Guide to networking certifications

Learn how to begin on a specific certification path or brush up on the numerous networking certs that are available.

"It's hard to make a judgment on the value of an individual certification. To a large part, it comes down to what...

your career plans are, what skills your employer needs, and what do you enjoy doing."

- Michael Gregg, security and certification expert

This collection of resources provides a look at specific certification paths and contains articles, advice and insight into the most popular IT certifications in our industry. Although this guide is not a complete list of 'all' certifications, the certifications listed here are the most useful for network administrators, managers and designers.

   International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium
   More certification information

  Cisco  Return to Table of Contents


CCNA certified professionals can install, configure and operate LAN, WAN and dial access services for small networks (100 nodes or fewer), including, but not limited to, use of these protocols: IP, IGRP, IPX, Serial, AppleTalk, Frame Relay, IP RIP, VLANs, RIP, Ethernet, Access Lists.

More information:

  • CCNA 640-801 primer
  • CCNA testing center guide
  • CCNA preparation tips
  • CCNA students get more hands-on experienceThe Cisco Three-Layered Hierarchical Model
  • Cabling Cisco Devices
  • Selecting Cisco Products
  • Tools and books to prepare for CCNA and CCNP

    CCDA certified professionals can design routed and switched network infrastructures involving LAN, WAN, and dial access services for businesses and organizations.

    More information:

  • CCDA certification
  • Can I take the CCDA exam without taking the CCNA?
  • Which Cisco cert is right for me - CCNA or CCDA?


    With a CCSP, a network professional can secure and manage network infrastructures to protect productivity and reduce costs. The content emphasizes topics such as perimeter security, virtual private networks, intrusion protection as well as how to combine these technologies in a single, integrated network security solution.

    More information:

  • CCSP Cisco Secure VPN Exam Certification Guide, Chapter 4
  • How would you compare CISSP with CCSP?
  • Getting started with the Cisco PIX firewall
  • I am interested in network design and implementation - how would the CCSP relate to this?

    An intermediate-level certification in the Cisco certified professional program aimed at full-time network or system administrators, or those who work with local and/or wide area network infrastructure.

    More information:

  • What's the difference between a CCNA and CCNP?
  • Tools and books to prepare for CCNA and CCNP
  • Completed three of the required four CCNP exams in 1999 – are they still valid?

    CCIP professionals have detailed understanding of networking technologies in the service provider arena including IP routing, IP QoS, BGP, and MPLS.

    More information:

  • Cisco streamlines CCIP recert exams

    With a CCDP, a network professional can design routed and switched networks involving LAN, WAN, and dial access services, applying modular design practices and making sure the whole solution responds optimally to the business and technical needs and is designed to be highly available.

    More information:

  • Cisco Internetwork Design

    CCVP is aimed at IT professionals responsible for deploying and maintaining Internet Protocol telephony systems and incorporates several of Cisco's preexisting specialist-level IP telephony certifications.

    More information:

  • Cisco cert calls out to voice pros
  • Is the CCVP worth getting or should I concentrate on getting the specialized Cisco voice certs?


    CCIE is Cisco's premium networking certification and includes a written exam and a long, one-day lab exam (a.k.a. practicum in other program's terminology) that is widely regarded as one of the toughest, most demanding exams around a senior level certification for expert networking professionals who design, build, implement, maintain and/or troubleshoot complex enterprise- or global-level networking infrastructures. Furthermore, CCIEs may specialize in routing and switching, communications and services, security, or voice systems and technologies.

    More information:

  • What is a CCIE?
  • Is CCIE still worth doing?
  • How much do the CCIE exams cost?

    Qualified Specialist

    VPN and security certifications
    Cisco VPN and security specialists focus on securing network access using Cisco IOS software and Cisco PIX Firewall technologies, operating and monitoring Cisco IOS software and IDS technologies to detect and respond to intrusion activities, and configuring VPNs across shared public networks using Cisco IOS software and Cisco VPN 3000 Series Concentrator technologies.

  • Cisco Firewall Specialist
  • Cisco IDS Specialist
  • Cisco VPN Specialist

    Wireless LAN certifications
    The Cisco Wireless LAN focused certifications indicates significant knowledge of relevant factors involved in designing, deploying and maintaining end-to-end Cisco Wireless LAN solutions throughout or between buildings, without the limitations of wires or cables.

  • Cisco Wireless LAN Design Specialist
  • Cisco Wireless LAN Support Specialist
  • Cisco Wireless LAN Sales Specialist

    IP communications certifications
    The Cisco IP telephony focused certifications validate proficiency in designing, installing, and supporting a multi-service network solution.

  • Cisco IP Contact Center Express Specialist
  • Cisco IP Telephony Design Specialist
  • Cisco IP Telephony Express Specialist
  • Cisco IP Telephony Operations Specialist
  • Cisco IP Telephony Support Specialist
  • Cisco Unity Design Specialist
  • Cisco Unity Support Specialist

    More information:

  • Getting started with the Cisco PIX firewall
  • VoIP Certification tracks - Cisco's story
  • VoIP and IP telephony certifications
  • Visit for more information

      Nortel  Return to Table of Contents


    Nortel Networks Certified Design Specialist (NNCDS)
    For entry to mid-level individuals who wish to demonstrate skill to design and plan solutions that use Nortel Networks products.

    Nortel Networks Certified Support Specialist (NNCSS)
    This designation recognizes a fundamental level of technical expertise to deploy, operate and troubleshoot Nortel Networks products and solutions. It is intended for entry- to mid-level technical support, help desk and field support personnel.


    Nortel Networks Certified Design Expert (NNCDE)
    For mid- to senior-level Systems Engineers and Network Consultants who design and plan solutions that use Nortel product lines.

    Nortel Networks Certified Support Expert (NNCSE)
    This designation recognizes an advanced level of technical expertise to implement, configure support, troubleshoot and optimize Nortel Networks products and solutions. Intended for mid- to senior-level technical support, help desk, field support and network managers.


    Nortel Networks Certified Architect (NNCA)
    For Senior Networking Consultants, Network Architects, Design Engineers and Network Engineers who design complex Nortel network solutions. Nortel's highest level of certification.

    More information:

  • VoIP certification tracks - Nortel's design certifications
  • Visit Nortel for more information

      CompTIA  Return to Table of Contents


    This certification is for entry-level (6 months experience) PC hardware technicians. This is a popular first certification, especially for individuals switching from another career to computers.


    For individuals who are foundation-level IT security workers. This vendor-neutral certification will cover such topics as firewalls, viruses, user authentication and encryption.

    This certification is for networking technicians with 18-24 months of experience.

    More information:

  • How do I properly use CompTIA's acronyms?
  • Could you compare the IT Project+ (new version) and the PMP certifications?
  • Visit CompTIA for more information.

      Enterasys  Return to Table of Contents


    Enterasys Specialist (ES)
    Enterasys' most basic certification requires completion of one exam.


    Enterasys Systems Engineer (ESE)
    Requires the completion of five exams, individuals completion the certification track have the ability to implement, operate, configure, and support solutions and networks that are using Enterasys networking products.

    Enterasys Security Systems Engineer (ESSE)
    Individuals completing this series of five exams have the knowledge to implement Enterasys network product capabilities to support the design and implementation of security solutions.


    Enterasys Certified Internetworking Engineer (ECIE)
    This is the highest level of certification within the Enterasys network certification program it requires the completion of 10 exams. The Enterasys Certified Internetworking Engineer (ECIE) certification program is designed to certify networking professionals in all Enterasys-specific offerings.

    More information:

  • Visit Esterasys for more information.

      ISC2  Return to Table of Contents

    Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
    A high intermediate to senior level information security certification, the CISSP is one of the best recognized information security certs, and the most frequently mentioned credential in job postings and classified ads this credential aims to identify people with broad practical working knowledge of all key topics, tools, and technologies in the field, with at least three or four years of relevant work experience in the field (three for college degree holders, four for others).

    System Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP )
    For individuals involved in network and systems security administration who are responsible for developing the information security policies, standards, and procedures and managing their implementation across various hardware and software programs in their organization.

    More information:

  • Does job security for security technology jobs exist?
  • How would you compare CISSP with CCSP?
  • What is the best non-vendor security certification?

      Planet3 Wireless  Return to Table of Contents

    Certified Wireless Networking Expert (CWNE)
    The CWNE credential is the final step in the CWNP program. By successfully completing the CWNE practical examination, network engineers and administrators will have demonstrated that they have the most advanced skills available in today's wireless LAN market. CWNE will be available in 2005.

    More information:

  • Visit Planet3 Wireless for more information.

      More certification information  Return to Table of Contents

  • Understanding certifications and technical interviewing
  • View our collection of "IT Career Expert" articles and tips
  • Browse our collection of expert Q&As on certifications
  • Certification strategy

    Meet our resident training and certification experts…

  • Michael Gregg
  • Ed Tittel
  • Dave Minutella

    While not as popular, there are other network certifications available to the specialist or hardcore network certification junkie.

  • Alcatel: Alcatel Certified Switch Professional ACSP
  • Juniper - Juniper Networks Technical Certification Program JNTCP
  • Foundry - Foundry Networks Certified Network Engineer FNCNE
  • Riverstone - Riverstone Certified Network Professional RCNP
  • This was last published in October 2004

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