Network Administration & Security

Top 7 Network Engineer Certifications

Top 7 Network Engineer Certifications
Experienced professionals are likely to value a specialization track, while people starting out in this field will opt for an entry-level certification that covers network engineering fundamentals. Image from Pexels
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella July 28, 2022

The top 7 network engineer certifications include the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), Certified Network Defender (CND), CompTIA Network+, Network Computer Technician (NCT), and Microsoft Azure Virtual Network.

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According to Cisco, 78 percent of technology leaders (executives and managers) consider certifications to be “a critical technical success factor”—and 99 percent of organizations consider certifications useful when making hiring decisions, as they help determine an applicant’s qualifications and skills. From fundamentals to advanced networking topics, professionals can find quality network engineering certifications applicable for every stage of their career.

With so many available options, picking the correct network engineering certification can be challenging. The right one could lead to a great job at Amazon or IBM; the wrong one wastes your time and money. This article on the top 7 network engineer certifications offers relevant information for those looking to start or advance their network engineering careers. It also addresses the question: Should you get a master’s in network engineering?

Top 7 network engineer certifications

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive list of top network engineer certifications. So, the choice of which one to pursue largely depends on where you are in your career and where you want to go. Experienced professionals are likely to value a specialization track, while people starting out in this field will opt for an entry-level option that covers network engineering fundamentals.

If you’ve decided to earn a specific certification, it’s particularly important to obtain one from a reputable organization or company. This list is an excellent place to start.

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

This entry-level Cisco certification covers basic network engineering skills. You’ll learn about IP services, automation, security fundamentals, networking fundamentals, network access, and programmability. Though Cisco doesn’t have any prerequisites for this certification, they recommend that you have one or more years of experience implementing Cisco solutions. Students can pick one of several learning pathways, including traditional classroom, e-learning, and private group sessions.

The CCNA certification is good for three years and can be renewed with 30 continuing education credits or another exam. Certificate-holders can qualify for jobs like network engineer (entry-level), network administrator, help desk technician, and network support technician.

Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

Though Cisco does not set formal requirements for prospective CCNP applicants, it does suggest first accruing between three and five years of experience in enterprise networking solutions. Those preparing for the exam should consider the course Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies (ENCOR). Cisco offers it in several formats, including e-learning, group training, and traditional classroom. The course takes a little over a week (in all formats). It covers subjects like enterprise wired and wireless network management, configuration and troubleshooting, security training, automation and programmability, and SD-Access and SD-WAN solutions.

Every student must pursue a concentration within the CCNP—each has a corresponding course and exam. It’s a way to develop a specialization or learn new skills. The six concentrations are: Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services (ENARSI), Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (ENSDWI), Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks (ENSLD), Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (ENWLSD), Implementing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (ENWLSI), and Implementing Automation for Cisco Enterprise Solutions (ENAUI).

This certificate helps current, mid-level network engineers, administrators, support technicians, and help desk technicians advance their careers. This certificate is valid for three years.

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Certifications

This is Cisco’s expert-level class of certifications. Topics include Enterprise Infrastructure, Enterprise Wireless, Data Center, Security, Service Provider, Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE), Collaboration, and DevNet Expert. Like the professional-level certifications, each has a unique set of learning requirements. Unlike other levels, these advanced certifications come with a qualifying exam.

CCIE certifications have several benefits, including an option to bring personal devices to the examination and potential emeritus status for professionals who maintain a technical certification even though they’re no longer working in technical roles. To prepare for the test, applicants can rent labs and practice using similar tools to those on the test.

Certified Network Defender (CND)

The EC-Council Network, an information security trade organization, states that the CND certification can help network engineers and administrators, IT administrators, data analysts, and network technicians improve their security skill sets. The certification includes a 20-module course—topics include Network Attacks and Defense Strategies, Endpoint Security-Linux Systems, Data Security, Enterprise Cloud Network Security, Risk Anticipation with Risk Management, and Threat Prediction with Cyber Threat Intelligence. Students can choose from several learning pathways, including in-person or online classes and self-study.

The EC-Council Network posits that certificate-holders are qualified to not only neutralize threats but anticipate and deter them. After completing this program, graduates can take on a more advanced role in organizational security, including as network security engineer, a job PayScale says comes with an average annual salary of $93,000.

CompTIA Network+

The CompTIA Network+ Certification is an excellent way to gain multi-platform experience. It covers network implementations, operations, troubleshooting, and security. Professionals who benefit from this program include network engineers, junior network administrators, datacenter support technicians, system administrators, and cable technicians.

The exam consists of 90 multiple choice and performance-based questions. This certificate is good for three years. CompTIA recommends exam takers first gain up to a year of experience (minimum nine months) and earn a CompTIA A+ Certification.

Network Computer Technician (NCT)

This certification program offers a comprehensive internet and networking technology education and recognition from a top professional organization. Course-takers learn how to manage files, configure, upgrade, and troubleshoot with multiple operating systems and hardware technologies, then complete a two-hour, 75-question test.

Conferred certifications last four years; certified professionals must complete annual maintenance (either through continuing education credits, employer verification, or both). Those who earn this certification and an Associate CET can achieve journeyman status if they meet an experience requirement.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Network Engineer Associate

This certificate is an expert-level qualification in Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Network (VNet). Microsoft offers a free online learning pathway and an official (paid) class to prepare for the certification test. The curriculum covers design and implementation for hybrid connections, networking infrastructure, routing, network security, and (of course) Azure Services.



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Should you get a master’s in network engineering?

Deciding between earning a Master of Science in Network Engineering and one or more certifications is not an either-or proposition. In fact, earning a network engineering master’s degree can work in tandem with certifications to improve your career and salary prospects. These master’s programs provide students with a more comprehensive knowledge of networking concepts, which makes them more appealing to career changers than certificates.

Online network engineering programs offer the same curriculum as their in-person versions. They cover topics like local and wide area networks (LAN and WAN), information systems, network management, network security, switching and routing, and network design. You may also learn one or more programming languages (like Java or Python). Students can frequently pursue a specialization in the form of a concentration.

Many schools offer online degree programs that appeal to working students looking to improve their skill sets without leaving their current jobs. Online degrees are flexible—students can take their courses from any location and work through their coursework each week at their own pace. Online programs sometimes include in-person components. Southern Methodist University’s network engineering program features in-person lab opportunities. As well, many programs set a capstone project requirement to help students build their portfolios and qualify for rewarding jobs after graduation.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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