Do I need to take the ENCOR before the ENSLD?

Cisco’s 350-401 ENCOR (Implementing Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies) or 300-420 ENSLD(Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks), are two ways to earn the popular CCNP Enterprise certificate. Many aspiring CCNP cert holder ask this question: “Should the ENCOR exam be taken before the ENSLD?”
While no one answer is right for everyone, many future CCNPs believe the answer is yes. Let’s take a closer glance at the exams, discuss our responses in more detail, and consider when the answer might not be yes.
Prerequisites: Applicants who plan to earn CCNP Enterprise and take the ENSLD exam
If you are asking the question “Should the ENCOR be taken before the ENSLD?” These are the three things we’ll assume:
You’re a current network professional. You don’t need to have any formal qualifications in order to sit for the CCNP exams. If you don’t have network experience, however, you won’t be able to sit for the CCNP exams.
To earn a CCNP Enterprise you will need to take 350-401 ENCOR. The ENCOR exam, which Certpocalypse recommends you take, is the only one you must pass to earn the CCNP.
You have made the decision to take the 300-420 ENCOR ENSLD concentration exam. Six concentration exams are available with the new CCNP. You could combine them with the 350-401 ENCOR in order to earn your CCNP Enterprise. Assume you are interested in network design and have chosen the ENSLD concentration exam.
Let’s now get to the main question.
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Start trainingUnderstanding the ENCOR Exam
The 350-401 ENCOR professional-level exam is a 120-minute exam that is associated with both CCNP and CCIE certifications. We have already discussed how ENCOR is one of the two required exams for the CCNP Enterprise. ENCOR is also a qualifying test prior to the 8-hour hands on labs for CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure or CCIE Enterprise Wireless.
ENCOR, as with all other Cisco professional-level exams will give you a certification. You will be certified as a Cisco Certified Specialist Enterprise Core after passing the ENCOR exam.
These are the six main topics of 350-401 ENCOR’s exam:
Architecture (15%)
Virtualization (10%)
Infrastructure (30%)
Network Assurance (10%)
Security (20%)
Automation (15%)
Cisco’s website contains the complete list of topics that will be covered in the v1.0 ENCOR exam.
This exam covers a wide range of enterprise networking topics. Although it is not an entry-level exam it covers the core topics Cisco believes you need to know in order to specialize in Enterprise networking. Although exam costs can vary depending on where you live and how long it takes, Pearson Vue currently estimates that ENCOR 350-xxx exams will cost $400 USD.
Understanding the ENSLD Exam
The 300-420 ENSLLD professional-level exam focuses on enterprise design and lasts for 90 minutes. Passing the ENSLD will not only make you a Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Design, but it is also one of the concentration exams for CCNP Enterprise.
The ENSLD exam covers five main topics:
Advanced Routing and Addressing Solutions (25%)
Advanced Enterprise Campus Networks (25%)
WAN for Enterprise Networks (20%)
Network Services (20%)
Automation (10%)
Cisco’s website has the complete list of topics (PDF) for the v1.0 ENSLD exam.
As you can see, ENSLD has a much narrower focus than ENCOR. ENSLD focuses more on enterprise network design than a foundation in enterprise networking. Currently, the ENSLD is $300 USD and $100 less than ENCOR.
ENCOR vs. ENSLD: Breakdown
Let’s take a look at each exam and compare some of the highlights.
ENCOR 350-401
ENSLD 300-420
Exam levelProfessionalProfessionalExam focusImplementation of core enterprise network technologiesEnterprise network designExam length 120 minutes90 minutesCertification earned for passing ONLY this examCisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Cor