Those serious about their information technology (IT) careers should consider one or more of these networking certifications to set themselves apart from their competitors.
When it comes to the care and feeding of modern networks, there’s quite a lengthy list of tools and technologies that qualified IT professionals must master ― especially those who aspire to work as network administrators. In addition to the servers and clients that make up the endpoints in such environments, there’s a lot of network infrastructure to worry about. Add to that the services that run atop of this and related cybersecurity concerns and there is an abundance of focus areas sprouting out of networking.
Those serious about their IT careers should consider one or more of these networking certifications to set themselves apart from their competitors. We’ve put together this article to help make sense of the entirety of the networking certification space.
We’ve narrowed down the broad range of existing computer networking certifications into more specific categories, within which we’ve highlighted some of the best specific certifications on the market.
Computer networking certifications continue to be a gold standard for showing overall knowledge of the networking environment. While networks and their operations have changed drastically over the years — especially with the shift to flexible work and the increasing adoption of cloud technologies — understanding computers is still critical to any more advanced IT role. Networking certifications also open up more advanced areas of study, including cybersecurity roles, network architecture and more advanced system administrator roles.
Obtaining these certifications demonstrates a willingness to learn as well as mastery of networking essentials. Some of the more advanced certificates are also specifically focused, which can help applicants demonstrate more advanced knowledge of specific technology suites, such as Cisco. Any of these certifications though will help demonstrate knowledge in the computer networking space and make a strong case for job candidates who hold them.
Some of the best computer networking certifications include:
Voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) and telephony certifications demonstrate an applicant’s knowledge of designing, implementing and maintaining these communication systems. As corporate voice and telephony services have transformed from traditional public-switched telephone networks and private branch exchanges (PBXs) to VoIP and IP PBXs, VoIP and telephony certifications now focus on digital communications, along with a good mix of IP networking protocols and methods to support such traffic and to maintain service quality. Additionally, VoIP and telephony systems are often combined with digital fax, videoconferencing, instant messaging and mobile communications.
Obtaining a VoIP and telephony certification demonstrates capability in telecommunications technology. Vendor-specific certifications also exist, which can lead to further career growth and employee specialization. Certificate holders can also apply for more specialized roles in this field and may be more likely to receive promotions or competitive offers from potential employers.
Some of the most valuable VoIP and telephony certifications include:
Unified communications (UC) streamlines communications so that geographically dispersed employees can interact digitally as if they’re in the same office, even if they’re located thousands of miles apart. Centralized administration also makes UC popular with IT managers because it reduces the time and effort needed to support and secure corporate communications of all kinds. Because of a need for specialized skills to make large-scale UC implementations run their best, top UC vendors offer certifications to buttress and boost workforce capability and quality.
UC certifications are in high demand. Job search boards list thousands of open positions for UC certification holders in aggregate. Obtaining a UC certification demonstrates hands-on capability, as well as a strong understanding of the technologies running under the UC hood.
Some of the best UC certifications, along with related cloud certifications, include:
Red Hat Inc. provides open-source software solutions to a wide range of clients, including a majority of Fortune 500 companies. While the company is perhaps best known for its Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution, Red Hat also produces a full technology stack including JBoss middleware, cross-platform virtualization and cloud computing (CloudForms and OpenStack) solutions. Red Hat offers a wide range of certifications covering its diverse product lines and possible employee roles.
These certifications prepare professionals for roles that require knowledge of the Red Hat environment. Many of these certifications also provide transferable knowledge of Linux and networking components, opening the doors for candidates to additional further growth opportunities.
Some of the best certifications include:
As cybercrime becomes more prevalent, cybersecurity certifications are more important than ever. Several great cybersecurity certifications help to fill in the cybersecurity knowledge gap while also educating about computer networking concepts — a major bedrock of cybersecurity overall.
Earning a beginner cybersecurity certificate can help launch a cybersecurity career, as well as fill in knowledge gaps applicable to system administrators, network engineers or other similar roles. There are thousands of job listings mentioning these certifications. Some of our favorites include:
Cybersecurity skills are in high demand. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there are almost 700,000 open cybersecurity roles in the United States with continued labor shortages in this area.
Skills and certifications related to networked forms of storage, such as storage area networks, network-attached storage, virtualized storage and storage as a service, are in high demand. Like the rest of the tech industry, a variety of vendor-specific and general knowledge certifications exist in this area.
A search across the job boards reveals hundreds of positions mentioning various storage certifications. A few of the standouts can help applicants stand out in this field while also nurturing either generalized or specific skills. Some of our favorite certifications in this space include:
There’s been a steady demand for digital forensics certifications for the past several years, as computer crime rates continue to escalate. These certifications demonstrate a knowledge of how to perform aspects of digital forensics, including data recovery, evidence preservation and digital artifact preservation.
These certifications can help individuals find employment with law enforcement or government roles, which may require specific certifications as evidence of meeting minimum standards. Many of these certifications are mentioned hundreds of thousands of times across job listings for specific, open roles. Some of the best digital forensics certifications include:
The majority of networks most people interact with on a daily basis — either professionally or personally — are wireless. These certifications cover various aspects of wireless networking, from understanding the underlying technologies to covering design and security aspects of network implementation.
As wireless networking continues to expand and evolve, especially with the addition of 5G networks and blended cellular data networks, certifications can help candidates stand out from the rest of the job application pack. Some of our favorite wireless networking certifications cover a wide range of subject areas to help prepare employees for the future of networking. These certifications include:
Today’s organizations are looking for better ways to pull the information they need from massive volumes of data available to them. Big data system administrators store, manage and transfer large sets of data, making them amenable to analysis.
Along with the surge in big data interest comes a growing number of certifications to recognize the necessary skills in working with enormous data sets. The target audience is IT professionals with a background in analytics, data mining, business intelligence or data management, along with a knack for and interest in mathematics and statistics.
Some of our favorite big data certifications include:
The adoption of big data is relatively new, only emerging in 2005 with the emergence of large quantities of data being collected through platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook. Since then, data has exploded in value.
Founded in 2000, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) is more than just a certification body. It is a full-fledged not-for-profit membership association with a focus on information privacy concerns and topics. Its membership includes both individuals and organizations, in the tens of thousands for the former and the hundreds for the latter, including many Fortune 500 outfits.
The IAPP has developed a globally recognized certification program around information privacy. All these certifications comply with the ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 standard, which means they have been developed to meet stringent requirements for analyzing the subject matter and the fields of work to which they apply.
The IAPP’s certifications include:
Privacy standards have become increasingly important as various regulatory bodies have put in place privacy-focused regulations, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, the United Kingdom’s Data Protection and Digital Information Bill and the California Consumer Privacy Act.
The SANS Institute was founded in 1989 to provide IT security and administration information, thought leadership and vendor-neutral training for individuals and businesses. SANS presents in-class courses, training events and technical conferences worldwide. It also offers self-paced online training (SANS OnDemand) and interactive virtual training (SANS Live Online).
SANS courses are known to be expensive. However, these certifications are frequently held in extremely high regard and feature some of the best training available from industry experts. SANS offers training across the entire technology spectrum, covering cyber defense, cyber offense, cloud, open source intelligence, security architecture and more.
Picking the best SANS GIAC certifications is difficult, as the course catalog is so broad and uniformly well done. However, some well-regarded standouts from SANS include:
Data center certifications are intended for professionals who either work or aspire to work in or manage data centers. These certifications cover a large area, including data center security, efficiency, management and design.
Earning a data center certification showcases a holder’s knowledge and ability to take on data center-related tasks. Like other certifications, data center certifications come in both generalized knowledge and vendor-specific flavors, providing utility to a wide range of learners.
Some of the best data center certifications include:
The computer networking certifications and related cert programs listed above can help you distinguish yourself in a crowded and growing industry. Secure the job you deserve and increase your earning power with these certifications, which demonstrate your capabilities to prospective employers. After all, nothing says “I’ve got the skills you need” like certifications that show you have intrinsic motivation and a robust set of knowledge.
Adam Uzialko contributed to this article.