Best Network Certifications and Awards to Get Started In IT | NexGenT

Networking is arguably one of the most important (If not THE most important) aspects of IT. Networking is at its core is communication. Communicating between networks allows humans to connect, collaborate and share information. Without networking, you would not be reading this right now! Since Networking is such a critical aspect of IT infrastructure it stands to reason that many companies would need solutions to meet this demand. With those solutions, means more technology, and more skills needed to keep it all running.

When you are first getting started in IT, you may ask yourself “What are the best Network Certifications for getting started in IT?” This is highly debated when trying to decide which cert is better than the other, but our aim is to give you a guide on which certs should be considered best for those who are starting out. The following should be on your list of considerations when it comes to foundational/entry level networking certifications.

 

Cisco CCT (Cisco Certified Technician)

 

  • Cost – $125 usd 
  • Required Experience/Certification: None
  • Exams – CLTECH 100-890,  010-151 DCTECH, 100-490 RSTECH (one of each)

The CCT is the most affordable exam offered by networking giant Cisco. Cisco loves tracks, and the CCT is no different! There are 3 different exams you can pursue to obtain the CCT, one exam of any of these will net (pun intended) you the CCT designation. For this article, we will focus on one CCT track, Route and Switch.

100-490 RSTECH – CCT Routing and Switching

Route and Switch is probably going to be the most well rounded of the 3 as this certification focuses on the skills required for onsite support and maintenance of Cisco routers, switches, and operating environments. This exam will show that you have the foundational knowledge to maintain, configure and troubleshoot Cisco hardware. An excellent starting point for anyone looking to become a Network Technician. This is a great choice for anyone looking to test the waters before going for the CCNA designation.

 

CompTIA Network+

 

  • Cost – $338 usd 
  • Required Experience/Certification: None
  • Exams – N10-007 – 70 Multiple choice questions with 90 minutes to complete

The CompTIA Network+ is a solid foundational, vendor neutral networking certification. CompTIA expands on the network knowledge from the A+ certification and assumes that a tester already has obtained the A+ although it is not required to sit for the exam. This exam covers the following objectives:

  1. Networking Concepts. 23%
  2. Network Troubleshooting and Tools. 22%
  3. Network Security. 20%
  4. Infrastructure. 18%
  5. Network Operations. 17%

This is a great choice for those who are seeking a broader understanding of Networking in general and want to learn about more than just 1 vendor’s products. The added bonus of the Network+ auto-renewing your A+ certification is a really good selling point from CompTIA. This is a bonafide industry-recognized certification and will show that you have taken the time to learn the knowledge needed to pass it. While this cert is generally looked at as lesser than some other certs, it still holds a great deal of value and can teach you a ton!

 

Cisco CCNA – Cisco Certified Network Associate

 

  • Cost – $300 USD 
  • Required Experience/Certification: None
  • Exams – 200-301 – 120 questions with 120 minutes to complete

The CCNA, is without a doubt, the undisputed king of best-known certifications bare none. It was long regarded as the most sought after IT certifications, requiring hopeful candidates to pass the CCENT (retired) before being eligible to take it. Now the 200-301 is obtainable by anyone willing to pony up the dough and the time required to study for it. This is Cisco’s Gold Standard for entering the networking area and still highly regarded, although many networking professionals believe this certification is lacking compared to its predecessor it is on the top of the list when HR reps post a job listing. The objectives tested in this exam are as follows:

  1. IP Connectivity 25%
  2. Networking Fundamentals. 20%
  3. Network Access 20%
  4. Security Fundamentals 15%
  5. IP Services 10%
  6. Automation and Programmability 10% 

This exam will teach you all about Cisco Networking Solutions, as they are the vendor who supplies the majority of the world with their networking infrastructure it is a safe bet that you will encounter some Cisco gear along the way in your networking career.

 

Juniper JNCIA-Junos – (JNCP) Enterprise Routing and Switching

 

  • Cost – $200 usd 
  • Required Experience/Certification: None
  • Exams – JN0-103 – 65 questions with 90 minutes to complete

Juniper is a rival to Cisco and has become more and more well known throughout the networking and IT world. They offer solutions for networking infrastructure and also offer complimentary certification tracks to Cisco as well. One common benefit to pursuing Juniper over Cisco is that there is considered to be less competition amongst Juniper certified professionals.

That being said, let’s take a look at what Juniper considers their CCNA equivalent in terms of objectives that are tested for this exam:

  1. Junos OS Fundamentals
  2. User Interfaces
  3. Configuration Basics
  4. Operational Monitoring and Maintenance 
  5. Routing Fundamentals 
  6. Routing Policy and Firewall Filters

This would essentially give you a basic understanding of networks, how they work within the Junos product line, and provide you with a certification all for $200. Not a bad deal, and worth considering!

 

FORTINET NSE 1 & 2 – Network Security Associate 1 & 2

 

  • Cost – Free 
  • Required Experience/Certification: None
  • Exams – FORTINET Training Institute Curriculum 

FORTINET is yet another maker of Networking Solutions that service the globe. They have their own Network Security certification program, the first 2 of these are the NSE 1 $ NSE 2 Associate certifications. These can be obtained for only the amount of time it takes to complete their online course. They offer a surprisingly rich course for the price, and can be completed in a few hours. What are you waiting for?

 

FSNA – Full Stack Network Associate

 

  • Cost – Multiple Options
  • Required Experience/Certification: None
  • Exams – 24 Weeks of Training on NEXGENT

So far, every other mention has been all about studying for an exam and passing it. That’s great, but how do you know you will be able to do the job once you get the certification? That is where the Full Stack Network Associate program varies from traditional certifications. You will not only be prepped and ready to pass the Net+ and CCNA, but you will also have the skills to do the job. 

While this program is relatively less well known, and also new to the game the skills that you will learn from completing this program will give you the confidence to actually do the job. Listing these skills and hands on experience on your resume will be a huge benefit that other traditional certifications can’t offer.

When we say FULL STACK, we mean it. Not only will you learn in a virtual environment with tools like Cisco’s Packet Tracer, but you will be able to physically configure and deploy all of the components such as LAN, Routing, Switches, Wireless, VoiP, and keep it Secure as well! With the FSNA, you learn the entire OSI 7 layer stack from top to bottom!

One thing about IT you will learn fast, is this is the SHOW ME industry. If you want to maintain a good job, you will be tested every day in this field as opposed to just one exam. This is why skills/experience are so crucial. The FSNA has been battle tested by our veteran team of IT pros and equips you to survive as a network engineer. These are all tested in real world labs, written tests and skills checks before you can be awarded the NEXGENT Full Stack Network Associate designation. Ready to earn your stripes and get started? 

Conclusion


Networking is the backbone of the entire IT industry. Without skilled professionals able to keep everything running, many critical functions would be impossible. Each certification listed is a great starting point for any aspiring IT professional, even if you don’t want to pursue a Network centric career having any of these certifications will add an insane amount of value to you and your resume. Any single or combinations of the listed certifications will add a great deal of value to your resume, boosting your chances of landing AND keeping the networking job of your dreams.

Happy hunting!

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