a lot (duh!)
    Increased respect from coworkers and others in the industry
    More challenging projects
    Interesting side projects such as the Cisco Champions

    Not really something you can measure financially.

    I would say though that the CCNP is a great stepping stone. It’s high reward and will give you a feeling for the effort needed for the CCIE.