Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Certification

  1. CCIE Information

What is the CCIE Certification?
The Cisco CCIE certification is the pinnacle networking certification offered by Cisco and is arguably the most respected networking certification in the industry. With approx 40,000 CCIE's in total around the world, holders of the CCIE credential belong to quite an exclusive club, and for good reason - the CCIE certification is an extensive challenge, and requires a major commitment in both time and money to gain the 'digits' (this refers to the individual CCIE number awarded to successful candidates). So challenging is the credential that it is reported by Cisco that fewer than 3% of all Cisco certification holders (Associate, Professional, etc) go on to become CCIE qualified.

In the early years, the CCIE focused mainly on Routing and Switching. Today the CCIE certification is divided into eight specialist tracks giving candidates more flexibility to focus on the CCIE track that suits their particular career objectives:
  • CCIE Collaboration
  • CCIE Data Center
  • CCIE Routing & Switching
  • CCIE Security
  • CCIE Service Provider
  • CCIE Service Provider Operations
  • CCIE Voice (Retiring February 13, 2014)
  • CCIE Wireless
Who is the CCIE certification for?
The CCIE certification is for networking professionals who wish to demonstrate advanced networking knowledge and skillsets. Given the cost of the CCIE certification, it is intended for those who are serious about their profession and are willing to invest time and money into a credential that validates their advanced skills. While the cost of the CCIE certification will seem prohibitive to most, recent salary surveys have indicated that CCIE certification holders are likely to be recognized and rewarded by employers and, as such, are earning around 10% more than their non-CCIE certified peers.
Are there any prerequisites to the CCIE certification?
While there are no formal prerequisites for taking the CCIE certification (the Associate and Professional-level Cisco certifications are independent from the CCIE), the sheer scope of the exams, the cost, and the degree of knowledge required to pass effectively means that candidates who attempt the CCIE certification will have many years of experience in real-world situations and are probably likely to have gained other IT certifications along the way. There are, however, no official prerequisites for taking the CCIE exams.
How do I earn the CCIE certification?
Irrespective of the specialist CCIE track chosen, earning the CCIE certification requires passing two exams - one written exam (which must be passed first) and one lab-based exam. Only once the written exam has been passed can the candidate schedule and apply for the lab exam.

The written exam is typically a two-hour, 90-110 question, multiple-choice affair testing the candidate on the concepts relating to the specific CCIE track the candidate has chosen. The candidate is given a pass/fail score report at the conclusion of the exam. If the candidate is successful in passing the written exam then they may go on to take the lab exam.

After passing the CCIE written exam, a candidate has 18 months in which to make their first attempt at the lab exam. From that point on, they must make another attempt within 12 months and must pass the lab within 3 years of passing the written exam otherwise the written exam must be retaken.

The CCIE lab exam is an 8-hour, hands-on event that will test the candidate's ability in a real-world environment. The lab exam costs US$1500 (at the time of writing) for each attempt, and can only be taken at any one of 10 Cisco-approved locations globally (or any of the mobile CCIE lab locations - details here). Candidates need to keep in mind passport and visa details if travelling to another country to take the CCIE lab exam as well as factoring in the cost of the travel and accomodation. The locations of the Cisco labs can be found here.

CCIE lab exams are graded by proctors who use their training and experience, as well as automatic tools, to determine whether the candidate has passed or failed the exam. Results are typically available online within 48 hours of completing the lab exam.
What is the passing score?
As with all Cisco exams, the passing score for the written exam is not disclosed - but all Cisco exams are generally scored on a scale from 300-1000. Candidates should aim for a score of at least 850 to pass. Questions are scored, or weighted, differently depending on the difficulty of the question. Therefore the number of questions that a candidate can expect to get on the exam will differ from exam to exam. Likewise, candidates should aim for at least 80% to pass the CCIE lab.

For the lab exam, candidates must achieve a score of at least 80%.
What if I fail?
If a candidate fails the written exam they must wait at least 5 working days before retaking the test. If a candidate fails the lab exam, they must attempt the lab exam again within 12 months of the failed attempt in order for their written exam to remain valid. The candidate must pass the lab exam within three years of passing the written exam otherwise the written exam must be retaken.
How much do the exams cost?
At the time of writing, the cost for the written exam is US$350 and the cost for the CCIE Lab is US$1500 (not factoring in travel and accomodation). Full payment for the lab exam must be received at least 90 days before the exam date. Prices may vary depending on your location and the time of booking.
Where can I take the CCIE exams?
As mentioned, there are two distinct parts to the CCIE certification - written and lab. The written exam can be taken at any Pearson VUE testing facility worldwide. The lab, however, can only be taken at one of a small number of locations worldwide on (or at one of the Cisco mobile testing facilities) on certain dates of the year. Planning for the lab exam is essential. Details can be found here.
Are there any recertification requirements?
To remain CCIE certified candidates must recertify every two years.