Getting certified in the IT industry will no doubt add credibility to your resume. At all levels, but especially entry level, gaining the relevant certifications is a great way to stand out and potentially earn more money.
A survey by the Dice + Linux Foundation states that 80% of IT professionals feel networking certifications are helpful. With a huge 47% of HR Managers more likely to hire someone who is network certified – it makes sense to invest the time and money into gaining the right qualifications.
With so many different networking accreditations available, it can be a challenge to know where to start. With that in mind, we have compiled seven of the most popular certifications in the field and what you can expect from each one.
1. CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
This is an entry level certification, ideal for people looking to get into networking roles. There are no formal prerequisites, however, Cisco suggests candidates have the following experience before taking the exam:
- Some knowledge of network fundamentals
- Basic knowledge of IP addressing
- A minimum of one year using Cisco products and solutions
These are the areas you can expect to cover in the exam:
- Network fundamentals
- Network access
- IP connectivity
- IP services
- Security fundamentals
- Automation and programmability
The CCNA certification is valid for three years.
You can read more about CCNA here.
2. CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional)
The CCNP is a more advanced qualification than the CCNA and requires a more in depth understanding of WANs and LANs. The course covers many different areas, including:
- Cisco remote access
- Cisco advanced routing
- Cisco multilayer switching
- Converged network optimisation
- Scalable internet works
There is a core exam,` and one major concentration exam from one of the following subjects:
- CCNP Enterprise
- CCNP Data Center
- CCNP Security
- CCNP Service Provider, and
- CCNP Collaboration
Cisco suggests that you have already gained the CCNA certification before embarking on the CCNP but it isn’t a mandatory prerequisite.
The CCNP certification will suit IT professionals that want to further their career and pursue the following roles:
- Third Line Support
- Network Engineer
- Network Analyst
- IT Team Leader
- Systems Engineer
- Network Specialist
CCNP is also valid for three years.
You can read more about CCNP here.
3. CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert)
CCIE is a series of technical certifications for senior networking professionals who design, build, implement, maintain, and troubleshoot complex enterprise networking infrastructures.
CCIE has 6 tracks that you can choose to study:
- Enterprise Infrastructure
- Service Provider
This certification is the highest level that CISCO provides and is considered to be one of the most prestigious in the networking field. Here are some job roles you may decide to pursue once you have completed the CCIE:
- Senior Network Support Specialist
- Senior Network Security Engineer
- Principal Network Architect
- Network Administrator
- Senior Network Engineer
The CCIE certification is valid for two years.
You can read more about CCIE here.
4. CompTIA A+
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a vendor-neutral, independent source of information on cybersecurity, education, training, and certification of the global tech workforce.
The CompTIA A+ certification is ideal for people looking to get into entry level networking. It is aimed at professionals who have 9 to 12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field and looking to get into the following roles:
- Field Service Technician
- Desktop Support Analyst
- Helpdesk Support
- End User Computing Technician
It consists of two main exams covering these topics:
- Networking technology, mobile devices, virtulisation, cloud computing, hardware, and network troubleshooting.
- Operating system installations and configuration, improving security and troubleshooting software.
The CompTIA A+ is valid for three years.
Learn more about CompTIA A+ here.
5. CompTIA Network +
This certification validates the knowledge and skills needed to troubleshoot, configure, and manage wired and wireless networks. It also certifies a level of understanding around emerging technologies, including cloud and virtualisation.
CompTIA Network+ prepares candidates for the following job roles:
- Network administrator
- Network field technician
- Junior network administrator
- IT consultant
- Network field engineer
- Computer technician
- Help desk technician
- System engineer
- Network support specialist
- Network analyst
The CompTIA Network + is valid for three years.
Learn more about CompTIA Network+ here.
6. AWS Certified Solutions Architect
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate examination is intended for individuals who perform a solutions architect role and have one or more years of hands-on experience designing available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant, and scalable distributed systems on AWS.
You will learn:
- The fundamentals of AWS architectural principles and services.
- IAM, S3, CloudFront, Storage Gateway, Snowball, EC2, CloudWatch, CLI, Lambda, Route 53, RDS, DynamoDB, Redshift, ElastiCache, Aurora, VPC, SQS, SNS, Elastic Transcoder, Kinesis, API Gateway, and so on.
- Designing and deploying secure apps on AWS tech.
- Developing solutions using design principles aligned with customer needs.
- Guiding an organisation through implementation using best practices throughout the life of the project.
AWS recommend you have at least 12 months experience in designing systems on AWS before sitting the exam. The certification is valid for three years.
Get more information on AWS Certified Solutions Architect here.
7. AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Speciality
The AWS Advanced Networking certification is designed for professionals who already perform complex networking tasks with AWS and is not an entry level qualification. It is designed to validate a candidate’s skills and experience in connection with performing complex networking tasks on AWS and hybrid IT networking architecture at scale, including the below:
- Design, develop, and deploy cloud-based solutions using AWS
- Implement core AWS services according to basic architecture best practices
- Design and maintain network architecture for all AWS services
- Leverage tools to automate AWS networking tasks
AWS recommends that candidates for this particular certification already hold an Associate level one, for example, AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. Also, these skills are advantageous:
- Advanced knowledge of AWS networking concepts and technologies
- Minimum five years hands-on experience architecting and implementing network solutions
- Advanced networking architectures and interconnectivity options (e.g., IP VPN, MPLS/VPLS)
- Networking technologies within the OSI model, and how they affect implementation decisions
- Development of automation scripts and tools
- CIDR and sub-netting (IPv4 and IPv6)
- IPv6 transition challenges
- Generic solutions for network security features, including WAF, IDS, IPS, DDoS protection, and Economic Denial of Service/Sustainability (EDoS)
Again, this certification is valid for three years.
Get more information about AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Speciality here.
There are many more certifications out there. The ones we have outlined above give an overview of what some of the most popular networking certifications entail and what you can expect from each one. Which certification you choose to pursue will, of course, be based on your end goal and where you are currently at in your IT career.
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