Computer networking is a discipline abounding with opportunity. As a sub-field of the fast-growing information technology industry, networking jobs are both lucrative and secure. Individuals considering training in networking have numerous options to choose from, including undergraduate and graduate credentials as well as many different professional certifications and licenses. In this article, we’ll focus on the latter form of training, exploring some of the most popular and valuable computer network certifications available.
Computer Networking: Overview of the Field
In our globally connected world, computer networking plays a pivotal role. Professionals trained in this discipline work to establish and maintain connections between computers and other devices such as tablets and smartphones. These connections allow these devices to share information with one another securely and seamlessly. Jobs in computer networking range from entry-level to advanced and may require credentials ranging from associate’s to master’s in computer networking degrees. Some positions may also require a professional license or certificate in a specific type of computer networking. Depending on their level of education, computer networking professionals can earn anywhere from approximately $50,000 to $100,000 per year.
Types of Computer Networking Certifications
If you’re interested in obtaining a computer networking certificate, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the options. It’s true—there are several pathways you can take toward credentials in this sub-field of information technology. To help you narrow the pool, we’ve featured ten of the best network certifications for IT professionals in 2022. Before you begin perusing our list, there are two things you should keep in mind. First, these network certifications are listed in no particular order. Secondly, many of these credentials can be stacked, so you don’t have to choose just one. With this in mind, consider the following ten network certifications we predict will have the most value in the coming year:
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Licensed Cisco Certified Network Associates—or CCNAs—have demonstrated the skills necessary to manage and optimize complex networks. To earn this certification, you must study topics like:
- Network Access
- IP Connectivity
- Network Fundamentals
- Automation and Programmability
- Security Fundamentals
After a period of preparation, qualified candidates will take the Cisco CCNA examination, a two-hour test that assesses the individual’s aptitude in key networking skills and concepts, including routing and switching, network architecture, cybersecurity, and network operations, for instance. Once you pass this exam, your official CCNA certification is valid for three years and will qualify you for a variety of IT positions such as network support technician, network engineer, network administrator, and help desk technician. Regarding this particular computer networking certificate salary, PayScale reports that IT professionals with the Cisco CCNA certification earn just over $80,000 annually as an average base salary.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
An advanced networking credential offered by Cisco, the Certified Network Professional (CCNP) is one of the most coveted networking certifications one can pursue in information technology. For this particular certificate, candidates have the opportunity to customize their credentials by pursuing a certificate related to a specific concentration within the networking field. Examples include:
- CCNP Enterprise
- CCNP Security
- CCNP Data Center
- Cisco Certified CyberOps Professional
- Cisco Certified DevNet Professional
To earn this networking certification, you’ll need to pass not one, but two different examinations administered by CISCO—a core exam and a concentration exam. Depending on your area of focus, passing the CCNP examination can qualify you for more advanced roles in the IT field, including IT manager, network administrator, or network analyst, for example. If you’re wondering about Cisco computer networking certificate salary details, you’ll be pleased to learn that professionals with the Cisco CCNA certification make about $98,000 per year on average, according to PayScale. This makes the path toward certification worth it, despite the $400 fee for core CCNP exams and the additional $300 for concentration exams.
In terms of network certifications, CompTIA Network+ is a great one to add to your professional portfolio. This vendor-neutral certificate provides verification of essential skills in networking infrastructure and is not specific to a particular vendor, making it applicable to a wide number of platforms and applications. CompTIA+ certification is also versatile in that it is relevant to wired and wireless networks alike.
Individuals interested in pursuing CompTIA Network+ certification should have a minimum of nine months of experience working with computer networks prior to taking the official examination. Upon receiving this particular computer networking certificate, these IT professionals will be eligible for various positions within the industry such as:
- Network Administrator
- System Engineer
- Network Analyst
- Help Desk Technician
- Network Support Specialist
With this specific computer networking certificate, salary projections are promising. According to PayScale, individuals who hold CompTIA Network+ certification earn approximately $69,000 per year on average.
One of the more common network certifications in the industry is the CompTIA A+ credential. This information technology certificate acts as a launchpad for various careers in computer networking as well as more general IT applications. Some popular job pursuits for CompTIA A+-certified professionals include:
- System Support Specialist
- Associate Network Engineer
- End User Computing Technician
- Data Support Technician
It is possible to pursue this particular computer networking certificate online by taking and passing two separate examinations: Core 1 and Core 2. These tests assess a candidate’s knowledge of certain information technology concepts such as networking, cloud computing, information security, mobile devices, and virtualization, for instance. Each exam takes 90 minutes to complete, and the test is multiple-choice. CompTIA recommends that candidates have between nine months and one year of experience in an IT role prior to sitting for the examinations.
Investing the time and effort to become CompTIA A+-certified can prove a worthwhile pursuit. According to PayScale, information technology professionals who hold this coveted license make roughly $65,000 per year on average.
IT professionals interested in working as a network administrator may consider pursuing the popular CompTIA Linux+ certification. This industry-respected credential provides validation that professionals have the know-how to execute common Linux tasks such as networking, maintenance, and configuration of workstations. To obtain the coveted CompTIA Linux+ certificate, candidates must take and pass an official examination that covers topics like:
- Kernel Modules
- Storage and Virtualization
- Networking and Firewalls
- Enterprise-Level Device Management
- Troubleshooting and SELinux
Like many of the IT licenses we’ve featured, Comp TIA Linux+ is a computer networking certificate online option, though the exam can also be taken at physical testing centers across the United States. In terms of computer networking certificate salary details, individuals with a CompTIA Linux+ certificate can expect to make $76,000 per year on average, according to PayScale.
Another of the network certifications suitable for IT professionals interested in network administration is the CompTIA Server+ credential. This is the sole industry certification available to administrators that is not limited to a single platform, which makes it extremely versatile and therefore, valuable. PayScale reports that information technology professionals with the CompTIA Server+ certification make $68,000 per year as an average base salary. This specific certificate validates skills such as:
- Security and Disaster Recovery
- Server Hardware Installation & Management
- Server Administration
To become CompTIA Server+ certified, candidates must take and pass a 90-minute examination comprised of both multiple-choice and performance-based test items. To be eligible to sit for the exam for this computer networking certificate online (or in-person), you must already be CompTIA+ certified or have an equivalent level of knowledge and experience in information technology. As an additional prerequisite, candidates are required to have at least two years working specifically with servers.
Solarwinds Certified Professional (SCP)
A relative newcomer to the list of network certifications IT professionals should consider, the Solarwinds Certified Professional license validates a professional’s knowledge and skills related to Solarwinds network and system management software. Each Solarwinds software product has its own exam and certification process so IT professionals can specialize in their skillsets. Examples of the numerous available SCP certificates include:
- Security Event Manager (SEM)
- Database Performance Analyzer (DPA)
- Network Configuration Manager (NCM)
- Network Performance Monitor (NPM)
- Server and Application Monitor (SAM)
With Solarwinds, candidates will pursue their computer networking certificate online through PSI Services remote proctoring system. Once certified, IT professionals can start reaping the benefits of this cutting-edge network certification. According to PayScale, this computer networking certificate salary is approximately $65,000 on average.
Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate (JNCIA-Junos) Certification
Another of the vendor-specific network certifications available is the JNICA-Junos certification from Juniper Networks. Intended for those individuals who are relatively new to computer networking, this license can jumpstart a lucrative career in the field. It can also provide the basis for more advanced certifications in Juniper Networks Junos OS such as:
- Enterprise Routing and Switching Certification
- Service Provider Routing and Switching Certification
- Data Center Certification
The exam necessary for JNCIA-Junos Certification is 90 minutes long and is comprised of 65 multiple-choice questions. Skills assessed on this computer networking certificate online exam include networking fundamentals, Juno OS fundamentals, user interfaces, configuration basics, and routing fundamentals, for example. Recertification is required after three years of passing the initial certification exam. The JNCIA-Junos certification is one of the more lucrative network certifications one can pursue. According to PayScale, this computer networking certificate salary falls right at $88,000 per year on average.
Aruba Certified Mobility Associate (ACMA)
Information technology professionals with the Aruba Certified Mobility Associate (ACMA) certification have demonstrated fundamental networking proficiencies as well as familiarity with the Aruba Mobile First Platform software solutions. To obtain this professional licensure, candidates must take and pass a formal examination. This exam assesses the test takers knowledge and skills related to Aruba Mobile First applications such as:
- Implementation of secure and guest networking solutions
- Configuration of integrated firewalls and secure WLAN features
- Aruba Mobility Conductor and Controller architecture
- Dynamic RF Management
Candidates may take the test for this computer networking certificate online through Pearson VUE. Once they pass the exam, their ACMA certification is good for a period of three years. During this time, these IT professionals can expect to be well-compensated for their efforts in becoming an Aruba Certified Mobility Associate. Projections for this particular computer networking certificate salary are well above $85,000 per year, according to PayScale.
VMWare Certified Technical Associate – Data Center Virtualization (VCTA-DCV)
One of the newer network certifications available to IT professionals, the VMWare Certified Technical Associate-Data Center Virtualization credential (or VCTA-DCV for short) is ideal for recent graduates of computer networking degree programs. In order to obtain the certification, an exam is required that assesses the test taker’s knowledge of networking and information technology principles such as:
- vSphere Storage Technologies
- Virtual Switch Configuration
- Managing VM Snapshots
- Virtual Networking and Storage Issues
Candidates interested in taking the VCTA-DCV exam can pursue this computer networking certificate online through the Pearson OnVue remote testing and proctoring option. Alternatively, these tests are also available at various testing centers across the nation. This computer networking certificate also happens to be one of the cheapest network certifications one can pursue.
Benefits of Computer Networking Certificates
Employers in the industry don’t always require network certifications, so you may be wondering whether the long process of studying for and taking an examination for licensure is even worth it. That’s not to mention the fees associated with the exam, which can amount to hundreds of dollars for each of the computer network certifications you choose to pursue. While it may be tempting to skip the licensure step, especially if your current employer doesn’t require it, our experts would urge you to reconsider that decision. The truth is that earning a computer networking certificate can have many advantages both in the short term and over the long run. First and foremost, these credentials can have a positive effect on your earnings. The more verifiable skills you have in the information technology industry, the more employers will be willing to pay you for these capabilities. Equally beneficial (or perhaps more so) is the job security these network certifications can afford you. In the case of layoffs, for instance, employees with no formal credentials will likely be the first to go, meaning your computer networking certificate could save you from the unemployment line if the worst-case scenario strikes. These certifications can also make you more hirable, meaning you’ll have other options if your current gig goes south, or if you just see better opportunities elsewhere in terms of pay, benefits, or working conditions.
Pursuing Network Certifications
The accessibility of network certifications today places these IT industry credentials in reach for recent graduates of online computer networking degree programs, no matter where they live or how hectic their daily schedules may be. Exams are still available at physical testing locations around the country, but more and more candidates are pursuing their computer networking certificates online.
While fees are required to sit for the mandatory examinations associated with these varying network certifications, they’re small when compared to computer networking certificate salary projections—earnings that range from $65,000 to $98,000 per year on average. Since the field of IT is growing at a rapid pace right now and because there will be an ongoing need for workers who can manage computer networks, we’ve concluded that these network certifications are indeed worth it. What are you waiting for? Pick a certification that aligns with your career goals in computer networking, and take the first step toward a secure and lucrative future in IT.
- Aruba Networks
- Juniper Networks
- PayScale: Salary by Certification