Six Hot Networking Certifications for 2019

Five Cisco certs and one Google credential are on our 2019 "must" list.

As we plunge headlong into 2019, a network engineer must keep abreast of the ever-changing landscape of networking certifications. But what makes a good certification? How does your average engineer know they will be getting their money's worth, or even which certification to pursue?

 

What follows is a detailed list of six top networking certifications for 2019 that will help any network engineer stay relevant into 2020.

 

First on the list is the Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching credential from Cisco. A few years back, Cisco broke out this core certification into key areas of focus, and the most important key area is Routing and Switching. The only people not likely to benefit from a healthy serving of CCNA are the ones who already have it.

 

CCNA Routing and Switching covers the basic skills necessary to function as a core network engineer. While this certification is considered fundamental knowledge, it's recommended for anyone that wants to call themselves a network engineer.

 

The CCNA Routing and Switching exam tests a candidate's knowledge and skills related to network fundamentals, LAN switching technologies, IPv4 and IPv6 routing technologies, WAN technologies, infrastructure services, infrastructure security, and infrastructure management. To receive the certification designation of a CCNA, you must pass 2 exams at $165 each.

 

This is a very small price to pay for the prestige and benefits that come with having the CCNA initials attached to your name. You not only get the job you deserve, but Cisco offers a steep discount to companies that employ Cisco certified techs.

 

In fact, if we shift our view a little higher up the certification chain, Cisco actually penalizes companies that lose Cisco-certified employees, by taking away discounts and discontinuing partnership agreements. Cisco-certified professionals are in demand and there is a healthy and growing job market for techs at every level of the Cisco certification pyramid.

 

Next on our list of six is a Google Cloud Certification — Professional Cloud Architect, to be exact. Recently it has been my distinct honor to be part of an organization that uses the Google Cloud platform to its fullest extent. My group houses its docs, sheets, data, and everything in between in the Google Cloud.

 

I am sure that this certification is in my near future, along with the knowledge it brings. A solid understanding of cloud architecture prepares certified individuals to fully build and administer a Google Cloud solution for any company.

 

It's just $200 to sit for the exam, and it's well worth that small cost to be able to have this credential under your belt. The Professional Cloud Architect certification also touches on security and compliance in the cloud, so it's a good segue into what you should get next.

 

Cisco exam 210-260 covers a variety of security-related topics and the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Security credential validates associate-level knowledge and skills required to secure Cisco networks.

 

By grabbing a CCNA Security certification, a network professional demonstrates that he or she has the skills required to develop a security infrastructure, recognize threats and vulnerabilities to networks, and mitigate security threats.

 

The CCNA Security curriculum emphasizes core security technologies, including the installation, troubleshooting, and monitoring of network devices that maintain integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data and devices. You'll also prove your competency in the technologies that Cisco uses in its security structure.

 

Let's face it, cybersecurity is going to be critical no matter where technology goes in the future, and the onslaught of bad actors crashing the internet party is not slowing down. With all of the renewed and constant threats, one needs to be prepared.

 

CCNA Security is the base level certification required to prepare one for such an onslaught. Do not get caught in today's environment without a security credential. It not only makes you more marketable to the general public but will allow you to focus on a cybersecurity market that is, in my opinion, largely untapped.

 

When Microsoft's MCSE certification tier was brand new, you had a select number of individuals who got the certification and were true wizards when it came to systems engineering. Once the ball got rolling, everybody and their brother were going to a "guaranteed pass" MCSE boot camp.

 

While I do think that CCNA Security, and the security field in general, are drifting toward this "problem," this is nonetheless a worthwhile certification, and one that will set you ahead of the pack.

 

Five Cisco certs and one Google credential are on our 2019 "must" list.

Fourth on our list is Cisco's top-level CCIE designation. CCIE is the cream of the crop when it comes to Cisco certifications and you can pick your area of specialization. My recommendation here, again, is to pursue the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Security certification.

 

As we've just discussed, security is of vital importance in the networking realm and will remain so. The number of CCIEs is growing, but right now most of that growth is overseas. If you live in the United States, opportunity is knocking.

 

As for prerequisites, Cisco's site only recommends "commitment" and 5 years of networking experience. If you're accordingly experiences, and your commitment is all that's in question, then you should sign up immediately, make a plan, and get going.

 

I currently work with a network engineer who said he recommends 18 months of self-study to get up one's CCIE knowledge up to snuff and pass the test.

 

Exam 400-251 is the written exam. It will take you two hours and a ton of reading (and writing), since you will be required to answer in-depth questions regarding all aspects of security related to networking and network equipment. Indeed, CCIE certification is not the for the faint of heart.

 

The exam written exam lasts a mere two hours and costs just $315, but the lab exam, which needing to be passed within 18 months of successfully clearing the written exam, costs $1,400 and runs eight full hours!

 

I know an individual who witnessed an examinee breakdown and start crying during the lab. You have to travel to take the exam, so the commitment of money and time is high enough that your commitment (and resources) needs to be ironclad.

 

The difficulty, however, keeps the pool of CCIE Security holders shallow, and ensure that the skills remain relevant, while maintaining the integrity of the certification. Individuals who get CCIE-certified are (deserved) considered to be among the best in their field.

 

Fifth on our list is Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Data Center. Grab this one and you'll be perfectly positioned to either land a great job at a large company or become a top-tier consultant.

 

Carrying out the design, planning, and implementation of a complex data center is the focus of this certification. Could you imagine having a certification that covered and certified you to set up large scale data centers like those that Amazon, Microsoft, and Google run?

 

Those organizations may not use Cisco technology, but haveing this certification shows that you have an in-depth understanding of what it takes to run a highly complex environment where everything is connected. This certification requires a lot of SD (software defined) knowledge.

 

The phrase "software defined," you may already know, describes the latest go-to technology for running networks, switches, LAN/WAN, and the data center as a whole. You can't get into a large company without understanding why software defined technology is the wave of the future and knowing that everything is going there.

 

With SD, essentially, everything is a program. Instead of working with a lot of hardware, most of the heavy lifting takes place in virtual environment, with what hardware there is being driven, dynamically, by the software. You can make changes on the fly, and a skilled administrator can use SD to accomplish almost whatever he wants or needs to get down.

 

Get a CCIE Data Center credential and you'll essentially be at the top of the networking field.

 

Last, but not least, is the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Wireless credential. While just as expensive and difficult as the other CCIE credentials discussed her, CCIE Wireless also delivers excellent value.

 

You will need a thorough and expert-level knowledge of wireless technology to pass this test and lab. Do that, and your future career could be with big cities implementing the new 5g, Google technology, or with other companies that are blanketing cities with wireless, or with countless other shops that are showcasing new products or technologies related to wireless tech.

 

Balloons floating in the stratosphere are some of the latest tech that promise to "cover the globe" in wireless. This certification is one of the newest and most relatable choices if you want to be on the cutting edge of technology. Pick it up with your other CCIE certifications to make yourself a well-rounded job candidate — someone who's a major asset to big companies and can take smaller ones to the next level.

 

What's Next?

 

No matter what you choose in 2019 for networking, do it with a clear, focused mind. Understand what you are getting into and what kind of commitment you are signing yourself up for. Don't wander half-heartedly down the certification trail. Go with gusto into anything you want to achieve, and you will always be rewarded. As always, I wish you the best of luck and happy certifying.

 

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About the Author
Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive.

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.