Advance Your Career through Cisco’s Specialist Certification ProgramsThe #CertsandLabs team is always working to ensure that we keep you in the know about our certifications and how you can use them to grow your IT career.  This month we’d like to highlight some of our programs that you may be less familiar with - our Specialist programs.  The Specialist program consists of eight topic areas offering certification programs that are specialized for a variety of IT industry needs and markets. The eight topics range from business essentials that allow management to have a holistic understanding during the IT decision making process to the Data Center essentials that allow IT professionals to demonstrate their technical skills and abilities to design, install, and support a data center networking solution.

Some of the specialist certifications offered require no prior technical knowledge, such as the business certifications.  Others let IT professionals validate their specific technical proficiency by learning additional skills in a niche market. Professionals who earn a specialist certification, like the networking programmability certification, can provide invaluable contributions to their company’s IT department because they are designed to address more specific industry needs.

Below is a breakdown of the eight specialist certification areas. If you are interested in the topics below and have the desire to grow your IT skills, we encourage you to review the information and find a certification that meets your skills development and career goals.  Once you have reviewed the summary, use the certification link to learn about which specific certifications are available in each category and find the requirements for earning the certification.

1. Business - The business specialist certifications are holistic and reflect multiple topics often described in today's IT roles. These subjects include: business analysis, technology trends, finance, business-focused solution design, organization change / IT adoption and effective communications.

2. Data Center – With the Data Center specialist programs, you can enhance your skills and abilities to design, install, and support a data center networking solution. Data center specialist certifications geared toward unified computing, unified fabric, or flexpods can enhance your technical skills, confidence and the value you bring to your IT department.

3. Internet of Things (IoT) – The IoT specialist program includes the Industrial Networking Specialist certification. This certification is for information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) professionals in the manufacturing, process control, and oil and gas industries.  It evaluates foundational skills to manage and administer networked industrial control systems. It provides plant administrators, control system engineers and traditional network engineers with an understanding of the networking technologies needed in today's connected plants and enterprises.

4. Network Programmability - The Cisco Network Programmability Specialist certifications enhance your networking skills through foundational networking knowledge and allow you to use your software skills to develop network applications in programmable environments.

5. Operating System Software - The Cisco Operating System Software Specialist program validates proficiency in Cisco internetwork operating systems and includes the Cisco IOS XR Specialist Certification.

6. Service provider – These specialist certifications enhance your skills and ability to design, install, and support specific aspects of service provider networks. Service Provider certifications can help develop expand your career path by allowing you to become a valuable resource to your organization in such a niche market.

7. Collaboration -The Collaboration specialist programs focus on Cisco Collaboration technology skills building and validation and align closely with the on-the-job performance needs of Collaboration engineers, Unified Contact Center Enterprise engineers and networking professionals seeking to specialize in the planning, designing, implementation, and management of deployments.

8. Security – This specialization emphasizes the real-world best practices of network security engineering, utilizing such products as Cisco IOS software, Cisco Adaptive Security Appliances and Cisco security management tools. The Security Specialist certification program also offers an incremental way to develop security skills over a period of time that allows for alignment to the Cisco CCNP Security certification.

Are you ready to take the next step? Leverage the knowledge that you already have or simply take the leap to learn something new in a specialized area of the IT industry. Once you earn a specialist certification, you can pull from these skills to gain foundational knowledge for some of the CCNA or CCNP level exams as well.  The benefit of the Specialist certifications is that they are powerful enough to stand alone to grow your career but can also serve as a great stepping stone to further your overall technical knowledge and grow your skills as a Cisco Certified professional.