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What Are CCNP Specialist Certifications and Why Do I Need One?

Jul 16, 2019, 3:17:14 PM / by James Hanback

Following Cisco’s announcement that the exam tracks for its entire line of certifications will be changing in 2020, you might have heard talk of migrations and the bandying about of the term Cisco Certified Specialist. So, what is a Cisco Certified Specialist credential? How do you get one? Why do you need one? Simply, a Cisco Certified Specialist credential proves that you have passed what is known as a Cisco concentration exam. Concentration exams are Cisco exams that narrowly focus on a specific Cisco topic or technology that is related to but does not complete a core certification.

For example, after Feb. 24, 2020, if you were to take and pass the Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks (300-420 ENSLD) exam, you would receive a Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Design credential. However, you will not yet have obtained a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Enterprise credential. To get the core credential, you will additionally need to take and pass the CCNP ENCOR (300-401) exam. Interestingly, if you pass only the core exam, you also receive a specialist credential: Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Core. However, this specialist credential is not the same thing as being CCNP Enterprise certified. To be thoroughly certified on the CCNP Enterprise track, you'll obtain the Specialist Enterprise Core credential and a Specialist concentration credential. Together, those credentials will form your core CCNP Enterprise certification.

As noted in my previous post about the new CCNP Enterprise track, Cisco Certified Specialist credentials are also beneficial in that you can obtain them by taking and passing exams on the current Cisco exam tracks. That means you can use the existing exam track to work toward core certification on the new tracks even if you don't complete the CCNP credential you're working toward on the current track. For example, if you take and pass CCNP TSHOOT (300-135) on the existing track but do not complete the certification track, you will earn the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Advanced Infrastructure Implementation credential. Having obtained this credential, you will need only take the CCNP ENCOR exam on or after Feb. 24, 2020, to add the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Core credential, thereby completing the CCNP Enterprise track.

However, Cisco’s advice for any current CCNP candidate facing the new exam track deadline is to keep working toward your full CCNP credential on the current track. One beneficial aspect of completing your CCNP credential before the Feb. 24, 2020, deadline is that you can earn both the core credential and more than one Cisco Certified Specialist credential along the way. For example, completing a CCNP Security credential before Feb. 24, 2020, earns you the core credential and no less than five Cisco Certified Specialist credentials. On the other hand, if you pass a concentration exam now and then wait for Feb. 24, 2020, to take the CCNP Security core exam (300-701 SCOR), you’ll receive the track’s core credential and two Cisco Certified Specialist credentials: Cisco Certified Specialist – Security Core and the Cisco Certified Specialist credentials for the concentration you passed.

Sticking with the CCNP Security example, to obtain a CCNP Security certification after Feb. 24, 2020, you will need to pass the core exam (300-701 SCOR) as well as one of the following six concentration exams on specific Cisco security technologies:

  • 300-710 Security Networks with Cisco Firepower (SNCF)
  • 300-715 Implementing and Configuring Cisco Identity Services Engine (SISE)
  • 300-720 Securing Email with Cisco Email Security Appliance (SESA)
  • 300-725 Securing the Web with Cisco Web Security Appliance (SWSA)
  • 300-730 Implementing Secure Solutions with Virtual Private Networks (SVPN)
  • 300-735 Automating and Programming Cisco Security Solutions (SAUTO)

Candidates who pass a core exam and one of the above exams will receive the core certification and two Cisco Certified Specialist certifications, although you cannot obtain the core certification without also passing a concentration exam. In other words, after Feb. 24, if you pass the 300-701 SCOR exam and, for example, the 300-730 SVPN exam, you will be awarded the CCNP Security core track certification, a Cisco Certified Specialist – Security Core certification, and a Cisco Certified Specialist – Network Security VPN Implementation certification. Similarly, if you pass the core exam and 300-720 SESA, you will receive the track certification, the Cisco Certified Specialist – Security Core certification, and a Cisco Certified Specialist – Email Content Security certification.

So, what if you've already started down the CCNP Security path? Should you throw out everything you've previously studied and worked so hard to achieve and wait for the deadline to pass? Cisco again says no, you should not throw out all that hard work. You should keep working. If you are already working toward a professional certification of any kind, Cisco has created migration paths that will accommodate and reward the work that you’ve already completed.

To achieve a CCNP Security certification by using the current track, you need to pass four exams: 300-206 Implementing Cisco Edge Network Security Solutions (SENSS), 300-208 Implementing Cisco Secure Access Solutions (SISAS), 300-209 Implementing Cisco Secure Mobility Solutions (SIMOS), and 300-210 Implementing Cisco Threat Control Solutions (SITCS). That's a lot of work to throw away. Instead, if you complete all four of the current CCNP Security track exams before Feb. 24, 2020, you will after that date automatically receive the CCNP Security certification and five Cisco Certified Specialist credentials: Security Core, Web Content Security, Network Security VPN Implementation, Security Identity Management Implementation, and Network Security Firepower.

On the other hand, if you manage to complete one or more of the current required exams before Feb. 24, you will receive a Cisco Certified Specialist credential for those exams after Feb. 24. Even if you manage to pass only one of the existing Security track exams, you’ll receive a Cisco Certified Specialist credential for that exam. Come Feb. 24, 2020, that means you’ll only need to pass the core exam to obtain the full CCNP Security credential. For example, if you take and pass the 300-206 SENSS exam before Feb. 24, 2020, but do not pass any of the other CCNP Security exams before that time, you will receive the Cisco Certified Specialist – Web Content Security certification after Feb. 24. Then you need only pass the SCOR 300-701 exam to earn the CCNP Security track credential and the Cisco Certified Specialist – Security Core credential.

The above strategies and information apply similarly to every professional-level certification that Cisco is transitioning to a new track. On and after Feb. 24, 2020, CCNP Enterprise replaces CCNP Routing and Switching, CCNP Cloud, and CCNP Wireless. However, Cisco will still offer separate professional credentials that include all of the following:

  • CCNP Data Center
  • CCNP Security
  • CCNP Service Provider
  • CCNP Collaboration
  • CCNP Certified DevNet Professional

Similar to the CCNP Enterprise migration path and CCNP Security migration path we’ve already explored, migration paths exist for the other professional-level credentials. The only credential without a migration path is DevNet Professional, which is a brand new track. You can find migration tools for all of the following at Cisco’s site:

Topics: CCNP, Cisco certification, CCNP Network Simulator, Cisco Update, Cisco Certified Specialist, Cisco 2020

James Hanback

Written by James Hanback

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