Six Hot Networking Certifications for 2018
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of network and computer system administrators in the U.S. is likely to increase by 31 percent from 2014 to 2024. Experienced professionals with current networking skills are in high demand and earning a relevant networking certification is one way of demonstrating to potential employers that you are serious enough about a networking career to invest time and effort in staying current.
Listed below are six key credentials among the wide range of certifications available today. Each of these credentials validate some of the skills currently in demand, and getting one is an excellent means of jumping into the high-demand job market for skilled networking professionals.
The CompTIA Network+ credential is a vendor-neutral certification that validates general networking knowledge and is suitable for entry-level IT professionals looking to specialize in networking. It is a valuable basic certification to have in that it is the leading networking credential for beginners and many view it as a springboard to higher vendor-specific specializations. Indeed, for some of those more advanced credentials, CompTIA Network+ is a required qualification.
CompTIA Network+ validates a fundamental understanding of the essentials of networking installation, configuration and troubleshooting. Though CompTIA doesn't specify any prerequisites, some work experience in IT is advisable. Aspirants need to pass one 90-minute exam comprising 90 questions. The certification is valid for three years from the exam date.
Exam objectives and sample questions are available here. Exam preparation options include study guides, eLearning, classroom training, and CertMaster, an online learning tool. The CompTIA Marketplace offers a range of these for purchase. There are also several self-paced training options and practice exams, some of which are available through CompTIA.
Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
CCIE is Cisco's expert-level networking certification that is available in different specializations, such as Collaboration, Data Center, Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, and Wireless. The in-demand CCIE has been around for quite a few years. Though earning the CCIE takes time and effort, it is considered well worth the hard work, duration and cost. The average salary for CCIEs in 2017 was a comfortable $116,000.
To earn a CCIE in any track, you need to pass a written and a lab exam. You may schedule a lab exam only if you pass the written exam. The two-hour written exam consists of 90-110 questions. Written exam scores are valid for 18 months and the lab exam must be taken within 18 months of having completed the written exam. Those who don't pass the lab exam within three years are required to clear the written exam again. A CCIE is valid for two years.
Cisco does not specify any prerequisites, but recommends at least eight years of relevant work experience. Self-study options are available at Cisco Learning Network and these include study papers, recommended books, study groups, and sample tests. Aspirants can also join training programs and CCIE communities online.
For a more extensive read on CCIE, click here.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
The great thing about Cisco networking equipment is that it is in use everywhere from government and academic institutions to large enterprises and small businesses. If you are going to be working with Cisco equipment, then CCNP certification is great choice. CCNP is a mid-level credential available in a number of tracks, which include Collaboration, Cloud, Security, Routing and Switching, Data Center, Wireless, and Service Provider. Currently, Routing and Switching is the most in-demand CCNP specialization.
To register for the CCNP, you will need a valid CCNA or CCIE certification. Depending on the specialization, candidates are required to take three, four, or five exams. The CCNP: Routing and Switching credential requires three exams, each of which runs two hours. The certification remains valid for three years from the date one passes the last of the three tests.
There are number of self-study options including books, flash cards, labs, both physical and virtual, and practice tests.
Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA – N)
The CCA – N credential replaces the now-retired Citrix Certified Administrator for Access Gateway certification. This certification is valuable because the NetScaler Gateway is used extensively on Citrix networks. Being rather complex, implementing the NetScaler requires a sound understanding of networking fundamentals.
The CCA – N demonstrates knowledge and skills in environment assessment and NetScaler design and implementation for remote access to application, desktops and data. The exam tests a candidate's ability to ensure high availability of data, to audit, secure and troubleshoot network deployments and to achieve integration with other vendors' products.
To earn the CCA – N, you need to pass the Implementing Citrix NetScaler 12.x Essentials and App and Desktops Solutions Exam. The CCA – N is valid for three years. Exam prep options include recommended training and exam prep guides. More extensive details on exam prep are available at Citrix.
Juniper Networks Certified Expert Enterprise Routing and Switching (JNCIE – ENT)
Juniper Networks is a router, firewall, and networking solutions vendor that focuses mainly on data center environments. Juniper's network operating system for security, routing and switching Junos OS runs on many of its devices.
Juniper certifications are intended to train networking professionals to maintain Juniper hardware and software solutions. The Junos-based certification is available in Data Center, Enterprise Routing and Switching, Service Provider Routing and Switching, and Junos Security specializations at Associate, Specialist, Professional, and Expert levels.
The Enterprise Routing and Switching track is for professionals who install and maintain Juniper technology-based networks equipped with LAN and WAN routers and switches at small, medium, and large enterprises. The JNCIE – ENT credential is the most advanced level in the Enterprise Routing and Switching track and demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of networking technology and expertise in Juniper Networks enterprise routing and switching platforms.
To earn the JNCIE –ENT, you must first earn a valid JNCIP – ENT certification and then pass an eight-hour practical lab exam comprising real-world situations. The JNCIE – ENT is valid for three years.
To prepare for this exam, you may opt for the five-day JNCIE Enterprise Bootcamp. If you don't have five days to spare, self-study through Junos Documentation and other materials is another option. Click here for a deeper-dive on exam contents and other details.
Wireshark Certified Network Analyst (WCNA)
The WCNA is currently one of the more popular non-Cisco networking credentials. It validates a candidate's ability to analyze network traffic using Wireshark and optimize network communication, troubleshoot and secure networks based on network sniffing and traffic analysis. The WCNA is offered by the Wireshark University founded by Gerald Combs.
Candidates must pass a two-hour exam consisting of 100 questions to earn the WCNA. Exam preparation options include self-paced online training, instructor-led courses, customized training and books. These can be accessed through Wireshark Training. Some very solid practice tests are available here.
The WCNA is valid for three years, but WCNA holders will need to complete 20 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits each year. These credits are based on activities linked to WCNA exam objectives, such as studying an exam prep book.
Certification will help you stand out
When it comes to landing a networking position, relevant experience is almost certain to be your most important qualification. Experienced professionals who also have a certification, however, can have an edge over people with similar experience but without valid certification.
Certifications are useful in getting past HR people who often sort a heap of applications based on keywords. If you're going to work for a reseller or want to be an instructor, certification is often required and it is advisable to select a certification based on your experience, career goals and interests.