Like all other areas in the field of Information Technology, networking is growing fast, and there’s a necessity for qualified professionals with the knowledge necessary to keep networks up and running, secure, and reliable.
But even in the world of networking, there are a plethora of specializations an individual can take.
One can choose to focus on traditional routing and switching, virtualized networking, network security, wireless communications and many more, not to mention the plethora of vendor-specific learning there is to do.
With that said, here are 10 of the best networking certifications that are popular on the market today.
Anyone of these will require a good deal of practice and hard work to obtain, but once you have them, your resume is going to shine and your bank account will thank you!!
1. Cisco CCIE
In the world of network certifications, there isn’t one that’s more highly regarded than the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification.
Cisco created the CCIE to establish a way to distinguish top-tier network engineering experts.
The CCIE tier of certifications is generally accepted across the world as being the most prestigious certification a network engineer can obtain.
Moreover, the community of professionals that have obtained these certifications have a reputation for leading their industry with thorough industry knowledge.
Cisco continues to keep its certification programs relevant with updates to their examination process as well as taking into account advances in technology.
The CCIE certification is difficult to obtain, though there are no prerequisites for obtaining it.
Unlike some other Cisco certifications (such as the current CCNP) that require candidates to first hold a lower-level certification, the CCIE does not have such a pre-requisite.
With that said, there is an enormous amount of information to absorb, and you’ll need hands-on practice with networking equipment to fully understand all of the concepts.
The recommendation is to have at-least 3-years of practical experience and also it is advisable to study first and pass the lower level certifications such as CCNA and CCNP.
To obtain your CCIE certification, you’ll need to pass both a written and hands-on lab exam.
New for 2020, the CCIE certification tracks have been slightly revised. There will be six tracks available for you to specialize in, including:
- Enterprise Infrastructure
- Enterprise Wireless
- Data Center
- Service Provider
You can opt to pursue just one track, or you can pursue multiple tracks and obtain a CCIE certification for each one you pursue.
2. Cisco CCNP
Like the CCIE, the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) is a highly prestigious certification that opens many professional doors for those that carry it.
CCNP exams have been updated, and the new versions will be going live in February of 2020.
Going forward, the CCNP will consist of two exams. One exam covers core enterprise networking technologies and the other is an area of focus that you’ll choose to specialize in.
This gives you the industry-recognized power of a Cisco certification while also allowing you to differentiate yourself with a specialization.
The core Enterprise exam required by all CCNP certifications is 350-401 ENCOR (Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies).
With the core Enterprise Certification, 350-401 ENCOR, you’ll learn about networking architecture in the form of IPv4 and IPv6, network virtualization, automation, security, and much more.
Once you’ve obtained your core exam, you can then choose from one of the following six exams, which cover specializations like network design, wireless, and automation:
- 300-410 ENARSI Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services (ENARSI)
- 300-415 ENSDWI Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (SDWAN300)
- 300-420 ENSLD Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks (ENSLD)
- 300-425 ENWLSD Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (ENWLSD)
- 300-430 ENWLSI Implementing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (ENWLSI)
- 300-435 ENAUTO Implementing Automation for Cisco Enterprise Solutions (ENAUI)
As with the CCIE, there aren’t any formal requirements for the new version of CCNP, however, it’s stated that most people who pursue this cert should have somewhere in the neighborhood of three to five years experience in enterprise networking.
3. VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization 2019 (VCP-NV 2019)
With the explosion of virtualization in every area of IT, VMware has shined as one of the industry leaders in this field.
The new VMware Certified Professional — Network Virtualization (VCP-NV 2019) certification is developed by VMware for professionals who configure, install, and perform administration of VMware NSX virtual networks. For this certification, there are two available tracks.
The NSX-V track focuses on professionals who perform work specific to NSX-V, and focuses on these skills and proficiencies:
- Installing, configuring, and upgrading VMware NSX.
- Creating and configuring VMware NSX virtualized networks.
- Understanding of VMware NSX architecture and technology.
- Understanding the physical hardware requirements for VMware NSX.
- Configuration and administration of vSphere network environments.
To earn the VCP-NV 2019: NSX-V certification, you must pass one exam, 2V0-642.
If you possess no other VCP certification, VMware requires you to attend one of their nine VMware courses and pass one of the corresponding Foundation exams, which include:
- vSphere 6
- vSphere 6.5
- vSphere 6.7 Foundations
If you already possess a VCP6-NV, you can upgrade your certification by attending one of the nine VMware NSX-V training courses, or you can take and pass the VCP-NV 6.2 exam.
The VCP NSX-T track focuses on professionals who install, configure, and maintain VMware NSX-T virtual networks. The VCP-NV 2019: NSX-T certification and corresponding exam verifies a professional’s skills and deep understanding in the following:
- Understanding NSX architecture and technology and its requirements.
- Configuration and administration of vSphere networking essentials.
- Installing, configuring and updating NSX virtual networks.
To gain this certification, you’ll need to pass the 2V0-41.19 exam, VMware Professional NSX-T Data Center 2.4.
As with the NSX-V, there are certain requirements you’ll need to meet to obtain this certification. You’ll need to hold one of these certifications:
- VMware Certified Professional 6.x
- VMware Certified Professional 7
- VCP DTM 2018
- Cisco CCNA, CCNP, or CCIE
CompTIA is a longtime purveyor of technology certifications, and while their certifications are typically entry-level, they’re widely regarded and respected in the industry because they are vendor-neutral and cover a wide range of topics.
If you’re just starting out in networking, the CompTIA Network+ is an excellent certification that will advance your career.
You’ll learn about designing and building networks, maintaining and managing network devices, and using network hardware such as switches and routers.
You’ll also learn about virtualized networking, network security, networking standards and protocols, cloud computing etc.
As the Network+ is an entry-level certification, there are no hard requirements, though CompTIA does recommend at least 9-12 months in a networking position.
The exam code for the CompTIA Network+ is N10-007 and consists of 90 questions with an exam duration of 90 minutes.
5. ONF Certified SDN Associate (OCSA)
This exam validates professionals with conceptual and applicable knowledge and skills of the major components of networking in the area of Software Defined Networking (SDN) which is the future of traditional networking.
The ONF Certified SDN Associate is an entry-level certification that’s focused on SDN, though all major components of networking are covered in this exam.
There are no hard requirements to pass the ONF OCSA exam, but it’s recommended the candidate has a strong foundational knowledge in networking concepts, including the OSI model, internet, various networking protocols, and so on.
The Exam (OCSA-110) consists of 40 questions in 60 minutes timeframe and you need a passing score of 70%.
The ONF OCSA is an excellent certification for an entry-level professional to obtain whose focus is in SDN. It’s widely recognized and is regarded as a valuable certification.
6. Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)
The Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) certification is for networking professionals who want to focus on wireless technologies in a vendor-neutral way.
It’s another entry-level certification, but it’s one that looks good on your resume and validates your professional knowledge of wireless networking.
The CWNA is a foundational certification, and once you’ve obtained it, it’s valid for three years from the time of issuance.
To re-certify, you must take one of the professional certification exams (or the same CWNA exam) before your certification expires to renew it for another three years.
There are no actual prerequisites for the CWNA, though it’s highly recommended that you obtain the Certified Wireless Specialist (CWS) and the Certified Wireless Technician (CWT) certifications before attempting the CWNA.
The exam number for the CWNA is CWNA-107, and in the exam, you’ll be tested on the following concepts:
- Radio frequency technology.
- Hardware and software for wireless LAN.
- Design, installation, and management of networks.
- The standards and organizations for wireless networking.
- The networking architecture for 802.11 wireless.
- Security for wireless LANs.
- Troubleshooting and problem-solving.
There are 60 questions in the exam with a duration of 90 minutes. Passing score is 70%.
Just like SDN, Virtualization and Automation, Cloud computing and Cloud networking are also considered as hot topics and will be dominant technologies for many years to come.
If you’re a professional that works with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on a regular basis, you may want to consider the AWS Certified Advanced Networking certification.
This is an industry-recognized certification that carries a lot of weight for companies that utilize AWS for their technology needs.
Keep in mind, this is an advanced certification intended to validate knowledge of professionals who perform complex tasks in networking on Amazon cloud environment.
The AWS Certified Advanced Networking certification covers a great deal of knowledge in-depth, including:
- Designing, developing, and launching cloud-based solutions utilizing AWS.
- Implementing core services in AWS with an adherence to architecture best practices.
- Designing, implementing, and maintaining networking architecture for AWS services.
- Automation of networking tasks in AWS using the latest tools.
- And much more
There are no actual pre-requisites for this certification, though Amazon recommends users possess one of the following Amazon certifications:
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator
- AWS Certified Developer
They also recommend that you have at least five years of experience in implementing and maintaining network solutions.
8. Juniper Networks Certified Enterprise Routing and Switching Expert (JNCIE)
The JNCIE-ENT is analogous to the CCIE in Cisco.
The Juniper Networks Certified Enterprise Routing and Switching Expert (JNCIE-ENT) certification is the highest specialist certification that validates an individual’s knowledge in foundational and advanced networking concepts in Juniper networks, including:
- Layer two switching and security.
- Working with virtual LANs.
- Managing protocol-independent routing.
- Routing and high availability.
- Administration of Juniper switches and routers and managing them with Junos OS.
- And much more
While there’s a large amount of networking information covered in this certification, it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of it is also vendor-specific, focusing on Juniper’s switches and routers and managing them with Junos OS.
The JNCIE-ENT in a specialized certification and, as such, requires that you first obtain Juniper’s JNCIP certification (similar to CCNP).
Once you’ve passed the pre-requisite certifications, you’ll be able to take exam JPR-944 plus a hands-on Lan exam to obtain your JNCIE-ENT.
9. Cisco CCNA
The Cisco CCNA has been around for a very long time, and it’s widely recognized as one of the best entry-level certifications in the industry.
Beginning on February 24, 2020, Cisco will introduce a new, consolidated examination process for the CCNA. If you’ve been studying for the current CCNA Routing and Switching exam and test before this date, you’ll receive the updated CCNA certification.
Before the new 2020 certification, to gain CCNA you’ll need to pass either 200-125 CCNA or 100-105 ICND1 and 200-105 ICND2.
The new CCNA exam after Feb. 2020 is 200-301.
The CCNA certification is intended to validate a professional’s foundational networking knowledge for general networking purposes and for working with Cisco routers and switches.
In-depth knowledge of LAN technologies, routing and switching, infrastructure management and maintenance is necessary to pass these exams.
Like the Network+ certification by CompTIA, the Security+ certification is a renowned certification that’s recognized globally.
It’s intended to validate the skills necessary for a career in security in information technology.
The exam emphasizes hands-on skills. Someone that holds this certification will be able to perform a number of tasks related to network security, and the certifications focus is on risk mitigation and management, threat management, and detecting intrusions. A list of potential positions someone with this certification could take are:
- Junior IT Auditor
- Penetration Tester
- Systems Administrator
- Network Administrator
- Security Administrator
The Security+ certification is an entry-level certification and, as such, doesn’t have any prerequisites. If you’re looking to develop your career in networking and you want a focus on security, the Security+ is a great first certification.
To gain this cert, you’ll need to pass exam SY0-501. Once you’ve passed your exam and gained certification, it will be valid for three years, at which point, you’ll need to pass another exam to renew your certification.
I know that the best certification for each professional is subjective and depends on many factors such as the current job position of the individual, the company he/she works for, years of experience etc.
The certification list above covers a wide range of networking areas and are very popular in the market right now.
There are many job positions requesting such certifications so professionals that possess them will be better off when pursuing a change in career or getting a new job with a high salary.
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