Like many other career paths in tech, becoming a network engineer means being a forever student. As technology evolves, you're going to need to keep up and prove that your expertise is up to date. The easiest way to do so is earning certification in supporting areas.
But not all complementary tech certificates have the same value. Here are the 11 best certifications every network engineer needs to succeed.
1. Wireshark Network Analyst
Wireshark is a powerful network analysis and troubleshooting tool, and it's worth getting certified in to prove your experience. The Wireshark Certified Network Analyst (WCNA) certificate is recognized in over 90 countries globally.
The certification is valid for three years after passing the written exam. You can expect the test to cover the four primary areas of general Wireshark functionality, TCP/IP network communications, and network security and troubleshooting.
2. CompTIA Network+
The CompTIA Network+ is an entry-level certificate but still highly regarded and respected in the field. This certificate validates the technical skills you need to securely establish, maintain, and troubleshoot the types of networks businesses often rely on.
The certificate is valid for three years from the date of the exam. You can easily renew your CompTIA Network+ for an additional three years by continuing your CompTIA Network education.
3. AWS Certified Advanced Networking
AWS's Advanced Networking certificate focuses on training in relatively recent tech and networking concepts. It covers SDN, virtualization, and cloud computing.
And more often than not, your employer will be using one or more AWS services. If not, having these certificates makes you a valuable asset when they make the change.
Similarly, the certificate is only valid for three years, but you can maintain your certificate through AWS's recertification process.
4. ONF Certified SDN Associate
Becoming an ONF Certified SDN Associate (OCSA) will open a lot of doors for you. The entry-level test proves your knowledge and expertise in major networking components in SDN, or Software Defined Networking.
To become an OCSA, you're going to need to pass a written exam of 40 questions in 60 minutes. But the certification is only valid for two years post-examination.
5. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
The Google Certified Professional (GCP) Cloud Architect certification is similar to AWS's network certifications. Passing the GCP means you have the ability to design and plan a cloud architecture and manage the cloud solution infrastructure while complying with baseline security and privacy regulations.
The certificate is only valid for two years. However, the cloud skills it provides you with are in high demand in the tech industry,
6. Microsoft Technology Associate
The MTA is another entry-level certificate that can help establish your career in tech. Fortunately, the certificate is valid for five years from the examination date.
7. Cisco Certified Network Associate
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is an umbrella certificate for several individual certificates Cisco used to offer separately. The current Cisco CNA tests you in network fundamental, IP connectivity, and services, in addition to some security fundamental and automation knowledge.
Similarly, you'll need to retake the CCNA exam every three years. It's an all-encompassing and entry-level certificate that can help you kickstart your career as a network engineer.
8. CompTIA Security+
Security plays an essential role in all networks, and sharpening your knowledge in security can make you a better network engineer. The CompTIA Security+ is a global certificate that demonstrates you have the needed skills to perform security functions. In fact, it's one of the first certificates you should earn.
Valid for three years, the CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level certificate that allows you to overlap your expertise with security specialists and administrators, security consultants, and security engineers.
9. SolarWinds Certified Professional
The SolarWinds Certified Professional (SCP) certificate allows you to demonstrate your proficiency in managing networks and systems powered by SolarWinds. Earning the certification ensures your employer that you have the technical knowledge and skills necessary to use and maintain network systems in general and SolarWinds in particular.
The certificate is valid for three years. But since SolarWinds is one of the leading providers of IT, cloud, and networking solutions worldwide, you'll have the chance to put your SCP certificate to good use in no time.
10. VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization
The VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization (VCP-NV) certificate is one of the best certificates you could get for specializing in the virtualization aspect of IT and networking.
The VCP-NV certificate validates your ability to install, configure, and administer virtual networks in your company regardless of the underlying physical structure.
The certificate is only valid for two years, but that's to be expected. Virtualization is still a relatively new field, and a lot could change in two years that you may need to catch up with.
11. Certified Wireless Network Administrator
If specializing in a specific network vendor like Amazon or Google isn't your thing, then becoming a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) is the way to go. It's another entry-level certification that validates your expertise in networking but with a vendor-neutral approach.
Valid for three years from the examination date, the CWNA tests you in numerous types of wireless networks and communication, from radio frequency technology and the design and management of networks to network security and troubleshooting.
Where Do You Start?
The world of tech is vast. Even if you try to narrow it down to network engineering, it's still too big. When you're starting out, it's impossible to know everything within the field — nor does your employer and seniors expect you to.
Instead of picking a certificate based on how glamorous it sounds, start by going through the job descriptions of your dream occupation. There, you're likely to find the skills and official certificates required for the role. That should give you a good idea of where to start.