Eager to break into network engineering but overwhelmed by the list of networking certifications? NexGenT instructor and CCIE-certified Network Architect Rob Riker is here to break down the top four most-recognized network security certifications, what to expect on the exams, and the networking job opportunities and salaries that correspond with those certification levels. Plus, learn how NexGenT’s two in-house networking certifications give students the hands-on networking knowledge they need to pass the CCNA and be job-ready.
No, you don't need to be certified to work in networking. In fact, 60-70% of the people I have personally worked with on networking teams did not have any certifications. Being certified doesn't exactly mean that you have the knowledge or experience necessary to do the job well. I’ve seen folks get “paper” certified, where they learn the material for the exam and become certified, but they aren’t able to apply those skills on the job.
At NexGenT, we tell students to get their certifications because it will differentiate them in the field. If a hiring manager is looking for someone certified, they will pick you over someone with more experience and no certifications. However, if that experienced person is also certified, they would be the top pick. Becoming certified in networking swings open the door for job opportunities.
NexGenT offers two levels of networking certifications that students can achieve during the bootcamp: Full Stack Network Associate (FSNA) and Full Stack Networking Project (FSNP). The FSNA and FSNP certify that a student has gained fundamental networking competencies through our curriculum’s hands-on learning. The FNSA and FSNP certifications prepare students for the CCNA exam. Students typically take the CCNA after graduating from the bootcamp. While a student could go for their CompTIA Network+, it’s a bit irrelevant because NexGenT’s FSNA and FSNP certifications cover that material. Once you are able to put CCNA and NexGenT certifications on your resume, your employment opportunities are boundless.
Full Stack Network Associate (FSNA)
NexGenT’s FSNA includes a written exam and a practical test. In the first 8 weeks of the Networking Engineer bootcamp, we cover topics seen in the CCNA exam and pull it together so a student learns how to operate technical tasks, like how to build a network between layers. With the FSNA, students focus on implementing and testing configurations rather than just learning about them. Students learn how to apply their networking skills to real-world deployment.
Skills learned for FSNA certification:
Full Stack Networking Project (FSNP)
The networking theory students learn during the FSNA portion of the bootcamp translates later to NexGenT’s FSNP. With the FSNP, students receive training in working as a project-based consultant on bigger environments. The FSNP is totally skills-based, and there is no written exam.
Skills learned for FSNP certification:
NexGenT’s Network Engineering Bootcamp has a “soup-to-nuts” approach to networking certification. We ensure that bootcamp graduates are experienced and ready for real work when they leave the program. While we prepare students for certification exams, we are getting them job-ready by teaching them crucial skills like assessing the needs of a client, strategizing solutions, deploying their strategy, and being there after deployment to ensure client satisfaction.
When preparing for your certification exams, you should look for training programs with:
Do you need to have a STEM degree or previous tech background to get into networking?
You do not need a STEM degree, but coming from a STEM background is hugely advantageous because that means you already have the analytical mind for networking. If you understand basic math, like exponents and the power of two, then learning binary and IP addressing and subnetting will be a piece of cake!
Some students that move through the NexGenT networking program have a background in electrical engineering. These students understand how power flows through a circuit board, and that previous knowledge can be useful in some cases.
Are there benefits to having other skill sets besides networking?
The broader you can be in your skill sets, the more marketable you'll be in the field. The more cross-functional you are long-term, the more resourceful you'll be. If you’re pivoting into networking from another field, figure out how to leverage your previous experience.
What are the benefits of taking contract work as a new network engineer?
Contract work allows you to switch companies every 3-6 months, which is important to maintain a challenging environment and help you gain experience that will advance your career. Taking contract work is beneficial because it offers you exposure to different aspects of networking within different companies. If you stay somewhere too long when you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get bored.
Should network engineers also have cybersecurity certifications?
Network security and cyber security are different fields. Cybersecurity is figuring out vulnerabilities in web servers, and network security deals with firewalls, VPNs, and identity management to control who’s doing what between point A and B. That said, it is helpful for those working in cyber security to understand network security. At NexGenT, we recommend that our students all learn network security first and specialize in cyber security after the foundation of network security is laid.
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