There is one certification that is consistently in any “Top 5 IT Certifications” blog posts or articles, the Network+ certification. Network+ is offered by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) which is the top vendor-neutral provider of IT certs. While some of you reading this may be thinking, “Why recommend a vendor-neutral certification?” It is good to have a mix of certifications on your resume, and as a beginner in IT or with networking, this is the best place to start. You could jump straight into the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification path (CCNA), but Cisco assumes that you have prior networking experience and specifically with their routing and switching equipment. Going vendor-neutral can sometimes be a good thing because the focus isn’t on the hardware, but more on the logical framework of the technology. Networking is important for obvious reasons. If you don’t have network connectivity, you can’t expect to do much from your desk.
Network+ Certification Background
CompTIA has been offering industry standard certification for over 20 years, and has granted 2 million IT certifications in that time. The Network+ certification was created by CompTIA and accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 2008. When granted the Network+ certification, it is good for 3 years. After 3 years, there is a recertification requirement to take the latest exam in order to stay up-to-date. CompTIA describes Network+ as an entry-level certification, which is partially true. I would not pick up the book, read it and feel like you could take the test and be certified. I believe it is good to have at least some familiarity with networking and the different kinds of equipment before you take this on; it will definitely help with keeping pace with your training.
There is an abundance of training available for the Network+ certification. Most training providers will offer a bundle of Network+ and Security+ or Network+ and A+. Those options are good, however, if you are a true beginner, I would focus on Network+ first. As a Network+ certified professional, you will demonstrate proficiency in the following areas:
- Design and implement functional networks
- Configure, manage, and maintain essential network devices
- Use devices such as switches and routers to segment network traffic and create resilient networks
- Identify benefits and drawbacks of existing network configurations
- Implement network security, standards, and protocols
- Troubleshoot network problems
- Support the creation of virtualized networks
This is where I believe the moniker of “beginner” really doesn’t fit here. There is a lot of experience in that list, and you can’t get it all from a book or a bootcamp. Personally, I took an 8 week course offered at a local training company where I did the training in person. There was live lab equipment, cables to practice making, online material and a course book. The instructor was a Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE), the godfather of all networking certifications. It is imperative that you find a good training course led by a qualified training instructor. There are a lot of free training sites to get Network+ coursework from. I would say buyer beware (even though it’s free).
There are many training options, one provider offers the CompTIA Network+ Certification training for $1,295 to $3,395 depending on your format. Course formats include on-demand, virtual classroom and live in person classroom.
Network+ Exam Details
The Network+ exam consists of 90 questions in a mix of multiple choice, drag and drops and performance based formats. You will have 90 minutes to complete the exam and results are immediate. The passing score for the exam is 720 on a scale of 100-900. The exam voucher will cost $319 USD and is available in English, German, Japanese and soon also in Spanish and Portuguese.
The Network+ certification is a launching pad for your career. You can go in so many different directions after passing the Network+ exam. To stay within the CompTIA path, the next option would be Security+ which every IT administrator should have. A+ is an option if you plan to be more hardware focused in your career. There’s also Linux+, Cloud+, PenTest+ and many more depending on what your desired career path is. If you love networking and want to continue to more advanced certifications, the CCNA is a good next choice, and there are countless resources out there for CCNA info.
Is it For Me?
If you are planning on having a long career in IT, then the answer is a resounding yes. Get Network+ certified. It is an amazing class and will really help you get a firm understanding of networking fundamentals. Having a solid foundational knowledge of networking will serve you well in the many years of your IT career to come.