The technology industry is predicted to reach a $5 trillion valuation in 2021, an additional 4% growth over 2020. This steady growth of the industry has, unsurprisingly, led to an increase in the number of jobs in networking and IT.
As the last year has shown, when an enterprise is forced to switch work models to a remote or distributed approach, they need network specialists to set up and maintain the necessary infrastructure. Cloud architecture and services, networking, and IT security knowledge have become critical must-haves in the new business environment. Whether you’ve been considering retraining or broadening your employment options, networking certifications are a wise approach.
According to the Dice and Linux Foundation, 80% of IT professionals feel networking certifications are helpful, especially when one considers that 47% of hiring managers are more likely to hire someone who is network certified over someone who isn’t.
There’s no denying that networking certifications can help you land the right job, or accelerate your current career path. The only question is where to start. There’s a lot of specializations and paths to consider, and many credentials available.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of some top networking certifications for 2021.
AWS CSA – Associate
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect networking certification is among the most popular of IT certifications as it tests your ability when it comes to designing systems on Amazon Web Services, currently the world’s largest public cloud provider.
Some topics the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate networking certification covers includes:
- Designing and deploying secure apps on AWS tech
- Developing solutions using design principles aligned with customer needs
- Guiding an organization through implementation using best practices throughout the life of the project
It’s recommended you have at least one year of experience designing systems on AWS before applying.
AWS CAN – Specialty
The next step after the AWS CSA networking certification is the professional level of this certification, AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty.
If you frequently work with AWS, this networking certification may be a great option for you. It’s well-regarded in the industry, and certified professionals are highly sought after by companies that use AWS.
The AWS Advanced Networking certification is designed for professionals who already perform complex networking tasks with AWS, so it’s not an entry-level networking certification.
The course covers a variety of topics, including:
- The design, development, and launch of solutions using AWS
- The implementation of core services in Amazon Web Services
- The design, implementation, and maintenance of network architecture for AWS-based services
- Utilization of the latest tools to automate networking tasks in AWS.
Amazon suggests that applicants first get a lower-level accreditation, such as the AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification. They also recommend a minimum of five years of networking experience.
The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert networking certification is one of the most respected in the world, designed to distinguish top network engineering experts.
Employers consider CCIE as the most influential networking certifications a network engineer can get, and people who hold them tend to be industry leaders thanks to their expansive knowledge.
While you don’t have to meet any specific requirements to sign up for the certification, the CCIE is hard to get. In addition to a large amount of coursework, you’ll also take a more hands-on approach on many of the concepts taught in the course.
Cisco recommends that applicants have at least three years of experience in a networking role. While not mandatory, it’s also a good idea to first get a lower-level certification, like the CCNA or the CCNP.
To attain CCIE certification, you’ll have to pass both a theoretical and practical exam. From there, CCIE certification allows you to pursue six separate tracks for specialization:
- Enterprise infrastructure
- Enterprise wireless
- Service provider
You can specialize in one area or in multiple areas, but you will have to take separate exams for each. Of course, you’ll get a CCIE certification for each specialization if you pass the exam.
According to Auvik’s 2020 “IT Resources & Communities” survey report, 28% of IT professionals feel that the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is the most valuable for someone in network management.
The CCNA is considered to be one of the best certifications for people looking to get into the industry. While there are no formal prerequisites, earning certification requires you to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the fundamentals of networking, allowing you to do general networking duties and deal specifically with Cisco’s hardware.
The main advantage of CCNA certification is that with a single exam you’re on-track to have the knowledge and skills necessary to work with the latest networking technologies, along with security, programmability, and automation.
CCNA certification is valid for three years.
The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) program is designed to help networking professionals expand their skills and gain a more in-depth understanding in strategic areas to ensure a competitive edge.
The CCNP certification has been split into two: one exam covering core technologies and another that allows you to choose your specialization. This flexibility means you can decide which direction you want to take your career.
You can choose any of the following tracks:
- Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services
- Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions
- Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks
- Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks
- Implementing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks
- Implementing Automation for Cisco Enterprise Solutions
Cisco does recommend applicants have between three and five years of experience in enterprise networking.
An entry-level certification from CompTIA, the CompTIA A+ course is designed for support specialists, field service technicians, desktop support analysts, and help desk support.
The certification comprises two exams: One focuses on networking technology, mobile devices, virtualization and cloud computing, hardware, and network troubleshooting. The second exam is centered on operating system installation and configuration, improving security, and troubleshooting software.
Certification means you can solve problems with a variety of operating systems, security, networking, and mobile devices. As CompTIA states, this certification will “prove that you can think on your feet and can perform critical IT support tasks on the fly”.
Like all CompTIA networking certifications, the A+ certification is constantly updated to ensure that it provides the proof you need of your core skills in an ever-changing workplace.
Another entry-level program, CompTIA Network+ provides an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of networking.
One of the biggest draws for CompTIA certifications is that they aren’t focused on a single vendor (like Cisco or Microsoft), and cover a wide range of subjects.
If you’re just getting into networking, this is an excellent place to start. It will help you create a strong foundation on which to build. It’s also perfect for those who want a better understanding of networking without actually requiring hands-on experience.
This certification will teach you how to design and build a network, manage and maintain network devices, and how to use different types of hardware. Other topics you will delve into include network security, cloud computing, and virtualized networking.
CompTIA recommends that students have at least a year of experience in a networking position.
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional, from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)², designates that you are capable of designing, implementing, and managing a best-in-class cybersecurity program.
Some skills covered include:
- Security and risk management
- Asset security
- Security architecture and design
- Cryptography OSI and TCP/IP models
- IP addresses
- Network security
- Identity and access management
- Security assessment and testing
- Software development security
- This is an excellent certification for any IT professional looking to improve their security skills, which will improve the opportunities they have access to.
The Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect (GCP) program has become very popular as it is valuable to enterprises relying on Google instead of Amazon cloud services.
As a Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect, you prove to potential employers that you have the ability to design, develop, and manage resources using GCP tech for Google’s cloud architecture.
Cloud skills continue to be in high demand, and there’s a relatively low number of Google Certified Professional Cloud Architects at the moment (at least compared to AWS). Therefore, this certification might be the perfect solution if you’re looking to move into a better position.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
Microsoft offers a series of role-based certifications for its Azure technology, such as AI Engineer, Data Scientist, and Solutions Architect.
The Microsoft Azure Fundamentals certification acts as the gateway to more advanced tracks. It validates that you have the foundational knowledge of Azure cloud services required to move on to more advanced concepts. This certification is also beneficial for non-technical roles where an understanding of Azure cloud services is valuable, such as sales or marketing.
Some areas covered by the exam include understanding concepts such as High Availability (HA), Scalability, Disaster Recovery, Fault Tolerance, and more. You’ll also cover topics like regions, availability zones, resource groups, Azure Firewall, and Azure architectural components.
While it isn’t a requirement for any of the other certifications, Azure fundamentals is best for your first foray into cloud computing, and you aren’t certain of your career direction. It’s also helpful if you have some familiarity with cloud computing but are inexperienced with Azure.
Bonus! Auvik Certified Professional
All Auvik partners and customers get access to the Auvik Certified Professional program that includes general networking knowledge and training resources on the Auvik product. Cap off the program with the Auvik Certified Professional (ACP) exam, and show the world that you’re ready to take on network management with Auvik!
Which networking certifications are for you?
Like many things in life, the best decisions usually come down how it works with your own goals. The “best” networking certification also depends on many subjective factors, including whether you are just starting in your career, what focus you want to follow, and the company you work for.
The certifications we’ve listed cover various areas and are popular and highly sought after in 2021. Even if you don’t see the value of certification, many employers rely on them when making hiring decisions.
Pursuing a networking certification, especially a well-regarded one, will not be a waste of time — quite the opposite — as it will open up many more doors and career opportunities for you.