There has been some talk on the twitter-verse and at Cisco Live around some of the changes that Cisco is making to the CCIE/DE written and lab policies.  Last month they posted those changes to their Certification Exam Policies website to let everyone know and read.  The ones that are key to CCIE/DE candidates (and some will be effective August 2, 2014) are:

  • Candidates who fail the CCIE/DE written must want 15 calendar days, beginning the day after the fail, before retaking the exam
  • Once passed, you cannot retake the same written exam within 180 days
  • Candidates may attempt the CCIE/DE written exam up to four (4) times per rolling calendar year.

Lab (here is the big one):

  • Candidate must wait 30 days between CCIE lab attempts (30 days starts the day after the failed attempt)
  • For your 1st  attempt there is no wait time.
  • For your 2nd  attempt, there is a 30 day wait time
  • For your 3rd, 4th, and 5th attempt, there is a 90 wait time between each
  • For your 6th , 7th  and onward, the there is a 180 day wait time between each.

What makes the wait time between retakes interesting, it is RETROACTIVE. ( Thanks to INE for posting it today for me to see) So if you recently tried to pass the R&S v4 lab and want to go for v5 now, your wait time may be impacted depending on attempts.  This policy applies to all CCIE exams, so depending on what track and attempt you are on this may impact your next available lab date.  Cisco has also decided to increase the costs of the testing fees associated with their certifications (ouch!).
The CCNA (200-120) is now $295 (old composite was $250) and it looks like the professional level exams have stayed at $250 each.  The CCIE written have increased from $350 to $400 each, and the lab is now at $1600 per attempt, from $1500 prior.  You can find the new fees here: https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-12825.  Now if you want to get your CCIE, you are looking at around $2000 in test fees –  and that does not include any travel!  The CCIE certification has always been expensive, both in time and cost.
How do these tests compare to other vendors?  Let us look at the fees that Cisco, VMware, Juniper, and Microsoft cost.
The costs below are approximations based on current available data on Pearson Vue and other sites.
From this we can see that the VMWare VCP test is the most expensive to obtain, but that is because that costs includes a required class cost of $3295 and a test cost of $250.  If we added a Cisco CIERS1 R&S prep class to the CCIE certifications, we would be adding another $4295 to the cost, bringing the total to $6295 –  and that is just your first attempt!

Fryguy’s Viewpoint

I am starting to wonder if some employers will have a hard time financially supporting their employees who endeavor to achieve CCIE Certification.  The cost may be getting tough for budgets to tolerate, and assuming that many candidates take 2–3 attempts to pass, we are talking about a financial investment of over $5,200 in testing fees for a candidate. Many employers who currently reimburse have a 12–month stay and/or a “We will pay for a pass” policy, I wonder if this policy will be change to 18 months or more.  This is going to make it tough on the candidates who are attempting the CCIE as they may have to pay more money in order to achieve the certification.
This also makes me wonder if the increase in costs will lead to an increase demand for the “dump” material on the market.  At the current costs as well as the new costs, I am guessing that there are candidates that cannot afford to take the lab more than once or twice.    If the demand for “dumps” increase, this will most certainly hurt the value of the certification.   Hopefully Cisco has considered this as well and is taking steps to alleviate this issue (moving CCIE based certifications (written) to Pearson Professional Centers would be a good start).
I also think that this may also drive candidates to the other vendors –  Juniper certifications are half the cost of Cisco certification. I have also seen a greater demand for Juniper certifications recently, so maybe that would be a good thing for competition.  Cisco has become a “dime-a-dozen” certification, whereas Juniper and VMWare are more boutique certifications and do not have the abundance of certified candidates.
One last thing that I want to consider, was is the impact of SDN type networking to the Cisco Certification engine?  Will a CCIE level certification have the same value in the rumored “New SDN Order?”  Is this what Cisco needs to do to maintain the program- raise the prices to sustain their margins in a falling Certification market?  It is just my speculation, but these changes do make me wonder a bit.