VoIP certification credentials

In this Voice over IP (VoIP) certification survey, we take a look at available certifications that IT pros can obtain to perfect their voice skills.

Many certifications touch on Voice over IP (VoIP) topics tangentially, but numerous credentials focus a substantial portion of their coverage on this subject matter. In this certification survey, we look at current certifications that include VoIP coverage, distinguishing among those credentials for which VoIP is a primary topic and those for which it is secondary/incidental (but by no means trivial or insignificant).

For each certification mentioned, we include a link to a website where more information is available, along with a brief description of the credential itself. Some links provided do not work without prior registration, and these cases are noted. This is the third update of our VoIP certification guide. For a list of recent VoIP certification changes, see the end of this guide.

Primary VoIP certifications

Avaya Certified Associate Design, Implement and Voice Services track Implementation Specialist (ACIS) [login required]
This collection of programs includes a vendor-neutral introductory to intermediate content on VoIP, IP telephony, voice services, IP Office and other related tools and technologies. The program includes both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral components.

Avaya Certified Expert Implement Design and Implement tracks Support Specialist (ACSS) [login required]
This program covers the same subject matter as the ACIS program, albeit at a more advanced technical level and with added emphasis on installation, configuration, administration, maintenance and support for Avaya platforms and products. The program includes both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral components, but the emphasis is on vendor platforms and products.

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Voice*
This is Cisco's highly coveted capstone senior professional certification, aimed at high-level voice tools and technologies. Tested tools and platforms include Cisco Unity and Unity Express, Cisco Call Manager, Customer Response Server and IP Contact Center Express. This program is vendor-specific in its product coverage but includes a large amount of standards- and industry-oriented vendor-neutral content as well.
*Note: The CCIE Voice will be retiring on February 13, 2014 and the new CCIE Collaboration will become the standard for telecom, unified communications, and video professionals.

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Voice
Cisco has added voice tracks to all of its major certifications, including the CCNA. This credential requires earning a regular CCNA, then passing an additional exam on voice and unified communications administration. While there is some vendor-neutral content, the overall emphasis is on Cisco products and platforms. A recent Cisco infographic shows 2012 salaries for CCNA Voice holders average around $97,000 per year.

Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Voice
Cisco's professional-level voice-oriented certification includes significant VoIP and IP telephony content at its core and as a primary motivation. This program includes primarily intermediate- to advanced-level material and is vendor-specific in its product coverage, but it also includes a large amount of standards- and industry-oriented vendor-neutral content.

Cisco IP Telephony Design Specialist
This seeks to design IP telephony multi-service network solutions for design of scalable converged networks using QoS, Cisco Call Manager clustering, H.323, MBCP, or SIP signaling protocols. Certification holders will understand how to assess work scope when integrating legacy PBX and voice mail systems into existing data networks.

Cisco Unified Presence Specialist
This credential focuses on validating a comprehensive set of skills and knowledge needed to plan, design, implement, install and operate a contact center built around the Cisco Unified Contact Center Express solutions. Students learn to integrate third-party solutions such as Microsoft Live Communications Server, Microsoft Office Communications Server and IBM Lotus Sametime.

Cisco Unity Design Specialist
Building on a strong knowledge of Microsoft Exchange Server (2003 or 2008), a Cisco Unity Design Specialist handles installation, configuration, operation and maintenance of a Cisco Unity 4.0 system in either standalone voicemail or unified messaging environments.

Cisco Unity Support Specialist
This program targets the Cisco Unity product platform, which integrates voice services with the Microsoft Exchange platform and focuses on those who support users in this environment. This is an intermediate to advanced vendor-specific program by design, but it also includes vendor-neutral content.

Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD)
This high-level professional VoIP certification from BiCSi demonstrates advanced knowledge and skills in the design, implementation and integration of information transport systems and related infrastructure, including IP telephony and VoIP services. This is a highly sought-after, advanced professional credential for those involved in the design and delivery of convergent networks, especially for those who work at the intersection of voice and data communications. It is specifically vendor-neutral in design and coverage.

Registered Telecommunications Project Manager (RTPM)
This intermediate-level credential from BiCSi identifies a practicing IT professional who can oversee and coordinate interactions among designers, engineers, installers and technicians involved in the development or construction of new information technology systems. The overall emphasis is on project management, with a focus on telecommunications systems and information systems design and installation.

Academic VoIP certificate programs

Illinois Institute of Technology Master Certificate in Digital Voice and Data Communication Technologies
This academic certificate program requires candidates to take concepts and fundamentals classes, as well as related implementation and software development topics. The program is vendor-neutral in design, with introductory to intermediate topical coverage. It also includes exposure to leading vendor platforms and tools (especially Microsoft and Cisco).

LDS Business College Certificate in Voice over Internet Protocol
This Cisco-oriented program teaches students to administrate converged networks with significant voice and data components, including hands-on work with Cisco phones, switches and other network infrastructure components. Students learn about transmission technologies including Web calling, voice and video instant messaging and Web conferencing applications.

College of DuPage Voice over IP Telephony Specialist Certificate
This is a program that prepares IS/IT professionals to work with VoIP tools and technologies and converged networks. Topics covered include VoIP analysis, design, implementation and operation, with courses on VoIP Convergence Fundamentals, Intermediate VoIP/Convergence, and advanced topics in VoIP convergence.

Collin College Convergence Technology
Two-year AAS degree program with courses in computer networking and maintenance, networking, routers and router basics, switching and routing, WAN technologies, server handling, VoIP protocols and technologies, Windows and Linux operating systems and more. Several very interesting and well-architected programs are available under this umbrella.

Secondary VoIP/voice certifications

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Cisco's introductory to intermediate networking-fundamentals credential now includes coverage of VoIP and IP telephony topics, primarily because these are becoming so common on most networks (and also because the CCNA is a prerequisite for the CCVP certification). This material is vendor-specific by design, but it includes substantial standards- and vendor-neutral content as well.

Cisco Rich Media Communications Specialist
The certification validates an individual's ability to design, implement and support integrated voice, video and Web collaboration in a converged network environment. The two exams for this credential show the split in focus between voice and media: 642-481 Implementing Cisco IP Video Rich Media Communications, and 642-432 Cisco Voice over IP and Cisco Voice over IP fundamentals.

There is a lot to choose from among these offerings, where vendor allegiances will usually dictate one's choice (or choices) within the vendor-specific space. Those interested in establishing basic competence in VoIP should definitely consider a basic academic certificate in VoIP or convergence technologies. Now that Cisco has abandoned its entry-level telephony and convergence credentials, there's no other good place to start with telephony certification, except in vendor programs like Cisco's. This is unfortunate because convergence between voice and data appears bound to continue -- and accelerate -- despite the presence or absence of relevant, entry-level certification credentials.

Are you prepared to take your VoIP certification test? Take our VoIP quiz to make sure you understand VoIP fundamentals.

VoIP certification guide changes since 2007

The following certifications that appeared in earlier surveys are now retired or will be retiring soon and are no longer included in this survey:

  • The Avaya Certified Associate credentials have been retired as well as other credentials renamed to Avaya Certified Implementation Specialist (ACIS) and Avaya Certified Support Specialist (ACSS). There is another Avaya Certified Solutions Architect (ACSA) credential in development, but no information on it is available on the vendor's learning site yet. Note: Access to Avaya certification information requires site registration at www.avaya-learning.com before you can access information about Avaya credentials.
  • CCNT (Certified in Convergent Network Technologies): This credential was retired in 2010 to make way for the CompTIA CTP+ credential, itself planned for retirement on Dec. 31, 2012.
  • Convergence+ (CompTIA): This credential was retired in 2010 to make way for CTP+ at the same time as CCNT retired.
  • CTP+ (CompTIA Convergence Technologies Professional): Scheduled for retirement on Dec. 31, 2012. No direct replacement is planned, though CompTIA is developing a Mobile+ credential.
  • The Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP) has been retired to make way for the Cisco Certified Networking Professional in Voice (CCNP Voice).
  • In the wake of Nortel's breakup and bankruptcy (and partial acquisition by Avaya, Ciena and Ericsson), the Nortel certification program is currently inactive. Still no word if the program will be restarted or rolled into any of the other named vendors' cert programs. This change resulted in delisting five Nortel credentials: Nortel Certified Design Specialist, Nortel Certified Support Expert, Nortel Certified Support Specialist, Nortel Certified Technology Expert and the Nortel Certified Technology Specialist.
  • The Madison Area Technical College IT-VoIP/Convergence certificate program is no longer available, nor do any of its current certificate program listings touch on voice communications.

About the author:
Ed Tittel is a freelance writer and trainer based in Round Rock, Texas, who's been writing and teaching about networking topics since the late 1980s. A regular contributor to numerous TechTarget.com websites, Ed also blogs for PearsonITCertification.com and for Tom's IT Pro.

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