Courtesy of TechCareers Responding to the overwhelming expansion of wireless networking within organizations today, Cisco Systems has re-tooled its certified networking professional certification course and launched a "prep" center offering a slew of resources for certified professionals. The Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) certification course now includes the following topics: Campus Switch Networks Wireless LAN; Routing Protocols at Campus Edge; Implementing Secure Converged WANs, and Optimized Converged Cisco Networks. The new CCNP program goes beyond basic core routing and switching to applications such as wireless, security and voice. In addition to topics such as converged networks, quality of service (QoS), virtual private networks (VPNs) and broadband technologies, the CCNP program maintains its focus on the advanced skills required to manage the routers and switches that form the network core. A CCNP certification validates that a network professional has the ability to install, configure and troubleshoot converged local and wide area networks. According to Ray Garra, Cisco's senior manager of learning and development, there were two catalysts driving the course revamp: market changes within IT itself as today's professional networking specialists having to have more than just core routing and switching knowledge; the wireless evolution is becoming one of the company's largest growth markets. "Today's networking specialists need expertise in advanced security as VoIP and wireless as they become more common," says Garra. To incorporate the new course topics, Cisco moved some other courses into different sections. For example how to create secure converged wireless LANs is now early on in the course program, while the aspect of troubleshooting is spread across the program modules where required. "The knowledge and skills required for IT professionals to design and operate a network environment have changed significantly over the past five years," says Don Field, director of certifications at Cisco. "The CCNP update is consistent with the growing demand from our customers, channel partners and the industry for highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals to integrate advanced technology functionality into networks." Cisco offers three levels of general certification: Associate, Professional and Expert in various tracks such as routing and switching, network security and service provider. A variety of Cisco specialist certifications are also available to show knowledge in specific technologies, solutions or job roles. For Cisco Career Certifications information click here. Twenty-two year old Ohamien Uhakheme was introduced to certification during high school as part of Cisco's Networking Academy. He was originally interested in pursuing graphic design as a career, but the Academy experience changed his career focus and he soon achieved his first certification, CCNA. Now he holds a CCNP, CCDA as well as several Cisco Qualified Specialists achievements. "Attaining certifications prove to employers that you're serious about your specialty and for those with little real-time job experience you can gain skills and show your potential," says the senior consultant for The Revere Group. It was that potential that hiring managers at Revere Group clearly saw as they weren't looking to hire a Cisco expert but a Microsoft certified specialist. "I was MS savvy enough and they knew down the road they would need the Cisco expertise so they hired me. It proves that certification can come in handy," says Uhakheme. The consultant advises other IT professionals to focus on one type of certification expertise, as it's better to be an expert in one area than have broad knowledge of several technologies. "You can't be a main guy on a long list of technologies, it's not useful. You need to specialize." He plans to continue to add to his certification achievements and is eyeing the CCIE and CCVP programs. The Cisco CCIP and Cisco CCDP professional-level certification programs have been updated to include the newly revised Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (BSCI) exam and recommended training. Network professionals pursuing CCIP and CCDP certifications will benefit from these curriculum updates that provide and validate the up-to-date knowledge required to install, support and optimize ISR routers, using Cisco IOS' 12.4 routing protocol, routing authentication security, multicast routing and IPv6. Cisco's certification program has graduated over 700,000 certified professionals, and the number is expected to keep growing as wireless deployments continue to increase as well. "Networks are evolving from closed infrastructures to integrated systems that enable organizations to work more closely with users worldwide by connecting and automating business processes and applications," said Zeus Kerravala, vice president at Yankee Group, in a press statement announcing the program changes. "Bringing applications and services such as security, voice and wireless to the Internet has had a dramatic impact on the network, how it is used and how productivity and profitability are maximized." The CCNP Prep Center provides CCNP certification candidates access to a wide variety of resources, including practice questions, tips, expert advice, success stories and peer discussion forums. The CCNP Prep Center also allows networking professionals to easily access information and formal training from Cisco Learning Solutions Partners.