The Service Provider (SP) certification is one of the more mature technology tracks in Cisco’s portfolio. The current versions of each certification level have been consistent for several years. This stability is the reason the track has not become outdated. Because it serves a niche market, the SP technology track can catapult your career for any of the major Internet Service Providers (ISP) and large Enterprise companies. With ISPs having global reach, earning a Service Provider certification can make you more competitive for new job opportunities. Now, let’s review some of the skills needed to obtain an SP certification and the benefits of earning it.
What Type of Background do you Need?
Earning your CCNA SP and CCIE SP requires no specific prerequisites; however, as with all of our Professional level certifications, there are prerequisites to earn the CCNP SP: you must hold an active CCNA SP or any CCIE certification. As an SP professional working with telecom, cable, and internet providers, your on-the-job experience often will provide the foundation you need to pursue a Cisco SP certification. For more advanced candidates pursuing their CCIE, the knowledge you have gained on the job should better prepare you for the design, implementation, diagnosing, and troubleshooting of complex Service Provider high availability network infrastructure and services based on dual stack solutions (IPv4 and IPv6) on the written and lab exams. Understanding the interoperability of the network and services components as well as the functional requirements should enable you to translate that knowledge into specific device configurations.
There are a few knowledge areas common to the Associate, Professional and Expert level exams that require you to build on your skills as you advance to the next certification. The following technology areas are covered in the Associate, Professional and Expert exams with an increasing level of knowledge and experience required as a candidate progresses:
- Core Routing & Edge Network Services
- OSPFv2, OSPFv3, IS-IS, IPv4 & IPv6.
- BGP Routing & Services
- High Availability & Fast Convergence
- Next Gen services for Service Provider
- MPLS, Layer 2 and Layer 3 VPN & more
At the Associate level, positions may require the ability to manage existing networks while Professional level positions may require the ability to configure and maintain networks that are scalable and prepped for aggressive expansion when necessary. The Expert level exam requires much more experience and technical skill.
Benefits of the SP Track
Solidifying your skills and knowledge while studying for an SP exam and earning a certification can potentially translate to beneficial, top earning jobs. If you already have some of the skills specific to the Service Provider track, you can build on what you already know. Additionally, candidates with a background in routing and switching could also reasonably look at adding Service Provider to their portfolio as well. In fact, such candidates that may be considering a different career path would be well suited to pursue the SP certification. For those who hold an active SP certification, you may find numerous job opportunities, whether at one of the major companies or a smaller ISP carrier, due to the demand for qualified talent with these very specific skills. The following are a few open positions identified that require or prefer an SP certification whether at the CCNA, CCNP, or CCIE level. The salary range for these positions begins at $60K to an upwards of $190K USD.
· Network Engineer – IP Designer
· Backbone Support Engineer
· Network Infrastructure Development Engineer
· Deployment Management Specialist
· Principal On-site Support Engineer
· Network Consultant Engineer
· Solutions Architect
· Technical Leader
· Design Engineer
These job positions are by no means the only ones available, but they provide a small snapshot of the types of employment opportunities available for those in this niche market.
This is a perfect time to take the next step in your career and start preparing to earn your CCNA, CCNP, or CCIE SP certification. If you are pursuing the CCIE SP certification, keep in mind that our expert-level certification programs have adopted a more agile and modular approach to the blueprints. This means that the CCIE Service Provider has been revised from v4.0 to v4.1. If you are scheduled to take the written and lab exams BEFORE June 21, 2017, you should reference the v4.0 exam topics. Candidates scheduled to take the written and lab exams ON June 21, 2017 and beyond should reference the v4.1 exam topics.
If you are interested in earning an SP certification, do your research and determine which one is the right fit for you based on your current knowledge, skills, and abilities. The market is wide open right now, and there are providers looking for qualified and certified professionals to fill their open positions. The benefits of earning your SP certification will be worth the hard work and dedication. Good luck in your pursuit!