CCIE Study

I wanted to take some time to write up something about the cost of doing the CCIE track.

This is prompted by some recent events in the CCIE training community and some discussion on twitter about studying in an economic downturn.

Now, there are a couple of different ways of thinking about this. I recognize them all, and see their validity, but i will pitch in on my thoughts about it.

First of, what is the CCIE track all about?

The answer to this question ranges widely among people, but these are some of the reasons im seeing:

1) To be a more likely candidate for a job.

2) To get a raise.

3) To achieve a “status”.

4) To learn something and be a better engineer.

5) Forced to by an external party.

6) Simply the thrill of it.

As in everything else in the world, no one-answer fits all. The world is grey, not black and white. This means that motives for any single individual might be one, two or more of the above, or something completely different. Some thoughts on the ones i have listed:

1) To be a more likely candidate for a job.

For me, this is a very compelling reason to go after your CCIE number. Compared to the entire tech industry, the CCIE certification is probably one of the most respected certifications to have and one that many companies doing networking are interested in. In some circumstances, you can only get a specific job if you have your CCIE in place. Around here, this is especially true for some governmental jobs as well as ISP’s. A CCIE resume simply stands out for many of the people hiring for these jobs.

This is not to say that one with alot of experience, or even one with less experience cannot do the job. Its simply the crowbar that you can use to pry your way open into the interviewing room.

2) Getting a raise.

I can see why one would want a raise, but for me, this could be achieved in other ways as well. Setting out with this one motivation going into your CCIE study, will make it really hard for you as you get frustrated, annoyed, worn down, feel inadequate and all sorts of other bad things enough as it is, picking yourself up only to get that much more a month, would be very hard indeed. However, in combination with another motivation this might be the deal breaker with the wife 🙂

3) To achieve a “status”.

The CCIE is the king. No doubt about it. I just dont see it as enough of a motivation to be worth the effort. Your mileage may vary.

4) To learn something and be a better engineer.

This one is, for me, one of the best reasons for doing this sort of thing. If you want to be better at something, you have to work your a** off to get it. This is what the CCIE study is all about for me. I want to be better in this field. This means constantly learning. However, the CCIE type of learning is ALOT more focused and intense than say a 3 day course on some topic. Those are all good as well, but they are not in the same league. You dont spend a year or more, sacrificing quite alot, to listen to a guy talk about something which will only slightly make you a better engineer. To learn something in detail takes time and effort, whether its the CCIE or any other certification or regular education. To learn something, simply to be better is a powerful motivator.

5) Forced to by an external party.

I havent heard this one very often, however, im told that it does happen. Being forced to do CCIE, is next to being a slave. My recommendation in this case, would be to go work in a different place.

6) Simply the thrill of it.

Along with nr. 4, this is the reason im doing the CCIE. To learn something, and to keep getting better and better at it, is a thrill for me. I dont spend much time on social activities or watching tv anyways, so i might as well learn something. In the past i have learned programming languages and done that for quite some time, exactly for the same reason. It was a challenge, and simply the process of doing it, is a reward in itself. This is not to say there are times (often) when you just want to throw it all out the window.

Many great things have come to be, simply because someone took an interest in something and played around with ideas.


This one is hard. Its hard to keep track of all the things you sacrifice and list them here, as well as being hard to explain to anyone else. Its hard to tell your loved ones that you have to sit in front of the computer for a while, because you _have_ to do some labs or read up on something. Its hard to tell the girlfriend/wife that you want to be left alone at the moment because you are deeply concentrated. Its awkward to keep saying no to social events because you’d rather just sit in front of the computer, trying to figure something out.

These are the three things that i know you have to sacrifice going into this journey:

1) Time.
2) Social life.
3) Money.

1) Time.

Obviously it takes alot of time to learn something really well. This is what you have to do. You have to learn some networking subjects really well. If you are a R&S student, you need to figure out how switches and routers operate, what they do, how they do it, and also what they cant do. There are alot of details. Remember that IOS stands for Internet Operating System. You have to learn an entire operating system down to details. You also have to learn alot of history behind different features in order to understand why they are there, and what they do in their current incarnation. This means alot of work and hence alot of time!

Time has to come from somewhere. We are still operating with 24 hours a day. So in order to find the time to study, you will inevitably have to take it from somewhere else. This often means time away from your family and friends. This leads me to point nr. 2.

2) Social life.

Family, friends. Wife and kids. They are all going to have to live with you spending quite alot of time away from them. Not attending birthday parties. Not going to your regular poker night. Bringing your laptop on vacations. These are often things that you will have to discard. I have a few great friends, and quite often they take a night or two out of their schedule and come together, watching some Fight Night, playing poker or just generally hang out. I almost always have to say no to these things, because i know i have a job to do. Even if you decide to take a night off, which i HIGHLY recommend, do you really want to waste it drinking? You know that drinking makes you less effective the next day. This means two days of studying. How many of these can you afford, especially if you have already booked your lab exam. As im writing this, i am sitting in the office, with my lab humming in the corner, staring at another black terminal with green fonts. Something ive done for quite some years now, while my great girlfriend sits alone in the living room. It takes its toll.

Take a day off once in a while. Spend this day with your loved ones. Come up with an idea that makes it special. Go out to dinner. Have your family over. Create an event. I know for a fact that this will buy you quite some good-will with your girlfriend/wife.

Make sure that you discuss with the people around you that this is what you want, and that you know that its going to take its toll on everyone. This will at least ease your mind, knowing that you went into this thing with a “clean” consciousness.

3) Money.

The last thing i want to mention here, even though there are undoubtedly many more sacrifices, is the financial aspect of the whole thing. This is the area where things are really changing at the moment.

The very first thing i did when finishing my CCNP was to make a list of things i needed, in order to study for the CCIE. It was a daunting experience 🙂

What do you really need?

Ofcourse, the answer to this question is different for everyone. However, there are some things that you really do need.

You need books. And quite a few of them. You need the books quite early on, as they will provide you with the theory and background knowledge, not only to pass the written exam (which is extensive in theory), but also in order to understand specific details further on in your preparation for the lab.

These are some of the books i have purchased while studying for the R&S exam (and im probably not done yet :)). I still use my old books from the CCNP as they provide some knowledge not found elsewhere:

Routing TCP/IP, Volume 1, 2nd Edition

Routing TCP/IP, Volume II (CCIE Professional Development)

Troubleshooting IP Routing Protocols (CCIE Professional Development Series)

CCIE Routing and Switching Exam Certification Guide, 3rd Edition

Cisco QOS Exam Certification Guide (IP Telephony Self-Study), 2nd Edition

Cisco LAN Switching (CCIE Professional Development series)

Developing IP Multicast Networks, Volume I

Internet Routing Architectures, 2nd Edition

Cisco OSPF Command and Configuration Handbook

Dont waste your money on the Cisco LAN Switching though. Its way outdated, and the BCMSN book for CCNP is ALOT better. Also, i bought some of these books, simply because i believe they provide some interesting knowledge, not directly targeted for R&S, but interesting never the less.

You also need some workbooks. Workbooks are like religion to many students. This vendor or that vendor. I will mention a few here, only as a reference. The only one i endorse so far is Narbik Kocharian’s bootcamp and workbooks. I have also bought IPexperts workbooks, but as i havent started on them yet, i cannot form an opinion on the quality yet.

These are the vendors that must people refer to:

IPexpert – One of the most well known training vendors. They offer workbooks, online lab rentals, bootcamps, video-on-demand, audio-on-demand. They offer these as standalone products or in a package. A packaged solution from IPexpert is called the BLS (Blended Learning Solution).

Internetwork Expert – Also a very renowned training vendor. They basically offer the same stuff as IPexpert, but with a different training philosophy.

Micronics Training – This is Narbik Kocharian’s company for CCIE training. Its not a very big company, but his bootcamps rock. I attended one in February 2010 and I can highly recommend it.

All of these offers workbooks you can use in your preparation. Workbooks is a must have,

So, how much will this run you?

I have made some quick calculations on how much ive spent so far. This includes exams, bootcamps, airfare and accommodations, lab hardware and workbooks. The number ive reached is $11k.

I know this is a very high number indeed. But think of it this way: You are investing in yourself and hopefully having fun at the same time! Do you not think you are worth $11k?

State of CCIE’s and the CCIE community:

I have some closing thoughts on the general state of the CCIE track and the CCIE community:

Everyone knows we are in an economic downturn. This fact hits home on all fronts, available jobs, financial means and motivation for embarking on any sort of education.

As companies are cutting down on positions they are doing this from different vantage points. One point might be to cut down on positions that have the greatest financial impact. This might include some CCIE position. Others might value the work of their CCIE’s quite alot, and decide not to cut back on these. It all depends.

No matter what, the job market is very difficult at the moment, meaning that you cant go out and pick any job you want as easily as before.

My view on this is that in a downturn, and even if you might have lost your job, any effort into making yourself better and more attractive to an employer can only be a good thing. But what about if you are already in a job, have you put your CCIE studies on the back-burner in order to focus on your job?

However, after knowing of several cancelled bootcamps and layoffs by the training vendor, i would dare to say that less and less people spend time and money on the vendors at the moment.

Due to the cost of studying for the CCIE, many people who would otherwise do the studying, cant. This is a real shame. Also, people from third world countries might never get the chance to study. This is a damn shame if you ask me. So what to do about it?

Well, if the Cisco 360 program would do something decently, it would look to provide some sort of scholarship for people who have demonstrated a real engagement in the CCIE certification. How this exactly would be put together, is beyond me as im not sure of the funds that Cisco possess for the CCIE certification, along with the business plans and motivation of keeping the CCIE one of the most respected certifications out there.

If i was in Cisco’s shoes, i would have two primary motives. The first would be to keep the CCIE the most respected certification in the industry. Second would be to make sure that someone in a decision making process would choose Cisco over HP, Juniper, F5 etc. By having CCIE’s, this would be a given in most situations.

For me personally, of the $11k, ive gotten the bootcamp + a few books compensated so far, and they are willing to keep sponsor my studies, which is great. I really appreciate this.

Anyways, to wrap this up. I hope we see alot more people go down this path once the downturn is but a distant memory.

Dont hesitate pitching in with your thoughts!

Take care!