6 Network Certifications for Your IT Career in 2021

A network certification may set you up with the skills and knowledge needed to progress in an IT network career.
Woman works network administration job.

Network certifications are credentials you can earn to demonstrate you have the knowledge and skills to work with networks in the information technology (IT) field. They can be vendor-specific—focusing on the technology from one company, like Cisco or Microsoft—or vendor-neutral, meaning the things you learn should be applicable across different networking technologies.

Network certifications: Should you get one?

Though certifications are often not required, they can be a good way for employers to quickly validate your skill level. If you think getting a network certification will bring you the skills needed to make you more competitive for the jobs or promotions you want, getting a certification can be a solid way to invest in your career. If you're just getting started in IT and are still not sure about which path in IT you want to take, consider an entry-level IT certification instead.

People with network certifications can go on to become network technicians, network administrators, network engineers, network architects, or other network-related professionals. Knowledge of networks can also be useful for some system administration positions.

Network certifications

1. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

Widely regarded as a staple in network certifications, the CCNA is an associate-level (early career) credential that covers a wide range of networking fundamentals. Cisco is one of the largest companies in the networking industry, making the credential useful to have for many network professionals. Cisco also offers entry (CCT), professional (CCNP), and expert-level certifications (CCDE). 

  • Cost: $300

  • Requirements: Requires one exam. No prerequisites.

  • What’s being tested: Network access, IP connectivity, IP services, security, automation, and programmability

2. CompTIA Network+

A vendor-neutral certification, the CompTIA Network+ certification tests your understanding of networking basics regardless of which company your networking technology may come from. CompTIA also offers the CompTIA A+ certification for those who are looking for entry-level IT jobs—which the Google IT Support Professional Certificate can train you for.

  • Cost: $338

  • Requirements: Requires one exam. No prerequisites, though 9-12 months of networking experience or CompTIA A+ certification is recommended.

  • What’s being tested: Essential networking concepts; cabling, device, and storage technologies; managing networks; security; and troubleshooting methodology and tools

3. Juniper Networks Certified Associate - Junos (JNCIA-Junos)

The JNCIA-Junos is the associate-level certification for Juniper Networks technologies. It’s the first step required for those who want to go on to take more advanced certifications from Juniper Networks in data center technologies, enterprise routing and switching, or service provider routing and switching.

  • Cost: $200

  • Requirements: Requires one exam. No prerequisites.

  • What’s being tested: Junos OS fundamentals like software architecture and transit traffic processing, configuration basics, routing policy, and firewall filters

4. SolarWinds Certified Professional

The SolarWinds Certified Professional credential enables you to use and maintain SolarWinds network and system products. SolarWinds products are used prominently in certain industries, like government and accounting.

  • Cost: $200

  • Requirements: Requires one exam. No prerequisites.

  • What’s being tested: Diagnostics, database performance analysis, network configuration, performance monitoring, network architecture

5. Aruba Certified Mobility Associate (ACMA)

Some companies may expect you to have knowledge of Aruba networking features. The ACMA ensures you’re able to design, set up, and configure a basic Aruba Wireless Local Area Network. There are four other associate-level Aruba certifications (Switching, ClearPass, Design, and Security); getting any three of them will make you an Aruba Edge Associate.

  • Cost: $230

  • Requirements: Requires one exam. No prerequisites, though candidates are encouraged to take a course in Aruba Mobility Fundamentals.

  • What’s being tested: Essential workings of Aruba WLAN, using V8 operating system architecture

6. VMWare Certified Technical Associate - Network Virtualization (VCTA-NV)

If you’re interested in virtualization, getting the VCTA-NV certification can be a good way to get started with the essentials of the VMWare NSX network virtualization platform. The certification will test your basic knowledge of the NSX terminology, graphical user interfaces, and other core technical skills.

  • Cost: $125

  • Requirements: Requires one exam. No prerequisites.

  • What’s being tested: Installing, configuring, and setup; performance-tuning, optimization, and upgrades; fundamental architecture and technologies; planning and designing; troubleshooting

Networking career paths

Any company that uses computers is liable to need networking professionals. If you want to break into the field, starting in an entry-level IT job—like a help desk technician or IT associate—can be your first step. An entry-level IT credential like the CompTIA A+ or Google IT Support Professional Certificate can help you build up the skills to get there. 

From there, you might go on to specialize in networks and become a network administrator. You may go on to become a network engineer or network architect from there. Network professionals might also expand their skill set to be able to work in system administration as well.

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