Having the CCIE certification gives an IT professional an edge in his chosen field. This is because having such certification somehow proves his expertise in networking especially with the use of Cisco products. He is then expected to know and understand every single detail there is in end to end networking. Because of such qualifications employers are expected to compensate them higher salaries as well. This makes IT professionals to try their best to get CCIE certified.
Getting certified means having to go through two exams. One has to pass the CCIE written exam first before he can take the lab exam. The coverage of the written exam depends on the CCIE track one wants to get certified in. It is a two-hour computer based multiple choice exam and the examinee has the choice from the hundreds of CCIE exam testing centers worldwide. If the examinee does not pass his first try of the CCIE written exam, he can take it again after 5 days. Once he passes the CCIE written exam, the examinee has to make his first attempt of the lab exam in eighteen months. Should he not be able to make it, his CCIE written exam will be valid up to 3 years so he can retake the lab exam during that time. After which, he would have to retake the CCIE written exam before he can retake the lab exam.
So the CCIE written exam really is the first step toward obtaining a CCIE certification. One has to pass it if he wants to get a shot at the lab exam and his main goal, the CCIE certification.