Six Niche Networking Certifications
Computer networking certifications that get ranked on "top" lists each year, such as Cisco's CCNP Routing and Switching, or CompTIA Network+, cover networking fundamentals that anyone beginning a career in networking needs to learn. Yet once you've gained a few years of experience as a networking professional and developed a solid understanding of the basics, then you have the option of focusing on becoming a specialist.
Specialization in one or more niche areas can help you chart a clear path to a successful networking career. You need to first decide which networking domain suits you best. This would depend on your aptitude, interest, and which specializations are in demand.
Once you've got an idea where to look, however, the fun begins. Here's a look at six niche networking certifications that could be right for next step:
AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty
This credential validates the ability to design, develop, and install AWS-specific cloud solutions, execute fundamental AWS networking services using best practices, plan and manage network architecture, and deploy AWS tools to automate networking functions. The AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty credential is designed for experienced networking professionals.
AWS recommends candidates hold either an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, or an AWS Certified Developer – Associate, or an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, or an AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate. It's also recommended that candidates have at least five years of practical experience managing network solutions.
Candidates must pass a 170-minute multiple choice exam to certify. Exam prep options include the AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty Exam Guide, and the Exam Readiness: AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty course.
This credential is valid for 3 years, after which you will need to recertify by retaking the current AWS Certified Security – Specialty exam. Details are available online. You can also take a look at study materials.
WCNA Certification (formerly Wireshark Certified Network Analyst)
Wireshark is an open source tool used to capture data on a network for analysis and identification of application and network performance issues. It's important to understand the intricacies of reading data to be able to put Wireshark to effective use. The WCNA Certification credential demonstrates the ability to analyze data packets and network protocols in order to troubleshoot communication and security problems, as well as optimize network performance.
There are no prerequisites for this exam.
The WCNA exam tests a candidate's knowledge of Wireshark operations, troubleshooting, network security, and TCP/IP communications. You need to pass the multiple choice WCNA-102x exam to certify and earn 20 CPE credits each year to retain your certification. This exam is DoD 8570 certified.
Preparation options include study guides, instructor-led as well as online self-paced training, practice exams, and customized training. Wireshark University offers training programs. Certification information and other details are available online.
SolarWinds Certified Professional (SCP)
SolarWinds offers performance and monitoring solutions for system, database, and network management, security, cloud, and IT support. SolarWinds tools are popular because they are simple to configure and implement, and enable efficient problem resolution. SCP is currently available for two areas: Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and Server and Application Monitor (SAM).
The SCP-NPM validates the holder's expertise in using the SolarWinds network management platform. There are no prerequisites for this exam. To earn the SCP-NPM certification, candidates must pass one 75-question, 90-minute exam on the network performance track. The certification is valid for 3 years.
SCP-NPM holders are required to keep abreast of the latest technologies and releases in network performance monitoring by paying an annual subscription fee of USD 200, and attending training sessions and other events. The annual subscription gives holders access to online training and other events, webcasts, guidance from experts, and other support and learning options.
Exam preparations include e-learning programs and classes from the SolarWinds Academy, and exam study guides. There is also a SolarWinds community, support group, library, and other resources on THWACK.
Additional information is available online.
Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)
Wireless communications technologies have advanced rapidly, enabling access to real-time data. The demand for wireless keeps increasing, driven by growth in the range of high-performance digital devices and the demand for data. There is a growing market for network professionals that have a solid understanding of wireless technologies.
The CWNA certification from the CWNP program is designed for network professionals looking to develop a thorough understanding of wireless technologies and how a WLAN works. This vendor-neutral credential demonstrates the holder's ability to install, maintain, and troubleshoot wireless network in small business as well as enterprise environments.
No prerequisites are specified. However, a Certified Wireless Specialist (CWS) or Certified Wireless Technician (CWT) certification is recommended.
You can earn the CWNA by passing the CWNA exam with a passing score of at least 70 percent. The exam covers a range of wireless topics, including Radio Frequency (RF) Technologies, 802.11 network architecture, troubleshooting, and wireless LAN security, to name some.
The first step in preparing for the exam is to read through the exam objectives. Preparation options include the Official CWNA Certification Self-Study Kit, e-learning sessions, and training classes. For additional study, candidates may refer to vendor guides and whitepapers covering BYOD and 802.11ac.
The CWNA is valid for 3 years. To recertify, you need to either retake the current CWNA exam or pass the CWSP, or CWDP, or CWAP exam before your CWNA expires.
VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization (VCP-NV 2019)
The VCP-NV 2019 certifies the holder's expertise in installing, configuring, and managing the VMware NSX platform. This credential is suitable for those interested in specializing in network virtualization. If you haven't earned any VCP certifications, you will need to acquire experience in NSX technologies, or attend one of the training courses specified by VMware, or pass one of the specified foundation exams.
To qualify as a VCP-NV 2019 professional, you will have to fulfil one of the prerequisites listed and pass one of the Professional Network Virtualization exams.
Certification for Network Automation: Cisco Network Programmability Developer Specialist
This certification is suitable for programmers as well as network administrators who want to learn how to develop network applications for Cisco programmable environments. The credential demonstrates the holder's knowledge of programming basics, Cisco Software Development Kits (SDKs), including One Platform Kit (onePK), Open Daylight Controller (ODL), and Application Policy Infrastructure Controllers (APICs), APIs, and network controllers and protocols.
Aspirants need to be able to code using Python, C, or another language in an open environment. To earn this certification, you must pass the 300-560 NPDEV exam. The certification is valid for 2 years.
Preparation options include self-study materials, practice exams, self-paced e-learning, instructor-led classes, the NPDEV course, Cisco Learning Library, study groups, and the Cisco Virtual Internet Routing Lab Personal Edition (VIRL PE).
To recertify, candidates must pass the current version of the specified exam, or the CCIE written exam, or the CCDE written exam, or the CCDE practical exam.
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Other notable niche certifications for networking professionals include JNCIE-ENT, and credentials offered by Extreme Networks, Citrix, F5, HPE, and Avaya. The EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) will help you to advance your network security skills.