Updated July 2023
It’s an excellent time to launch a career in computer networking. The Government of Canada Job Bank estimates that network techs and administrators will see strong demand in most areas of the country over the next few years.
Hoping to take advantage of that trend? One of the best ways to catch an employer’s attention is by earning relevant certifications.
A June 2022 report found that 69 per cent of hiring managers were more inclined to hire candidates with certifications--and 90 per cent were willing to cover the costs for their employees to get certified.
So which certifications are most requested by employers right now? We analyzed dozens of network administrator job postings to get the answer.
Based on our findings, these are the top networking certifications that can help you begin and advance your career.
Network+ is a beginner-level certification that’s vendor-neutral. That means it provides a broad base of knowledge—the concepts covered by the cert can be applied to a range of networking systems.
Network+ is commonly mentioned by employers seeking to fill entry-level networking roles.
The exam is 90 minutes long. While anyone can take it, CompTIA recommends completing its A+ certification and gaining nine to 12 months of networking experience first.
The Network+ certification remains valid for three years. To renew, you have to complete at least 30 continuing education credits over those three years.
If you’re a total beginner, it’s a good idea to start with Network+, then add to your resume with vendor-specific certifications from companies like Cisco or Microsoft (more on those next).
CISCO CERTIFIED NETWORK ASSOCIATE (CCNA)
Cisco is the biggest name in networking, with over 40 per cent of the global Ethernet switch market.
Thus, the CCNA is one of the most in-demand networking certifications. It’s aimed at those who are looking to become network technicians, administrators, or engineers.
The exam is 120 minutes long. There are no formal prerequisites, though Cisco recommends having at least one year of experience with their products.
A CCNA certification is valid for three years. To renew, you must either pass an exam or accumulate 30 continuing education credits.
While the Network+ verifies that you know the fundamentals, the CCNA appears much more often in job postings. It covers more ground and provides more in-depth training—but it’s focused exclusively on Cisco tools and equipment, whereas the Network+ is more general.
Many people start with the Network+ as a foundational certification, then follow up by getting their CCNA (or Cisco’s next-level cert, the CCNP).
If you’re leaning toward the systems administration or server side of things, you’ll notice a lot of job postings that call for certifications like Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE).
The catch is that those certs have officially been retired—so if you’re new to the field, those are not options for you.
Microsoft does, however, have a new offering called Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate. It’s designed for administrators who work in environments that use a combination of on-premise and cloud (Azure) network infrastructure.
There are two required exams:
- Administering Windows Server Hybrid Core Infrastructure
- Configuring Windows Server Hybrid Advanced Services
You should have a fair amount of experience configuring and managing Windows Server operating systems before taking the exams.
Microsoft certifications must be renewed annually by passing a free online assessment.
FORTINET NSE 4
The Network Security Professional (NSE 4) is a specialty certification from Fortinet that validates your skills with implementing and managing the company’s network security devices.
Fortinet is a leader in this space, with 40 per cent of the worldwide market for firewall software. So it’s no surprise that many companies are seeking networking pros with this specialized expertise.
The first three NSE levels cover general cybersecurity concepts, while the NSE 4 focuses on maintaining and configuring these specific devices.
The exam is 105 minutes long. It has no official prerequisites, but Fortinet recommends completing its FortiGate Security and FortiGate Infrastructure courses first.
NSE 4 certification is valid for two years. To renew, you must pass the exam again.
HOW CAN YOU PREPARE FOR NETWORKING CERTIFICATIONS?
One option is to teach yourself the relevant material by watching videos, reading blogs, and working through study guides from certification providers. Some providers even offer free self-paced online courses to help you prepare.
If you prefer a more structured learning environment, you may opt to pay for instructor-led training. Short courses that focus on specific certs are widely available.
And if you’re brand new to the IT field or just want a broader scope of training, a college diploma in networking technology may be the way to go. Programs typically take no more than two years and include preparation for multiple certifications.
INTERESTED IN A COMPUTER NETWORKING DIPLOMA?
Training takes just over a year and prepares you for key networking certifications. An internship is also included, so you can get a few weeks of real-world experience before you even graduate.
And thanks to our partnership with Fortinet, all Herzing IT students and alumni can take a Fortinet certification exam for free.
Click below to explore Herzing’s technology programs and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!