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Best Telecommunications Certifications 2018

Best Telecommunications Certifications 2018
Credit: Sahacha Nilkumhang/Shutterstock

When it comes to bringing people and systems together, networking is often required to make all the right connections and technologies work. However, there's a lot more than just networking involved in telecommunications certifications and the technologies they cover.

Here we cover a variety of certifications, including classic telecommunications and telecommunications networking. Our top five picks include a Telecommunications Certification Organization (TCO) credential, as well as an intermediate routing specialist certification from Nokia that recognizes professionals who deliver both residential and business communication services.

You will also read about engineering-oriented communications certifications such as the Internet Protocol Engineering Professional (IPEP), the iNARTE Telecommunications Engineer, and a distribution credential from the Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI), originally a building trades association. The BICSI certification is in such high standing that, for some job roles, it's a Department of Defense requirement.

There's more than ordinary networking involved in many of these credentials, because voice and streaming media traffic come with certain unavoidable and important requirements for limited latency and quick delivery. These are necessary for real-time voice and video communications to occur, and for streaming media delivery to provide an acceptable user experience without hiccups. Thus, there's a vital service-level establishment, monitoring and troubleshooting component in these credentials.

There's also a large collection of protocols and services that certified professionals must know to install, configure, manage and troubleshoot, above and beyond the usual TCP/IP basics commonly found in internet-connected networking environments.

We searched several job boards for telecommunications certifications and compiled those results. Note that these results are a snapshot in time, and several factors affect the results. For example, you can expect to see fewer listings for the most senior certifications because fewer people possess them. Also, results vary considerably depending on the job board. Although the table below doesn't reflect it, the Cisco CCNA and CCNP and the CompTIA Network+ certifications appear in many telecom job descriptions along with the featured certs.

Certification

Simply Hired

Indeed

LinkedIn Jobs

LinkUp

Total

CTNS (TCO)

7

5

1

0

13

iNARTE Telecommunications Engineer

9

9

3

2

23

IPEP (SCTE)

6

6

9

10

31

NRS (Nokia)

7

7

6

4

24

RCDD (BICSI)

267

303

274

111

955

What can a person expect to make in the telecommunications industry? Simply Hired reports an average salary of $65,165 for telecommunications technicians and $93,491 for telecom engineers. Glassdoor reports somewhat lower salaries – $56,650 for technicians and $76,668 for engineers.

The Certified Telecommunications Network Specialist (CTNS) certification offered by the Telecommunications Certification Organization (TCO) aims at project team members, managers, analysts, planners and developers who understand telecom networking fundamentals, including services and infrastructure requirements. A CTNS usually works for a telecommunications services provider, reseller or telecom equipment manufacturer.

Achieving the CTNS requires attending six courses and then passing the six respective exams. Exam topics cover traditional telephony, wireless communications, carrier networks and a host of more general networking topics, such as the OSI reference model and protocols, Ethernet LANs, virtual networking, networking equipment, and addressing.

All exams and courses are administered by Teracom Training Institute (TTI). Candidates can purchase a certification package that includes all six courses, along with unlimited passes through the courseware and exam repeats, as well as a pass guarantee, for $219.

TCO offers the Certified IP Telecom Network Specialist (CIPTS) certification, which focuses on IP networking and not on telephony or wireless. TCO cites AT&T software developers working on nationwide IP VPN services as an example of the type of professional who acquires this certification. The organization also offers the Certified Wireless Analyst (CWA) and Certified Telecommunications Analyst (CTA) certifications.

Certification name

Certified Telecommunications Network Specialist (CTNS)

Prerequisites and required courses

Six required courses:

  • 2201: The PSTN
  • 2206: Wireless Telecommunications
  • 2212: OSI Layers and Protocol Stacks
  • 2211: Ethernet, LANs and VLANs
  • 2213: IP Networks, IP Addresses, Packets, and Routers 
  • 2214: MPLS and Carrier Networks

Number of exams

Six (one per course; most exams are 10 multiple-choice questions)

Cost per exam

$219 for certification package (includes all six courses with unlimited course and exam repeats). Courses and exams administered by Teracom Training Institute (TTI).

URL

https://www.certify-tco.org/

Self-study materials

Course outlines and objectives contained on respective exam pages. Previews, free lessons and interactive tutorials available from TTI. There is also a self-study textbook available in print and e-book formats.

 

iNARTE is the International Association for Radio, Telecommunications and Electromagnetics, an industry group founded in 1982 to develop and implement a certification program for telecommunications engineers and technicians. Since then, iNARTE has added certifications for wireless system installers and product safety engineers and technicians, among others. After its merging with RABQSA International in 2012, the two organizations are known formally as Exemplar Global.

The iNARTE Telecommunications certification program includes the Telecommunications Technician and Telecommunications Engineer credentials, geared toward many facets of the industry, including networking (LAN and WAN), cellular and satellite. Both have Junior, Senior and Master credential levels.

Each level of the Telecommunications Engineer certification requires an increased number of years in the workforce. The Junior level requires at least four years of related work experience, the Senior level requires six years, and the Master requires eight. Candidates can substitute four years of work experience with an engineering or science college degree approved by the iNARTE Certification Review Board. Each level also requires the candidate to provide references from one supervisor and two or three peers and to pass an exam.

Once you achieve the Junior Telecommunications Engineer credential, you can upgrade to the Senior level by meeting all requirements, and will pay a lower rate for the exam. The same applies to an upgrade from the Senior level to Master. To maintain membership and be listed in the iNARTE Certified Professionals database on the organization's website, candidates must renew annually.

Certification name

iNARTE Telecommunications Engineer

Prerequisites and required courses

Four years of relevant work experience for Junior level, six years for Senior level and eight years for Master level; an approved Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering (BSEE), Bachelor of Science in electronics engineering technology (BSEET) or another science-related bachelor's degree may be substituted for up to four years of experience.

A current FCC General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL)

References from one supervisor and two peers (the Master level requires three peers)

Number of exams

One per level (minimum score of 75 percent)

Cost per exam

Application and exam fees:

  • $110: Junior Telecommunications Engineer
  • $130: Senior Telecommunications Engineer
  • $145: Master Telecommunications Engineer

Exams offered by several different proctors worldwide; exam proctor may change an additional fee

URL

http://www.inarte.org/certifications/inarte-telecommunications-certification/

Self-study materials

Recommended material: Reference Data for Engineers: Radio, Electronics, Computer and Communications Computer and Communications, 9th edition, by Mac E. Van Valkenburg and Wendy M. Middleton

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) is a member-driven organization that serves as the "technical and applied science leader for the cable telecommunications industry." SCTE offers several professional certifications for installers, technicians, designers and engineers who support residential and commercial projects, as well as access networks.

The Internet Protocol Engineering Professional (IPEP) certification recognizes a professional's expertise in designing, deploying, testing, integrating and troubleshooting various IP systems. Candidates must pass a single exam to earn the IPEP credential, which covers general networking theory, IP theory, network design and performance analysis, DOCSIS, IP network deployment, operation and testing, and multimedia over IP. There is also a section on standards and internet-related organizations.

The IPEP is valid for three years. Credential holders must earn 21 recertification units (RUs) within the three-year period to maintain the IPEP certification, or retake the exam.

Certification name

Internet Protocol Engineering Professional (IPEP)

Prerequisites and required courses

None 

Recommended training:

  • SCTE CCNA Virtual Classroom courses: CCNA1, CCNA2, CCNA3, CCNA4
  • IPv6: Impact on Cable Networks
  • Channel Bonding in DOCSIS 3.0

Number of exams

One (50 multiple-choice questions, three hours)

Cost per exam

$150 member/$200 nonmember; SCTE exams offered online
$85 annual SCTE membership

URL

http://www.scte.org/ipep

All SCTE certifications: http://www.scte.org/SCTE/Certification/ProfessionalCertifications.aspx

Self-study materials

The IPEP Certification Study Resources webpage provides a concise list of courses, books and documentation. The certification page (URL above) provides links to exam topics and objectives, and information on grants and scholarships.

Nokia, formerly Alcatel-Lucent, is a well-known provider of IP network infrastructures. The company prepares networking professionals to support residential broadband, business VPNs, mobile core and backhaul, and cloud-based networks through its Service Routing Certification Program.

The Nokia Network Routing Specialist II (NRS II) certification, a step above the foundational NRS I certification, focuses on Nokia service routing, including IP routing protocols and IP/MPLS protocols, virtual private networking, resiliency techniques, implementing Nokia Layer 2 and Layer 3 services, and IP/MPLS networking.

To achieve the certification, candidates must pass four written exams and a rigorous 3.5-hour NRS II practical lab exam. Passing the first written exam – Nokia Scalable IP Networks (4A0-100) – earns you the NRS I. Several Cisco and Juniper certifications count as credit toward NRS II written exams. For example, candidates with a current CCNP Service Provider certification are exempt from the Nokia Scalable IP Networks exam. Having the Juniper Networks Certified Internet Expert (JNCIE-SP) certification lets you skip three of the Nokia written exams. See the Nokia webpage on credit for other IP certifications for details.

The NRS II certification is valid for three years. To recertify, candidates must achieve a higher-level certification, pass a written exam for a higher-level certification, or pass the Nokia NRS II Composite Exam.

Certification name

Nokia Network Routing Specialist II (NRS II)

Prerequisites and required courses

None

Recommended training:

  • Nokia Scalable IP Networks (4 days, $2,775)
  • Nokia Interior Routing Protocols and High Availability (5 days, $3,125)
  • Nokia Multiprotocol Label Switching (5 days, $3,125)
  • Nokia Services Architecture (4 days, $2,775)
  • Nokia NRS II Lab Workshop - Version A or B (1 day, $625)

Number of exams

Five total - four written exams and one lab exam:

  • Nokia Scalable IP Networks (4A0-100)
  • Nokia Interior Routing Protocols (4A0-101)
  • Nokia Multiprotocol Label Switching (4A0-103)
  • Nokia Services Architecture (4A0-104)
  • Nokia NRS II Lab Exam (NRSII4A0)

Candidates can take the NRS II Composite Exam (4A0-C01) instead of exams 4A0-101, 4A0-103 and 4A0-104.

Exams administered by Pearson VUE. Nokia Candidate ID required to register for exams.

Cost per exam

$125 for each written exam ($500 total), or $125 Scalable IP Networks Exam and $375 for Composite Exam. $725 for NRSII Lab Exam.

URL

https://networks.nokia.com/src/certifications/nrs-ii
Nokia Service Routing certifications: https://networks.nokia.com/src

Self-study materials

Links to the Nokia Network Routing Specialist II (NRS II) Guide ($69), free practice exams, Network Routing Specialist II (NRS II) Overview PDF, Learning Essentials video series, self-paced learning and other resources on the certification webpage. Lab exercises for a self-study course available on the My SR Lab webpage.


The Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) certification offered by Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) is one of several engineering-oriented IT communications credentials from this design and implementation engineering-oriented organization.

Under the Unified Facilities Criteria (PDF available here), the RCDD is required for individuals who work for or with the U.S. Department of Defense on telecom-related design projects. Thus, the RCDD is in reasonably high demand to service that one major source of activity by itself, and is also popular with high-end architecture, design and premises engineering firms.

The RCDD is a long-standing credential; it's been around since 1984 and focuses on the design, integration, and implementation of information and communications technology (ICT) systems and related infrastructure components.

Other BISCI credentials include the following:

  • Registered Telecommunications Project Manager (RTPM)
  • Data Center Design Consultant (DCDC)
  • Outside Plant Designer (OSP)
  • Installer 1 (INST1)
  • Installer 2, Copper (INSTC)
  • Installer 2, Optical Fiber (INSTF)
  • Technician (TECH)

The RCDD certification is valid for three years. To recertify, candidates must earn 45 approved continuing education credits (CECs) and attend at least one BICSI conference as a part of the CEC credits. A renewal fee of $175 for members ($325 for nonmembers) applies.

Certification name

Registered Communications Distributions Designer (RCDD)

Prerequisites and required courses

Recommended courses:

  • DD101: BICSI CONNECT: Foundations of Telecommunications Distribution Design ($875 member/$1,030 nonmember)
  • DD102: Designing Telecommunications Distribution Systems ($2,600 member/$2,755 nonmember)
  • RCDD Test Preparation Course ($795 member/$925 nonmember)
  • 125 to 150-plus hours of independent study
  • Five years of information and communications technology (ICT) design experience

OR

  • Two years of ICT design experience and three years of additional ICT equivalents, which may be a combination of experience, education and ICT license/certification

RCDD application (PDF) required, including the Communications ICT/Distribution Design Experience Checklist and Code of Ethics; current resume with last 10 years of work history; four letters of references (one personal, one work and two from clients/customers)

Number of exams

One: based on BICSI's Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual, or TDMM (100 questions, multiple choice, 2.5 hours)

Cost per exam

$210 members/$285 nonmembers

Nonrefundable application fee: $255 members/$370 nonmembers

Exams administered by Pearson VUE. Candidate ID and BICSI approval required to register for exam.

URL

RCDD page: www.bicsi.org/rcdd

Self-study materials

BICSI's ICT Terminology Handbook version 2.0 (free download)
Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual (TDMM), 13th Edition; electronic download or print ($310 member/$380 nonmember), or electronic download and print combo ($350 member/$435 nonmember)

 

Once you go beyond the basic IT communications industry certifications such as the RCDD, you'll find that IP-based communications and even pure telecom platforms define a big landscape of possible technical training and certification.

In addition to our top five certifications, vendor-neutral credentials that merit attention are the Telecommunications Electronics Technician (TCM) by the Electronics Technicians Association and the NCTI Master Technician professional certifications. Candidates earn three or four college credits for each NCTI Master Technician credential.

The Fiber Optic Association (FOA) has a large certification program with a focus on fiber-optic and premises cabling, aimed at technicians, installers and network designers who handle fiber-optic communications systems.

Industry players such as Cisco, HPE and IBM offer large, complex training and certification programs as well, as do purely telecom-oriented vendors. Your interest in, and exposure to, specific platforms and technology solutions will lead you toward available training and certifications offered by each vendor. There will be no shortage of options, but because hands-on exposure and access is essential to pursue them, it will probably be more obvious and less daunting that we can only point out the huge landscape here in vague and nonspecific terms.