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40-Plus Certifications to Advance Your Networking Career

Data networking
Credit: optimarc/Shutterstock

One of the largest categories for IT certifications, and thus IT careers, has to be networking. Without applying more specific criteria, a networking cert could cover local wired and wireless IP network design, connectivity, routing, and administration, but also mobile communications technologies like LTE and Mobile WiMAX.

In addition, data center networking falls under this umbrella, as well as wide area network (WAN) connectivity and quality of service, as do traditional long-haul technologies such as carrier Ethernet, optical fiber, and so on. This survey whittled the list down mainly to the most popular local wired and wireless networking certifications. A handful of certs in this article overlap general networking with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and mobility, but they're exceptions to the rule.

The list also includes a mix of vendor-neutral and vendor-specific credential sponsors, although vendors are more heavily represented. You'll see certifications from well-known technology vendors like Aruba Networks, Cisco, Extreme Networks, HP, and Juniper Networks, as well as vendor-neutral certifications by BICSI, CompTIA, and the IPv6 Forum.

If you're just starting a career in networking, we recommend that you pursue one or more vendor-neutral, entry-level credentials such as the CompTIA Network+, any of the CWNP certifications, and the IPv6 Forum Silver Certified Engineer. These credentials expose you to many different but highly valuable networking technologies and products and will be helpful in finding a networking job.

The only free certification on the list is Hurricane Electric IPv6, which actually represents several credentials at multiple levels. The program is very well developed and continually expands, and it looks to be more than worth the time you will spend studying for any of the exams.

After achieving one or more vendor-neutral credentials, consider vendor-specific certifications that are pertinent to your line of work. For example, if you work for a consulting firm that supports Cisco and HP technologies, pursue applicable intermediate- or professional-level certifications. Training costs for vendor-specific certifications are generally higher than vendor-neutral, so be sure to find out if your employer will cover part or all of the cost of training and certification exam fees.

For those just starting a career in networking, here is a short list of the available types of positions and networking jobs:

  • Network Specialist
  • Network Technician
  • Network Administrator
  • Network Analyst
  • Network Manager
  • Network Engineer
  • Network Solutions Architect

As you develop your networking career further, you might decide to specialize in one or more areas of networking. At this point, the networking jobs you would be applying for might include:

  • Network Security Specialist
  • Cloud Networking Architect
  • Networking Research and Development Specialist
  • Wireless Networking QA Engineer
  • Wireless Infrastructure and Mobility Specialist 
  • Mobility Solutions Architect
  • VoIP Engineer
  • Telecom Project Manager
  • Data Center Networking Specialist

There are also plenty of networking jobs in sales and consulting, so be sure to check out:

  • Networking Sales Specialist
  • Networking Account Manager
  • Networking Consultant
  • Networking Program Manager

The following table lists 46 networking credentials in alphabetical order by sponsor.

Alcatel-Lucent Certifications

Alcatel-Lucent Network Routing Specialist I (NRS I)

Alcatel-Lucent Network Routing Specialist II (NRS II)

These are foundation-level certifications in the Alcatel-Lucent Service Routing Certification (SRC) program.

Identify intermediate-level network professionals experienced with IP and Ethernet technologies.

NRS II certification recognizes advanced network/service offerings in IP/MPLS Ethernet technologies.
Other SRC certifications include Mobile Routing Professional (MRP), Triple Play Routing Professional (3RP), and Service Routing Architect (SRA).

Aruba Networks Certifications

Aruba Certified Solutions Professional (ACSP)

Aruba Certified Mobility Associate (ACMA)

Aruba Certified Mobility Professional (ACMP)

Established program with seven certifications, ranging from Tier 1 (foundation) to Tier 3 (Expert).

Certifications identify technical knowledge and skills, design, deployment, and management in complex settings.

BICSI Certifications

ITS Technician

Focused on supporting the information technology systems (ITS industry), BICSI is a professional association with more than 23,000 members in approximately 100 countries.

The ITS Technician credential is a mid-level certification targeting those with a minimum of three years’ documented industry experience as well as familiarity with ITS-related chapters in National Electric Code (NFPA70) and ANSI/TIA telecommunications standards.

The credential identifies professionals who understand and can apply installation-specific information, lead installation teams, perform testing and troubleshooting on copper and optical fiber installations, evaluate applications of ITS cabling installation, make recommendations regarding codes and standards, and perform retrofits and upgrades for existing infrastructures.

Certification Partners

Certified in Convergent Network Technologies (CCNT)

Entry-level certification developed by Certification Partners and Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

The target audience includes technical sales, support engineers, network administrators, product managers, and engineers.

Content is focused on key concepts, skills, and core terms in convergence technologies, including basic telecommunications, basic data communications, LANs, broadband technologies, and VoIP.

Cisco Certifications

Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)

Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)

Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching (CCNA)

Cisco Certified Network Associate Wireless (CCNA Wireless)

Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)

Cisco Certified Network Professional Routing and Switching (CCNP)

Cisco Certified Network Professional Wireless (CCNP Wireless)

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Wireless (CCIE Wireless)

Cisco has well-known and highly developed certification portfolio.

Certs in this category aimed at candidates interested in building careers in wired and wireless networking techniques and technologies, network design, or routing and switching technologies.

Certification paths range from entry level to expert level.

Certifications are targeted to network specialists, administrators, support engineers, and design engineers. 

CompTIA Certifications

CompTIA Network+

One of the most popular general networking certifications in the world.

Targeted to candidates seeking careers as network administrators, technicians, or installers, as well as help desk technicians and IT cable installers.

Recognized or required by the Department of Defense, Dell, HP, Ricoh, Sharp, and Xerox, and required for Apple Consultants Network membership.

Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP)

Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS)

Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)

Certified Wireless Design Professional (CWDP)

Certified Wireless Analysis Professional (CWAP)

Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE)

Established certification program offering a full complement of certifications ranging from entry level to professional career certifications.

Certifications are focused on enterprise Wi-Fi skills.

CWNP also offers Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP) and Instructor (CWNT) credentials.

Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) International Certifications

Certified Network Computer Technician (CNCT)

Certified Network Systems Technician (CNST)

Wireless Network Technician (WNT)

ETA offers more than 80 certifications, which target electronics professionals.

ETA is accredited by the International Certification Accreditation Council (ICAC). More than 125,000 certifications have been issued.

Extreme Networks Certifications

Extreme Networks Certified Specialist (ECS)

Extreme Networks Certified Expert (ECE)

Enterasys Certified Architect (ECA)

Technical based certifications focused on practical hands-on training.

Certification paths range from entry (specialist) to expert to architect.

Multiple concentrations are available at the Specialist level.

Expert designations include Networking, Switch Routing, Wireless, Network Security, Security Information Management, BYOD, and ENS.

HP ExpertOne Networking Certifications

HP Accredited Integration Specialist (HP AIS) – Network Infrastructure

HP Accredited Solutions Expert (HP ASE) – Network Architect

HP Accredited Solutions Expert (HP ASE) – Network Infrastructure

HP Accredited Solutions Expert (HP ASE) – Wireless Networks Implementer

HP Master Accredited Systems Engineer (HP Master ASE) – Network Infrastructure

HP Master Accredited Systems Engineer (HP Master ASE) – Wireless Networks Implementer

Mature vendor-specific certifications range from entry-level networking credentials for business and mid-class networks to certifications validating skills necessary to implement complex, large-scale, networking solutions.

Targeted audience includes customer IT staff, system designers and engineers, and call center support engineers. 

Skills include network design, standards, cloud services, HP OpenFlow, BYOD and much more.

Hurricane Electric Internet Services Certifications

Hurricane Electric IPv6 Certification

Free online certification project that validates skills in basic IPv6 concepts.

Certification exam includes IP address format, reverse DNS, localhost address, default routing, documentation prefix, link-local prefix, multicast prefix, traceroute, configuring IPv6 servers, and more.

IPv6 Forum Certifications

IPv6 Forum Silver Certified Engineer

IPv6 Forum Gold Certified Engineer

IPv6 Education Certification Logo Program promotes IPv6 education and helps candidates build skills to foster swifter adoption of IPv6.

Courses focus on practical application and consist of both instructor-led and hands-on lab instruction.

Detailed programs for universities are planned; future curriculum will include a Diamond-level certification.

Juniper Networks Certifications

Juniper Networks Certified Specialist Enterprise Routing and Switching (JNCIS-ENT)

Juniper Networks Certified Professional Enterprise Routing and Switching (JNCIP-ENT)

Juniper Networks Certified Expert Enterprise Routing and Switching (JNCIE-ENT)

Juniper Networks Certified Specialist Wireless LAN (JNCIS-WLAN)

JNCIS-ENT, JNCIP-ENT, and JNCIE-ENT are vendor-specific credentials that address installation and support of LAN/WAN routers and switches in Juniper Networks technology-based networks.

Credential holders possess skills necessary to support large enterprise environments.

JNCIS-WLAN certification validates knowledge and skills in Juniper Networks wireless LAN systems, including system concepts, technologies, configuration, monitoring, troubleshooting, and network planning.

Oracle Certifications

Oracle Certified Expert, Oracle Solaris 10 Network Administrator (OCE)

Oracle has a well-established vendor-specific certification program. OCE is an advanced certification validating technical skills of system administrators who work with LANs and the Oracle Solaris operating system (Oracle Solaris OS).

The credential was formerly Sun Certified Network Administrator (SCNA).

Palo Alto Certifications

Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Engineer (CNSE)

CNSE credential holders possess knowledge and technical skills necessary to install, configure, and implement Palo Alto Networks technologies at the advanced engineering level.

The credential is targeted to partners, system engineers, system integrators, support engineers, pre-sales systems engineers, support staff, or anyone using Palo Alto Network technologies.

The certification exam is tied to the .1 release of each Palo Alto Networks operating system version, such as v5.1.

Riverbed ProfessionalServices (RPS) Certifications

Riverbed Certified Solutions Associate – Network Performance Management (RCSA-NPM)

Riverbed Certified Solutions Professional – Network Performance Management (RCSP-NPM)

Vendor-specific credentials that recognize knowledge of and skills with the Riverbed Cascade product suite (RCSA-NPM) and Riverbed Network Performance Management – NPM products (RCSP-NMP).

Credential seekers should possess advanced knowledge, training, and practical experience in deploying, troubleshooting, maintaining Riverbed technologies in small to large environments.

SolarWinds Certifications

SolarWinds Certified Professional (SCP)

Credential validates skills in networking management fundamentals, network management planning, network management operations, network fault and performance troubleshooting, and Orion NPM administration.

The SCP is an accredited certification.

Wireshark Certifications

Wireshark Certified Network Analyst (WCNA)

Vendor-specific credential for professionals who use Wireshark to analyze network traffic and then use the information to troubleshoot, optimize, and secure networks.

Wireshark is considered the de facto industry standard open source product for network protocol analysis, with more than 500,000 downloads per month.

The WCNA exam was certified by the US Army in 2009 and covers Wireshark functionality, TCP/IP network communications, network troubleshooting, and network security.