Best-paying networking certifications of 2017
The half-year point since we outlined the ‘hot’ IT contractor certifications of 2017 makes a revisit worthwhile -- and not just because one of the tech areas our top 10 covered is now commanding inflation-busting rate increases, writes Alex Bennett of Firebrand Training.
The amount of contracting work for networking professionals is unlikely to dip, thanks in no small part to the NHS ransomware attack drawing attention to the critical role of network security within organisations.
Rate data used in this article (from ITJobsWatch) was collated by us, and informed with our own knowledge, before the health service’s network was infected. So even without the WannaCry NHS attack, networking contractors were already on 5.6% more than a year ago.
However with hundreds of networking certifications across dozens of technologies and vendors, in which should you invest your time, money and determination? In order of lowest to highest pay per day, the top five are:
5. Cisco CCNP Routing and Switching - £400
The Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching spotlights you as a highly-experienced networking professional.
Achieve this advanced certification and you’ll prove your ability to implement enterprise scale networks. The Cisco CCNP Routing and Switching certification is ideal for experienced contractors hired to bring Cisco routing and switching networking technologies to both enterprises and SMEs.
A maintained Cisco certification proves you’re up-to-date with the latest Cisco technology and certified contractors earn an average daily rate of £400.
However, to achieve this renowned certification, you’ll need to first pass the Cisco CCNA (or hold a Cisco CCIE certification).
Luckily, the CCNA Routing and Switching certification is also highly valuable for networking contractors -- earning an average median day rate of £334. Taking a CCNA course, or self-studying for the certification will set you up well to achieve the CCNP in the future.
4. WCNA: Wireshark Certified Network Analyst - £423
Wireshark is the most popular network protocol analyser and the de facto standard used across enterprises, government and education. Wireshark allows networking pros to see what’s happening in networks at an incredibly detailed level.
Wireshark offers only one qualification: the Wireshark Certified Network Analyst (WCNA). The Wireshark WCNA certification recognises knowledge of network sniffing and analysis using Wireshark software, as well as TCP/IP network communications, troubleshooting and security.
It’s a niche certification but for a networking contractor looking to widen their skill-set, validated knowledge of Wireshark could be ideal. The median daily rate for WCNA-certified professionals is £423.
3. CompTIA Network+ - £425
More than nine in 10 hiring managers say CompTIA certifications are valuable, and CompTIA’s Network+ dominates the entry-level networking IT certification market.
The vendor neutral Network+ is widely regarded as a crucial steppingstone towards advanced networking certifications. Because of this it’s a valuable check-box in the eyes of end-users and one that many networking professionals use as to validate their foundational knowledge.
The Network+ proves a contractor’s solid base of networking knowledge, confirming expertise in network architecture, network operations, network security, troubleshooting and industry standards.
Recognised worldwide by end-users, this certification meets the ISO 17024 standard and is even approved by the US Department of Defence.
Networking contractors in possession of CompTIA’s Network+ certification command an average median daily rate of £425.
However, this high daily rate is misleading. The popular Network+ forms the foundation of a professional’s networking skills and will undoubtedly be among other, more advanced qualifications. As such, networking contractors will always support this entry-level qualification with experience and advanced certifications.
2. Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching CCIE - £450
The Cisco Certified Internet Expert Routing and Switching (CCIE Routing an Switching) certifies the skills of expert network engineers that can operate and troubleshoot complex network infrastructure.
This is the highest level of Cisco certification, yet no prerequisites are officially required. Instead, Cisco strongly recommend network pros accumulate eight years of experience before beginning their CCIE studies.
The road to obtaining the CCIE is arduous, requiring completion of a two-hour written exam followed by an intense eight-hour, hands-on lab exam. However, it’s well worth attaining -- the median daily rate for CCIE-certified contractors is £450.
1. Juniper Networks JNCIE-ENT - £500
A Cisco competitor (though not quite as large), Juniper Networks is a huge player in the IT networking industry. Juniper designs networking solutions and has developed a well-known network operating system called Junos OS, which features in Juniper devices and equipment.
Juniper’s certification programme includes a variety of levels, the highest paying being the upper-tier JNCIE certifications.
Unsurprisingly, a Juniper certification will prove your knowledge of Juniper devices and operating systems. Specifically, the JNCIE-ENT certification proves a contractor’s knowledge of Juniper enterprise routing and switching platforms.
The JNCIS-ENT Enterprise is the pinnacle of Junipers enterprise networking track. It’s designed for highly experienced networking professionals and verifies knowledge of enterprise routing and switching technologies.
At a median average daily rate of £500, this is the highest paying networking certification for contractors right now.
As you can see, there’s significant value in attaining networking credentials. The troubles that the NHS and organisations in 149 other countries have had will only serve to increase that value. Before the attack, Cisco estimated a shortage of 1.2million professionals in the IP and networking space. So although certifications have always been there to put you ahead of the contractor crowd, with networking it seems there are real-world pressures set to make formal qualifications come into their own.