Best Networking Certifications

Cisco’s networking certificates are easily the most well-known in the industry. The CCNA is a great entry-level certificate by any measure. However, other vendors’ computer networking certifications, such as those from Juniper and Brocade, can also be valuable. Then there’s CompTIA, Microsoft, ISC2, etc. Deciding which is best for your career can be difficult.

Cisco Certifications

Cisco is the most well-known name when it comes to networking equipment, and they are the most well-known name when it comes to networking certificates. The CCT Cisco Certified Technician is the lowest level cert that Cisco offers, but do not expect to get much respect for holding it. The first real entry-level certificate is the CCNA Cisco Certified Network Associate. If you want to join the networking field, start by passing your CCNA certification exam. This will allow you to enter the networking world with a CCNA-level salary.

Get a Cisco networking certification if you don’t have a specific employer lined up. Cisco is by far the most popular vendor, so having one of their certificates will open the most doors.

Learning how to subnet is key to passing the CCNA. Also, check our list of the top CCNA commands and the best CCNA study guides.

Cisco’s next highest certification after the CCNA is the CCNP Cisco Certified Network Professional certification. While it is normal to skip the CCT and go straight for your CCNA, it’s really not recommended to skip the CCNA and go straight to the CCNP if you don’t already have significant real-world experience. That would make you seem overqualified for many entry-level jobs and underqualified experience-wise for jobs requiring a CCNP’s networking skills and knowledge level. The certification goes a long way, but the on-the-job experience is also required to land more senior roles.

CCNP certification is available in a number of specializations. It’s typical to take the CCNP Enterprise first (the replacement for the old CCNP Routing and Switching) as there is a large amount of overlap between it and the CCNA. It’s not a huge amount of extra work to get the CCNP Enterprise after passing the CCNA.

After that, you will better understand Cisco’s technologies and know where you want to specialize further, such as in Security or Data Center. Focus on the one that most interests you, where you already have some experience, or where it fits best with your current job role. After the CCNP comes the CCIE Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, but by the time you look at getting a CCIE, you will have enough experience under your belt that you won’t need a certification guide to help you out. You will know what you need to advance on your own.

Juniper Networking Certifications

Juniper is one of Cisco’s main competitors, offering their own networking certificate set. A common reason network engineers go down the Juniper certification path is if their company uses Juniper networking technologies. If a company uses Juniper equipment and you hold one of their certifications, you can expect to get bumped above those with a Cisco or other non-Juniper certificate.

If you already work for a company which uses Juniper, then obviously, it makes sense to focus on their certifications. A certification looks best when it is accompanied by experience. Experience with Juniper equipment and a Juniper certification will look better than Juniper experience but a Cisco (or other) certification.

Juniper certification comes in four levels. All but the lowest of these require you to pass the previous level’s exam before being eligible to reach that level. Like Cisco, Juniper has multiple tracks, including Enterprise Routing and Switching, Service Provider Routing and Switching, and Junos Security. Along with these are the Junos Support Tracks and the Product and Technology Certifications.

The most popular Juniper cert is the JNCIA Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate. This is the entry-level certificate and can be thought of as an equivalent to the CCNA. It should help acquire a job for those with little experience in networking technology.

Read a comparison of JNCIA vs CCNA

If you already have an entry-level certificate from one vendor, it usually makes more sense to get higher-level, more advanced certifications from that same vendor rather than getting a second entry-level certificate from a different vendor. This is because most of the same networking concepts and theories are covered across the different vendor certifications, and their networking commands tend to be fairly similar. If you understand the basics behind OSPF and other routing protocols, then moving from a Juniper to a Cisco device or vice versa should not be terribly difficult. It’s better to know one vendor really well than to know many vendors a little bit.

Alcatel-Lucent, Brocade, Aruba, F5, etc.

There are a number of other networking vendors which offer different products and services. They also offer their own certificates. If you have no networking experience and are looking for your first job in the networking field, then you will be better off avoiding these certifications. The reason is that they are more specialized and more niche.

If you happen to know you want to work with storage area networks, then maybe considering a Brocade certification is not a bad idea. For most individuals, it’s better to see what area of networking they end up in before looking for these certifications. On the other hand, if you happen to work for a company that uses these technologies, you will make yourself more valuable by obtaining relevant vendor certifications.

Another reason to be wary of these certificates is the lack of study materials. Because there is less demand for these certifications, less study material is available. A lack of specific study resources makes obtaining these certifications much more work.

Microsoft, CompTIA and Other Certifications

These types of certificates may be worth looking into for a more general IT setting. A Microsoft or Linux certificate can help you land interviews if you are considering System administration. There certainly is a large amount of overlap between system administrator and network administrator type jobs, and it is helpful to know both aspects.

One certificate CompTIA offers is the CompTIA Network+. It is a basic networking fundamentals certificate, but as it does not cover network configuration commands, it does not fully train you for the practical aspects of a network engineer job. Most people would be better off skipping it and moving on to a practical certificate like the CCNA.

Microsoft offers Windows Server certifications, which do require networking knowledge, but the focus is on the server, not the network. Certainly, you can never have too many certificates, but if you are looking to become one of the network professionals, then you are better off with network certifications.

Download our Subnet Cheat Sheet for all the essential information you need to quickly perform subnet calculations in your head.If you want to learn more about networking and get the Cisco CCNA certification, we highly recommend the Cisco CCNA Gold Bootcamp as your CCNA training course. The CCNA is by far the most in-demand networking certification by employers, and the Gold Bootcamp is the highest rated Cisco course online. It has an average rating of 4.8 from over 30,000 public reviews:
Cisco CCNA Gold Bootcamp training course