Six Hot Networking Certifications for 2021

Start off the new year with a networking certification!

With more people working from home now, and that trend likely to continue well into the future, maintaining resilient, secure, scalable, and automated networks has become all the more critical for businesses and organizations. Hence the growing demand for experienced network engineers with current skills.


Together with experience and relevant expertise, the right certifications can improve your chances of landing that coveted job. Certifications demonstrate functional proficiency in current technologies, practices, and techniques. Because many networking certification exams include a hands-on lab component, candidates develop the real-world networking skills that are needed to install and manage networks in a work environment.


With plenty of networking credentials available, how do you pick the right one? It's easier to choose if you're just beginning a career in networking. An industry-recognized entry-level cert that covers networking fundamentals will help you develop an understanding of the basics. For experienced professionals, it's about specializing in a particular domain, or opting for other vendor-specific credentials.


There are a number of networking specializations, including routing and switching, wireless, network security, and network virtualization. Ultimately, it's important to select the area that interests you most.


The six certifications listed here include both entry-level and advanced credential, as well as vendor-neutral and vendor-specific options.


Comp TIA Network+


CompTIA Network+ is a role-based ,vendor-neutral entry-level certification suitable for network technicians, network support personnel, junior network administrator, network engineer, system engineer and other junior-level network-related roles. This popular credential from CompTIA has earned industry-wide recognition for its comprehensive coverage of core networking topics.


CompTIA Network+ gauges fluency in network design, configuration, implementation, maintenance, management, security, and troubleshooting. It also validates functional expertise in configuring, designing, implementing, and troubleshooting network infrastructure.


The exam has been updated to include current hardware technologies, virtualization methods, new security procedures, and cloud computing service models and best practices. There are no prerequisites for this certification. However, some experience in networking is advantageous. CompTIA recommends a minimum of 9-12 months of professional experience in a networking role.


Candidates aspiring to earn the Network+ credential, are required to pass the performance-based N10-007 exam, a 90-minute exam comprising 90 questions. Network+ is a prerequisite for other CompTIA credentials, including Security+, Linux+, and Cybersecurity Analyst CySA+.


CompTIA offers a variety of exam prep options, including the CompTIA CertMaster elearning program, virtual labs, study guides, practice tests, instructor-led training, and video training. Network+ is valid for three years from the date of the exam. You may renew this credential every three years by earning a minimum of 30 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) over the three-year period.


Additional details are available online.


Start off the new year with a networking certification!

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)


Cisco's core CCNA cert has been around since 1998 and is probably the most widely respected entry-level network certification in the IT industry. Though it is a Cisco-specific credential, the CCNA is designed to teach you the core fundamentals of how networks operate. The latest version (released earlier this year) is role-based and has been updated to include current network technologies.


CCNA demonstrates knowledge and proficiency in the fundamentals of network infrastructure, network access, IP connectivity and services, network security, automation, and programmability. The exam assesses basic understanding of networking concepts for general network operations as well as expertise in implementing Cisco routers and switches, LAN, and network management and maintenance.


Cisco doesn't specify any prerequisites for the exam, but candidates would do well to develop an in-depth understanding of exam topics. It is helpful to have professional experience implementing Cisco network infrastructure, familiarity with the fundamentals of networking, and functional knowledge of IP addressing.


To earn the CCNA certification, you need to pass the 200-301 CCNA exam. Exam training options include self-study materials from Cisco Press, instructor-led classroom training, and Cisco's CCNA Preparation Bundle. CCNA is valid for three years. You may recertify by retaking and passing the exam or earning at least 30 CE credits.


Additional details are available online.


Cisco DevNet Professional


Cisco's new DevNet certification program is designed to enable software developers and network professionals to optimize network capabilities by developing applications suited for their employers' business needs and organizational goals. The DevNet certification path progresses from Associate to Specialist to Professional to Expert.


Today, networks are required to be not just resilient, but scalable and automated as well. So, organizations need skilled network engineers and software developers to develop and maintain optimum network automation and programmability. Going forward, demand for DevNet certified professionals is expected to increase.


The Cisco DevNet Professional certification demonstrates advanced knowledge and skills in designing and developing applications on Cisco platforms and using Cisco APIs, and managing and deploying applications on Cisco networks.


This new credential is designed for network engineers wanting to learn automation and programming, developers looking to work in automation and DevOps, solution architects shifting to the Cisco environment, and professionals that design infrastructure for hardened production environments. Cisco recommends at least three to five years of experience in design, development, and implementation of applications using Cisco platforms and APIs, and experience in Python.


To earn this certification, candidates must pass a core exam 350-901 DEVCOR and a concentration exam of their choice. Study options include Cisco training courses, learning labs, API documentation, Sandbox, code Exchange, and the Cisco DevNet community.


Additional details are available online.


Start off the new year with a networking certification!

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)


The expert-level CCIE is one of the most highly respected network certifications across the globe. It is designed for experienced network engineers looking to advance to the highest level of expertise in Cisco technologies.


The CCIE is among the most sought-after advanced network credentials because Cisco leads the industry in current network technologies and standards, and maintains currency by continuously updating their CCIE program to include new technological developments. Many network administrators are CCIE certified.


The CCIE is available in the following tracks:


Enterprise Infrastructure
Enterprise Wireless
Data Center
Service Provider


Though there are no prerequisites for the CCIE, earning this credential requires solid experience and study, including hands-on training. It's advisable to have a minimum of three years of professional experience in network engineering.


It's necessary to pass two exams, a written exam and a practical lab exam, to earn the CCIE. Once earned, CCIE is valid for three years. Holders may recertify by passing specified exams, obtaining CE credits, or combining both. Exam prep options include training resources from Cisco, including self-study, elearning, classroom training, Packet Tracer, and practice exams.


Additional details are available online.


Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)


The Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) organization manages the well-regarded vendor-neutral CWNA credential, which has proved to be a helpful certification for aspiring network professionals looking to develop expertise in implementing and maintaining enterprise and small business wireless networks. It's also a good starting point for advanced wireless networking credentials in design, analysis, and security.


CWNA validates functional knowledge of the basics of wireless technology, and the ability to set up, maintain and troubleshoot WLAN infrastructure. To earn the CWNA, you need to pass the 90-minute, 60-question CWNA-108 exam with a passing score of 70 percent or higher. Instructors need to score at least 80 percent.


There are no prerequisites for the CWNA, but CWNP recommends the Certified Wireless Specialist (CWS) or Certified Wireless Technician (CWT) certifications as a good means of acquiring foundational knowledge. Study options include the Official CWNA Certification Self Study Kit, live training classes, and third-party guides.


The CWNA is valid for three years. To recertify you may retake the current CWNA exam or pass specific professional exams from CWNP before your CWNA expires.


Additional details are available online.


Start off the new year with a networking certification!

CCNP Enterprise


CCNP Enterprise was launched in February. It replaces CCNP Routing and Switching. CCNP validates proficiency in enterprise network solutions, including functional knowledge of IPv4 and IPv6 architecture, virtualization, and network security and automation.


To obtain this credential, you need to pass a core exam that covers key enterprise technologies and an enterprise concentration exam of your choice. There are no prerequisites for the CCNP. However, it's advisable to have three to five years of professional experience in enterprise networking solutions implementation.


CCNP is valid for three years. Candidates have the option of recertifying by earning 80 CE credits, or passing a professional concentration exam plus obtaining 40 CE credits before their CCNP expires. Exam training options include self-study resources from the Cisco Learning Network Store, elearning, classroom training, Cisco digital learning subscriptions, Cisco Learning Network community, and more.


Additional details are available online.


Other Options


There are other valuable credentials too, depending on your chosen niche and level of experience. These include ONF Certified SDN Associate (OCSA) for those looking to work with software defined networks, AWS Certified Advanced Networking for experienced network engineers working on Amazon cloud infrastructure, CCA � N Citrix Certified Associate � Networking and CCP � N: Citrix Certified Professional for specializing in Citrix technologies, and Juniper Networks Certified Enterprise Routing and Switching Expert (JNCIE).


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Reena Ghosh is an independent ghostwriter who writes promotional, developmental and explanatory content for individuals and businesses. She came to professional writing with work experience in financial services operations and corporate communication. Reena speaks three languages and hopes to learn Sanskrit.