My second question is how much do you think I will be able to make if I already possess an MCSE NT 4.0 and a Sun...
Solaris admin cert, as well as CCNA, CCNP, etc?
- Written exam $300
- Lab exam $1,250
You're lucky in that living in the Bay area/Sacramento zone means you won't have to spend much on travel and lodging to take the lab exams. Most people I know take the written exam once (rarely twice), but take the lab exam two or three times before they pass. Thus, exam costs are likely to range from a low of $1,550 to a high of $4,350. Add to that at least $600 for a library of exam prep materials, including a couple of banks of practice test questions, or as much as $12,000 for a CCIE Security boot camp and you get the correct idea that this can be an expensive undertaking.
If you check for salary surveys at http://www.tcpmag.com, you can get better information about salaries than I can provide anecdotally, but with numerous CCIE friends (none in Security, however) and half of them in the Bay area, it's not unreasonable to expect a salary of $90,000 to $120,000 after earning the CCIE Security credential.
Most CCIEs have 8-10 years of industry experience, and most of them spent anywhere from 18 to 30 months earning their credential, so you clearly have some work ahead of you. I hear from my CCIE colleagues that it's mandatory to work in or around and environment where you can lay hands on Cisco equipment and software, particularly current versions of IOS (12.2 and higher) as well as PIX and Cisco VPN stuff.