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Which should I pursue: a Cisco security cert, PMP or MCSE?

I am 36 years old and have an NT4 MCSE and a few years experience as an IS manager. However, I am finding it hard to find a new job in the market right now, and this older MCSE is not getting me through as many doors now as it used to. Also, I prefer to return to a more hands-on environment.

In order to find a well paying job ASAP, I would like to know which of these two technical paths I should follow first: either a Cisco security or telephony-related certification (I would not have enough time to go all the way to CCIE) or the MCSE 2000 upgrade path. I feel comfortable with both.

Also, for the purposes of finding a job soon, I had considered following a project management path by obtaining the PMP from PMI. My second question to you is: If I don't care whether I return to a more "hands on" environment or not, which of the three different certification routes would you now recommend? Thank you very much.

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Microsoft certifications like MCSA or MCSE are generally worth slightly less than Cisco Professional certs like CCNP, CCDP, CCIP and CCSP. But there are more opportunities for MS-certified people in the marketplace (such as it is right now, with the current grim economic state keeping job opportunities at the "slim to none" level for many people, perhaps including yourself). My advice is to do what interests you most, or where a quick survey of jobs that are advertised and presumably available in your area indicates a greater number of jobs might be found.

As for your second question, PMP vs. MS MCSE/MCSA vs. Cisco Professional certs, the answer to that one really also is: "That depends on what YOU want to do most." PMP is very hot right now, no doubt, but project management generally works best on the job when it's accompanied by at least one technical certification (most PM jobs have a strong technical component and technical savvy in a PM is worth something to most employers). Thus, it may make more sense to consider MS+PMP or Cisco+PMP rather than one of those three items by itself.

HTH. Please feel free to e-mail me directly if you have further comments or questions.

--Ed--

This was first published in April 2003

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