Top 5 Networking Certifications for 2021

I got my CCNA certification over 20 years ago. That’s a long time ago. I’ve been doing this for a long time and seen a lot of changes in the industry. If I was starting today in networking, I would suggest meself these networking Certifications.
Let me just say, I have worked on other vendor equipment. I’ve spent actually a few years not doing CISCO. I did other vendors’ stuff. This is my opinion based on my experience and what I see happening in the industry. Take it as you like but this is my advice based on how I see things how I see the trends.

Here, I’m going to talk about the five networking certifications that I think you should consider getting in 2021.

Now this information will depend on where you are in your career. If you’re just starting out don’t think that you’re going to get CCIE in 2021. If you’re just starting out and you’ve only recently learned about what a mac address is, what an IP address is, aim to get your CCNA. Perhaps working towards your CCNP, don’t think you’re going to jump from zero knowledge to CCIE. In six months, that is too much a jump. If you’re doing that then you’re trying to circumvent the process.

You are not actually getting the knowledge and that is one of the important things about certifications. That helps you get a certain level of knowledge. Don’t try and cheat the system put in the work. Put in the effort and make sure that you get the knowledge. So that when you get to the job, you can actually do it.

Now before I show you my list let me tell you some practical real-world stuff. I searched for CCNA on indeed.com. This is a US job site. I’d like you to know 8481 jobs are listed for CCNA, 260 jobs for Juniper associate, 9 jobs for ARUBA, if I specify with just ASCA I get 199 jobs but this seems to include other types of jobs not relevant to networking.

So, notice the practical demonstration their CCNA eight thousand almost eight and a half thousand jobs, Juniper 260 jobs and if I specify ARUBA I get 800 jobs. But that includes all types of jobs that are not just the CCNA level knowledge. If I search for CCNP as an example I get 4000 jobs so to me that says more employers see CCNA as an entry-level certification than some of the other certifications.

Here’s in Monster, a job-seeking site, we have CCNA 3267 jobs, Jncia 122 jobs, CCIE on indeed 1673 jobs.

So, the point I’m trying to make here is notice how there are more jobs for Cisco certifications than other certifications and that doesn’t mean that the other networking certifications are not good, it’s just we all have limited time, and if I have a choice between getting a Cisco CCNA or one of the other vendor certifications I personally would prefer going for CCNA. Because there’s the proof, here’s an example from the UK 947 jobs for CCNA on LinkedIn, JNCIA 29 jobs, ASCA 23 jobs.

Now that may vary depending on which country you are in the world and which niche; you’re trying to go into. If you are trying to become a Juniper engineer then obviously, you’re going to look at getting juniper certifications. But just looking at the job market and the size of vendors if I had a choice, I would get CCNA rather than other networking certifications and that’s why my first certification to get in 2021 is cisco CCNA.

There’s another big reason for this who’s the biggest networking vendor out there. Who’s bigger Juniper or Cisco HPE or ARUBA or CISCO? CISCO owns a massive share of the market. So just look at the data, look at the facts, you can see based on just my quick test here that you’re more likely to get a job after getting a CCNA rather than another certification.

There was a point in my career where actually spent a lot of time doing HPE stuff. So I started with Cisco I did a whole bunch of stuff with HPE. Aruba stuff is great. I really enjoy working with that but if I look at it from a limited amount of time in which certifications are most in demand.

I would personally go to Cisco and that’s what I advise you as well. That doesn’t mean that other networking certifications are not good also that doesn’t mean that they’re not as good as Cisco. Just look at the demand you’ve got to decide the reasons for why you’re taking a specific networking certification personally I would advise CCNA.

I’ve seen a lot of other vendors kind of copy Cisco’s way of doing things. So, Cisco has an associate professional expert and I see a lot of other vendors do something similar they also have associate professional expert certifications. CISCO drives the industry. So, in my personal opinion do you see CCNA and again the industry is changing. I wouldn’t just get CCNA.

So, people always ask me which certification should I get if I want to do networking? I would recommend CCNA as your first certification second certification would be CISCO DevNet. Because the market no longer wants you to have just networking knowledge. You need to have developer knowledge so you need to learn Python, you need to learn or network automation.

I mean some of that is already in the CCNA certification. But if you really want to help yourself and this is what I would do if I was starting out. I would get CCNA, and then I’d go get my Cisco DevNet certification. So that I can get into the developer site.

Then you have a choice maybe you want to study development so the next certification I’d recommend is something like the DevNet professional. So you’ll learn development in a networking context and get your DevNet professional certification. Look at the automation certifications that are available from CISCO DevNet.

Perhaps you don’t really want to do development. You want to be more of a traditional network engineer. So, then I would look at getting my CCNP. Personally, if I was doing it today I would get an Encore.  Then I’d look at SD-WAN. This is becoming really important. So I’d get my Encore and then I’d go for SD-WAN.

Now you may want to do other networking certifications. This is what great about Cisco CCNP, today they have different concentrations so you might do SD-WAN but that doesn’t stop you. You could go and do something else like advanced Routing and Switching. So, decide what you want to do, see which track you really enjoy. But make sure you get your CCNP certification.

The top certification I think has been the gold standard for many years is CCIE. If you really want to take your networking knowledge to the next level get a Cisco CCIE. Now a lot of people will ask if CCIE is valid or useful. Today based on my experience. My CCIE opened a lot of doors for me and it continues to open doors for me. I definitely think CCIE is valid and useful.

Now I’ve been a CCIE for a long time. I actually am a CCIE emeritus at the moment. So I don’t constantly renew my CCIE because I don’t need it. For what I’m doing today I think a lot of older people as they develop in their careers go more into management, go more into other areas so they don’t have to do the day-to-day stuff. So they might just go for emeritus. I think it’s great that Cisco did that because a lot of people as they mature in their career don’t do hands-on the whole time. They do more design, they do more high-level stuff.

Now I know that people are going to complain that I’ve made this a Cisco Certification list this is my opinion. You may not agree with me. But if I was starting out these are the certifications that I would look at getting in 2021. Now again if you’re just starting. Then forget about CCIE try and get your CCNA, DevNet, and perhaps some part of CCNP. In 2021 but if you’re already a CCNP, you’re already a DevNet professional, you may decide okay I’m not going to get a CCIE, I’m going to concentrate on development.

I think things have changed now in the past, we only had CCNA, CCNP, CCIE which was our path. Now we have multiple paths you can go either CCIE Routing and Switching, but you can also become an expert in development. Decide where you want to go, if you hate coding, you’re probably not going to want to become an expert in the DevNet track. If you much prefer routing protocols, you’re probably going to want to go down the track of CCIE which is still valid.

Today I think there is a lot of debates on the internet about CCIE is pointless. I think a lot of it is down to you, remember that you don’t know what you don’t know and a certification track and a certification like CCIE will help you realize how little you know. I think a lot of us including myself think like this. When I got my CCIE I knew a lot but at that point, I realized that I knew very little. Because the more you learn the more you realize, there is more to learn.
Please don’t be despondent by that statement, it’s important that you decide for yourself where you’re going to go. You cannot know everything. CISCO has a whole bunch of CCIE certifications. Just because I got my CCIE in Routing and Switching which is now CCIE  Enterprise Infrastructure. Doesn’t mean that I know everything about Wireless, doesn’t mean I know everything about Security or Data Center remember that there is a lot of knowledge out there. You need to focus your time on what gets you the best return.

Personally, if I was starting out again, I would get CCNA and I would get my DevNet associate. Decide what you enjoy, maybe you prefer traditional Routing and Switching, over Development. So then you’re going to focus more on CCNP Enterprise. Maybe do DevNet professional maybe. Not but if you enjoy coding if you’re enjoying the development, automation side of things. Then you’re going to want to go down the DevNet track. Perhaps keep some knowledge of Routing and Switching but focus more on development.

You’ve got to decide what you want to do. The great thing today is there is not just one path. There are multiple paths that you can take and spend time doing what you enjoy. Let me know if you agree with what I’ve said I’m expecting a lot of Juniper and other vendor guys to complain. But that is my opinion and I’ve thought about this quite a bit. Those are the network certifications that I think you should get in 2021. If you’re in networking or you want to spend time in the networking world that’s not to say that you shouldn’t get other certifications.

But personally, I would prefer CCNA. Should you get a Juniper certification? Definitely, if you have the opportunity to do that. But if I had limited time I think the return on investment on these kinds of certifications are better for me.

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