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.
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