5 Best Certifications For Network Engineers

As network infrastructure grows more complex, certifications help engineers prove their expertise in an ever-changing field. With new technologies emerging constantly, networking professionals must pursue ongoing education to build and maintain valuable, in-demand skills.

This comprehensive guide explores the industry’s most prestigious certifications and how each adds value at different career levels.

By understanding certification pathways and requirements, network engineers can develop customized plans to strengthen their resumes, expand career opportunities, and stay current in this rapidly evolving industry.

Look Here: 8 Best Laptops for Network Engineers?

Here is a table comparing the 5 Best Certifications For Network Engineers:

CertificationExperience RequiredFocus AreasExam FormatValidFor
CCNA6-12 months of networking experienceRouting, switching, IP concepts1 exam covering fundamentals3 years
CCNPCCNA + 1 year experienceAdvanced routing, switching, WAN, security4 separate exams on core topics3 years
CCIECCNP or equivalent experienceExpert-level routing, switching, collaboration, etc.Rigorous multi-day hands-on lab and written exams5 years
CompTIA Network+6 months of networking exposureVendor-neutral networking administrationSingle multiple-choice test3 years
JNCIPCCIE, CCNP, or JNCIE + Juniper experienceImplementing Juniper routing, switching, securitySingle exam focused on Juniper products2 years

5 Best Certifications For Network Engineers

1. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

What is the CCNA certification?

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is Cisco’s foundational networking certification, validating core switch and router skills. Obtaining a CCNA validates the ability to install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot basic Ethernet and TCP/IP networks.

It demonstrates competency in fundamental networking terminology and concepts. The CCNA teaches network professionals practical skills to apply to entry-level networking jobs. Sample job roles include network technician, network administrator, or junior network engineer.

What are the prerequisites and exam requirements?

There are no formal education or work experience requirements for the CCNA. However, candidates should have 6-12 months of networking experience and in-depth knowledge of network fundamentals.

The CCNA consists of a single exam (200-301 CCNA) that covers networking, security, automation, and programmability concepts. It must be passed with a minimum score of 825/1000.

Candidates are encouraged to complete hands-on labs and training through Cisco Networking Academy courses or comparable programs to prepare for the performance-based exam questions adequately.

What skills and knowledge does the CCNA cover?

The CCNA curriculum maps to real-world networks, covering topics like IP data networks, network applications, wireless technology fundamentals, basic security, routing concepts, and network architectures.

Key skills validated include VLAN configuration, ACL/router security, NAT/PAT operation, IPv4 and IPv6 addressing, First Hop Redundancy Protocols, network fundamentals, and troubleshooting workflows.

The CCNA teaches a well-rounded set of practical skills for installing and maintaining basic network infrastructure.

How can the CCNA benefit a network engineer’s career?

The CCNA is highly valued within the networking industry. Its hands-on approach prepares certificate holders for first-level network support positions or advanced networking education.

It enhances recruitability and job mobility, demonstrates core competency in routing and switching, and establishes a baseline of networking experience and knowledge. Table 1 displays common job roles appropriate for CCNA professionals.

The CCNA establishes credibility as an early career networking professional and opens doors for further career progression.

2. Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

What is the CCNP certification?

The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) validates advanced routing, switching, troubleshooting, and network security abilities. It targets network engineers with at least 1-2 years of experience who can deliver complex network solutions with an in-depth understanding of multivendor interoperability.

The CCNP signifies the skills of an expert-level network engineer. Network engineers pursue the CCNP after accumulating substantial hands-on experience with networking technologies in enterprise environments. Certification at this level involves rigorous exams testing the abilities of network engineering professionals.

What are the prerequisites and exam requirements?

Candidates must hold the CCNA certification and have at least 1 year of networking experience. The CCNP consists of 4 exams that can be taken individually, focusing on advanced routing (642-902 Route), switching (642-813 Switch), troubleshooting (642-832 TSHOOT), and one concentration exam of your choice.

A passing score of 825/1000 must be achieved on each. Most network engineers will take about 1-2 years to adequately prepare for these exams through hands-on experience designing, implementing, and troubleshooting a complex network infrastructure.

What advanced skills and knowledge does the CCNP cover?

CCNP exams delve deep into advanced topics like multi-area OSPF, EIGRP, BGP, wireless/mobility, IPv6 networking, GRE tunnels, Ethernet switching, MPLS, network design techniques, and advanced troubleshooting approaches.

Hands-on labs allow demonstration of configuration, implementation, and troubleshooting of complex enterprise routed and switched network infrastructure. The CCNP validates the advanced technical competencies required of networking professionals managing large enterprise networks.

How does the CCNP differentiate from the CCNA?

While the CCNA is introductory, the CCNP validates a hands-on ability to confidently design, configure, and troubleshoot multi-vendor networks of any scale.

CCNP holders can work independently to implement routing protocols, optimize networks, integrate wireless, and secure systems, and resolve complex network problems. It signifies an expert-level ability to work with complex multi-vendor next-gen technologies.

Network engineers pursue the CCNP to prove advanced skills applicable to roles such as senior network engineer or network consultant.

3. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)

What is the CCIE certification?

The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is considered the highest standard of technical expertise in the networking industry.

CCIE certification endorses the skills of a master-level network engineer who can design, troubleshoot, and implement complex, converged network infrastructure at the highest professional level.

The CCIE depicts a unique class of networking talent with the proven ability to lead teams and act as subject matter experts influencing networks at the largest enterprise and service provider scales.

What are the prerequisites and exam requirements?

Candidates must hold either a CCNP or comparable experience. The exam’s lab portion involves live equipment configuration under intense pressure – usually resulting in grueling multi-day exam sessions.

Candidates must implement and troubleshoot solutions in a high-pressure environment, demonstrating command of the most advanced protocols and techniques available for a technology track.

Written exams cover advanced technical design principles. It is generally expected that networking professionals will have 10-15 years of applicable experience before attempting the CCIE.

What expert-level skills and knowledge does the CCIE cover?

CCIE exams require mastery of networking domains at a level far exceeding CCNP. Expert understanding is needed across topics like advanced routing, switching, security, service providers, wireless, collaboration, data centers, and other concentration areas.

Configuration must be nearly flawless under pressure to troubleshoot and solve problems at scale. CCIE validated the superior technical abilities required for chief networking roles.

How is the CCIE regarded in the networking industry?

Due to its rigorous requirements and technical depth, the CCIE credential earns industry-wide respect as the gold standard certification. It signifies a world-class level of expertise trusted to make critical decisions influencing large, complex networks.

CCIE-certified professionals are often top individual contributors or architects commanding a substantial leadership role or salary premium. The CCIE is viewed as the pinnacle certification in networking.

4. CompTIA Network+

What is the CompTIA Network+ certification?

CompTIA Network+ is a vendor-neutral credential validating fundamentals for networking support professionals. It focuses on network administration, infrastructure, troubleshooting, and security basics.

Network+ proves essential networking principles are understood regardless of manufacturer specifics. The Network+ targets IT practitioners whose roles involve installation and support of network hardware and software.

What are the prerequisites and exam requirements?

Network+ has no education prerequisites, but candidates should have 6 months of networking experience.

The exam (N10-008) consists of performance-based questions covering network technologies, installations and configurations, media and topologies, management, and security.

A passing score of 720/900 must be achieved on the multiple-choice exam. Exam objectives cover foundational knowledge expected at the associate level in networking roles.

What skills and knowledge does the Network+ cover?

The Network+ curriculum covers network types, cloud computing concepts, cabling, Ethernet technologies, IP addressing, TCP/IP concepts, network storage, virtualization, disaster recovery, network documentation, troubleshooting methodology, and security basics like vulnerabilities and threats.

Labs allow hands-on demonstration of competency across vendor-neutral networking concepts. Network+ targets skills expected for networking support positions.

How does the Network+ compare to Cisco certifications?

While Cisco certifications prove expertise in Cisco technologies, Network+ validates a broad base of vendor-neutral networking skills. It targets professionals maintaining mixed or non-Cisco infrastructure and establishes core networking knowledge for a wide range of career roles.

Those seeking a Cisco expert track would start with CCNA whereas Network+ suits professionals with diverse vendor responsibilities. The Network+ is more general than Cisco certifications.

5. Juniper Networks Certified Internet Professional (JNCIP)

What is the JNCIP certification?

The Juniper Networks Certified Internet Professional (JNCIP) credential demonstrates technical skills specific to Juniper products and environments.

It proves the ability to install, configure, and troubleshoot enterprise routing, switching, security, and wireless technologies on Juniper networks. The JNCIP validates expertise working with Juniper’s Junos operating system and equipment.

What are the prerequisites and exam requirements?

Candidates must possess active CCIE, CCIE-Service Provider, CCNP, or JNCIE certification and ongoing experience with Juniper technologies.

Unlike other certifications, JNCIP certification requires passing only a single written exam covering high-level principles for each available concentration.

Many networking professionals pursue the JNCIP after first obtaining Cisco certifications to branch out into Juniper technologies.

What skills and knowledge does the JNCIP cover?

Exam topics mirror the CCNP but with a focus on Juniper technologies and environments. The curriculum delves into Juno’s fundamentals, switching/routing, security, and deployment strategies and includes vendor-specific terminology.

Hands-on skills are inferred based on prerequisite credentials requiring extensive configuration experience. The JNCIP targets intermediate skills with Juniper equipment and operating systems.

How does the JNCIP compare to Cisco certifications?

While mapping closely to Cisco’s CCNP focus areas, the JNCIP proves specialized expertise in deploying and troubleshooting Juniper networks rather than Cisco products.

With fewer administrative requirements, it targets experienced network engineers already knowledgeable in core routing/switches concepts seeking endorsement of Juniper skillsets.

Network engineers pursuing the JNCIP generally apply their skills in roles supporting or migrating to Juniper infrastructure.

Choosing the Right Certification

How to determine the appropriate certification based on career goals?

  • Entry-level professionals pursue CCNA to demonstrate core skills.
  • Mid-career network engineers with 1-2 years experience obtain CCNP or specialist certs to advance.
  • Architects and leaders maintain CCIE or seek vendor mastery with JNCIP/JNCIS.
  • CompTIA Network+ enhances profiles of mixed vendor roles.
  • Appropriate certifications validate experience levels for specific career milestones and directions.
  • Strategic certification planning aligns professional development with targets.

Factors to consider when selecting a certification path

  • Consider your current experience, target job functions, employer preferences, technology environment, and vendors used.
  • Weigh the cost/difficulty of exams versus career impact.
  • Balance vendor-specific credentials with vendor-neutral standards.
  • Stay relevant by adding new specializations as technologies evolve.
  • Progress carefully through certification levels, gaining experience before advanced exams.
  • Research thoroughly to choose certifications delivering maximum value and marketability.

The importance of continuous learning and recertification

  • Networking evolves rapidly, requiring ongoing learning to stay knowledgeable.
  • Credentials expire after 3 years to encourage continuous education.
  • Recertification keeps professionals on top of innovations by revalidating skills periodically.
  • Many network engineers obtain multiple certifications and specializations over time to expand their expertise.
  • Continuous self-development remains crucial in this changing field.

Wrap Up

With innovations continually transforming networking, maintaining certification ensures continued relevance in a demanding job market. By thoughtfully selecting credentials aligned with experience and objectives, engineers communicate their competencies to potential employers.

Most importantly, certification validates a dedication to technical excellence benefiting any organization. For those committed to excellence in network engineering, certification provides a roadmap for life-long learning and professional growth.

With the right certification strategy, network engineers develop their expertise and leadership to successfully shepherd even the most advanced technologies powering our connected world.

Leave a Comment