Cisco CCNP Service Provider Certification

The Cisco Certified Network Professional Service Provider Certification was designed to meet the demand for professionals who can implement, troubleshoot and optimise a carrier grade IP Next Generation network. Service providers are now expected to provide fully integrated voice, video and data services to anyone at any time using any device. Network engineers who participate in the CCNP SP certification will be trained in the latest core and intelligent edge technologies. Note that there exists notable lack of learning materials outside those on Cisco's site or training courses and therefore this certification could prove difficult for some candidates

The Certification Process

This certification requires candidates to hold either, CCNA Service Provider, CCIP or any CCIE as a prerequisite for these exams. In order to obtain CCNP SP certification candidates are required to pass four exams, these exams are arranged separately from any training courses offered, further information on these exams can be seen by clicking on the titles.

Note that this certification requires re-certification every three years, this can be done by performing any of the following:

Preparing for the Exams

All exams in this certification path last 90 minutes and contain between 65 and 75 questions. Most of the exams have a roughly equal split between the topics examinable, however SPCORE focuses on QOS and MPLS/LDP in an IP NGN Environment, whilst SPEDGE is mainly focused on MPLS layer 3 VPNs. Further details can be seen on the individual exam pages. We would recommend erring on the side of over preparation so as to ensure a mark high enough to provide a pass.

For more information on Cisco exam policies in general, take a look at this page.

Training Courses

GBdirect offer the Cisco approved courses aimed to provide the skills and knowledge required to earn this certification. The courses offered are:

While these courses will help prepare you for the exams they may not provide you with everything you need to pass them. To ensure this we would recommend hands on experience with the products concerned, along with additional reading from Cisco certification texts. It is advisable to look up the content of the exam, while performing practice labs and taking advantage of the practice exams available on the Cisco website should also prove beneficial. We welcome any reviews of your Cisco Certification experience, if you feel that you know of an improved learning method then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Official Cisco Materials

Cisco provides some online materials, some of which is available through the certification pages themselves. An excellent starting point is to look at the exam content available on the exam page as well as a PDF that provides the exam guidelines.

The full syllabus for CCNP Service Provider can be found here.

Cisco also hosts forums in the form of Study Groups, allowing for the discussion of any areas within the CCNP Service Provider certification. This is naturally very useful for finding information on specific areas, but also for finding overviews of certification as a whole. It may be worthwhile looking at some areas of the CCNA R&S in addition to the CCNP R&S study group where some elements of overlap are present.

One particular post of interest is an excellent list of learning materials for the varying topics and exams contained with this CCNP certification. While this list is now somewhat dated it is excellent in terms of bringing together most of the information required to study for the certification.

Full lists of official Cisco learning materials are available under the headings of each exam found on the side of this page. Due to the relative lack of other learning sources such as books, blogs, videos etc. it is recommended that these materials form a significant part of your studies along with an instructor led course. There are also some practice questions available under the practice tab.

Books

Note that those unfamiliar with specific Cisco Routing and Switching topics may want to look at some books aimed at those taking either CCNA or CCNP R&S for some background knowledge.

Cisco IOS-XR Fundamentals This book receives generally good reviews as both a reference for those working with IOS-XR and a learning tool for those encountering it for the first time. This book is praised with containing a great deal of detail, coupled with excellent examples and real life situations. As such this book is likely a valuable study aid for those unfamiliar with the IOS-XR elements of the certification.

Additional Resources

The Techexams.net forum is one of the most active covering Cisco and other certifications, there is a great deal of detailed information related to either specific technical details or the certification as a whole. As with all other resources for this certification it is worth looking at sections on R&S and other related technologies due to the overlap with other certifications.

CCIE4all has a CCIE SP lab setup that may be of some use to those studying for this certification.

What if I fail?

Don't panic. You will be able to see and your test result and the areas you felt weakest in, focus on content areas where your performance was weakest and areas with a high percentage of questions. Once you feel ready you can reschedule your exam. Cisco's exam retake policy is listed below:

The policies for retaking exams are as follows:

Excellent, you've passed

Upon passing you will receive a score report complete with your photo; this can be used to share with employers or other third parties. This will also grant you access to the Cisco Certifications Tracking System, allowing you to see certification progress, access logos for valid certifications, allow third parties/employers to see your certifications and to sign any necessary agreements.

Next Steps

CCNP tends to be the highest level of certification achieved by those pursuing Cisco certifications; however a higher level, CCIE, does exist. This is an extremely highly regarded certification that demonstrates the highest level of technical proficiency with Cisco technologies; due to the difficulty and specialised nature of this qualification we do not offer training courses. Further information can be found on Cisco's site.

CCNP, Salary and Contract Rates

A recent survey of IT jobs offered across the UK reported the following statistics on the average earning of salaried and contract workers holding CCNP certification. The UK average salary for a CCNP is 45,000, with the average salary for London being 47,500. A breakdown of this shows 90% are offered a salary of more than 35,000 while 10% are offered more than 63,500.

Contractor daily rates were also surveyed and the UK average was found to be 360 per day and 375 per day for the city of London. The further breakdown of these figures shows that 90% are offered a daily rate in excess of 250 while 10% are offered more than 450. Further details can be found on the IT Jobs Watch site.