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How To Earn A CCIE Security Certification In 4 Easy Steps

One of the ways to distinguish yourself as one of the leading experts in the IT industry is to obtain the title of Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, buy taking one of Cisco’s CCIE exams. If you’re not familiar with CCIEs, in general, they are the most prestigious certificates in the networking sphere of the IT world.

We’re talking about CCIEs in the plural, because, there are quite a few of them, as networking is anything but a narrow field. The CCIEs you can take are Enterprise Infrastructure, Enterprise Wireless, Data Centre, Service Provider, Collaboration, CCDE, and the one we’re interested in today – CCIE Security Certification.

What Is CCIE Security Certification?

Before we start talking about what it takes to obtain the calling of an expert in network security, let’s define what does this particular certification entails. This particular program recognizes networking experts who possess all the necessary knowledge and skills, both technical and practical, to plan, architect, engineer, implement, troubleshoot and support the wide array of Cisco security technologies and solution, all in alignment with the latest industry standards, practices and technologies. In layman terms, Cisco certified security expert is a top-of-the-line, world-class, head of security against the modern threats of the digital world.

How To Earn CCIE Security Certification?


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The greatest thing about this certification, aside from it being very prestigious and door-opening, is the fact that it takes no formal prerequisites, such as professional calling, training or certification, to obtain this certificate. Virtually, anyone willing to take the test can do so.

However, just because everyone can take it, does not imply that everyone will be able to pass this test. If you were to create a list of hardest exams in the world, CCIEs would inarguably be in the top ten hardest exams. With that in mind, Cisco themselves recommend at least 3 to 5 years of experience in the network security field, as well as an in-depth understanding of the topics, as it will make the whole process significantly easier.

Now that we’ve gone over who can take the exam, let’s take a look at the rest of the step by step guide on how to obtain the CCIE Security Certification.

Obtain The Necessary Learning Equipment & Materials

Before you begin studying, you have to get a hold of all the necessary studying materials. By that, we mean books and lab equipment. Most of the information regarding this you can find on Cisco’s website and for all the additional information you can check blogs and forums and consult with those who have already passed the exam.

Another thing you might consider is finding mentors and/or tutors to help you prepare for the exam alongside all the necessary study materials, workbooks and solutions.

This is especially important because of the CCIE Security Lab portion of the exam, so, you should feel free to check out  and find out more about the subject.

Studying For The Written Qualification Exam

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The next logical step towards obtaining this certification would be to sit down and hit the books. Now, regardless of how experienced or inexperienced you are, you’re in for quite a studying session.

This exam consists of two portions – a written portion of the exam and the 8-hour, hands-on, lab examination.

The first part of the examination you’ll have to prepare for is the written exam. Consider this a qualification exam, as you’ll have the pass this one to move on to the lab. The written test is a traditional type of test. It’s a two-hour long test, with fill-in-the-blanks and choose-the-correct answer type of questions, all of them regarding the network security concepts and theory behind it all.

In general, it is recommended to spend at least 1000 hours studying for this exam, although the number of hours can vary depending on your previous knowledge on the matter at hand. Regardless of the actual number of hours you’re going to spend studying, it’s important not to take this test lightly and really get to business and study hard, for as long as it takes. If it takes you a full year – take a full year, as the only thing that matters, in the end, is to pass this test.

Practicing For The Lab Exam

Arguably the most important factor of your whole journey will be preparing for the 8-hour long, lab exam.

What will be expected of you during this part of the test is for you to single-handedly plan, design, deploy, operate and optimize complex network security solutions to keep the network secure and protected. Just by reading the previous sentence, you can see how that could be a potential problem for many people and why almost 75% of people fail this exam on the first try. On the other hand, that doesn’t have to be you.

The thing you have to realize is that there are no shortcuts to obtaining this certificate. You will have to work really hard for quite some time.

When it comes to the lab, we’d strongly recommend either renting out the lab equipment or signing up for a preparation course, whichever suits you best. Many choose courses as it motivates them to study harder, while others prefer to study on their own terms and in their own home. Whatever it is that you choose, the fact that you have to study and practice doesn’t change.

Once again, many advise that you put in hundreds of hours into lab practice to improve your chances of passing the test and we’d encourage you to follow that advice.

How Much Does It All Cost?

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One of the most frequently asked questions is how much will the CCIE certification cost? Although there is no one definitive answer to this question, nor is it a tip on how to pass the examination, it is a very important step, because, without it, you can’t possibly earn the certificate. Before we go on any further, exam fees will cost you $2050 if you make it on the first try. Now, let’s move on.

So, what range are we looking at here?

The best possible outcome, meaning the least you can spend on this certification is somewhere around $2500. You could shave off a couple of hundreds of dollars off of this, but it’s rather hard to pass the exam without the study materials, so let’s just call it an even $2500.

The worst-case scenario is that you have to travel abroad to take the test and that you fail a couple of times. In that case, you’re easily looking upwards of $20,000 – which is a lot of money and we certainly hope you don’t fall into this category.

The realistic scenario is that you’ll have to spend somewhere between $8000 and $12,000 if you make it on the first try. That includes study materials, travel expenses, lab sessions, exam fees, etc.

To sum it all up – the best possible tip anyone can give you is to work as hard as you’ve ever worked in your life. Everything else will be in vain unless you do. On that note, hopefully, we’ve managed to help you in any way with this mini-guide. Good luck!

About Stefania Trtica