The first thing people think of when they hear "wireless networking" is mobility. As mobile devices proliferated, almost all companies saw the benefit to enabling worker access to network resources from anywhere.
One of the main drivers of wireless networking adoption is the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, wireless tech is one of the main enablers of IoT technology, since it's crucial for communication between connected devices.
With the expectation that billions of devices will soon be connected to the Internet, interest in wireless networking is exploding. A great many of these new devices function in such a manner that it is impossible to connect them to a wired network. Think automobiles, robots, smart bikes, and the list goes on.
Wireless networks are no longer a luxury, but a necessity. As wireless networking grows, so too does the demand for skilled wireless networking professionals — people who can design, implement, operate and troubleshoot our ubiquitous wireless networks. With companies willing to pay higher salaries for talented engineers, wireless networking is an attractive field filled with opportunity.
Whether you are just starting a career in wireless networking or building on existing experience and skills, a certification is a great asset. They are rich with technical knowledge, and demonstrate to potential employers that you have the verified skills to get the job done.
Here are five of the best certifications available for aspiring wireless networking professionals:
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Wireless
As is the case with other CCNA specializations — Routing and Switching, Security, Datacenter and so forth — CCNA Wireless is a widely pursued global certification. The certification certainly gains its popularity from the international adoption of Cisco's wireless network technology. CCNA Wireless is replete with technical know-how covering both standard protocols and technologies, as well as Cisco specific technologies and devices.
As an entry level certification, CCNA Wireless is suitable for engineers with little to no wireless networking experience. It covers wireless technology fundamentals, best practices for implementing and operating networks, configuration of client devices, connectivity, and troubleshooting wireless networks.
CCNA Wireless is an entry level certification, but it's not easy to achieve. Because wireless is a branch of the wider networking field, candidates are required to first achieve either a Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), CCNA Routing and Switching, or any CCIE certification before they may sit for the exam.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Wireless
CCNP Wireless is Cisco's professional-level certification for the wireless track. Because it is head and shoulders above CCNA Wireless in complexity, earning the CCNP requires a great deal more effort and knowledge. Candidates must pass four different exams: WIDESIGN, WIDEPLOY, WITSHOOT, and WISECURE. As implied from their names, they cover designing, deploying, troubleshooting and securing Cisco Wireless networks.
CCNP wireless covers a bevy of important subjects such as obtaining customer requirements, conducting site surveys, network design, deploying WLAN Infrastructure for mobility, implementing highly available wireless networks, troubleshooting methodology, securing Wireless LAN infrastructure and a host of other advanced level topics.
Engineers who have this certification are globally recognized as possessing advanced hands-on expertise working with Cisco wireless devices. They are also paid accordingly. CCNP Wireless is the right choice for wireless professionals looking to advance their careers.
Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)
CWNA certification is provided and administered by the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) organization, a strong believer in the future of enterprise wi-fi. CWNP's purpose is to certify wireless networking professionals with the skills to administer any wireless LAN.
Vendor-neutral, CWNA is a foundation-level certification designed for candidates who have a fundamental knowledge of the technology. The main domains covered by CWNA include radio frequency technologies, antenna concepts, wireless LAN hardware and software, network design, installation, and management, wireless standards and organizations, 802.11 network architecture, wireless LAN security, and site surveys, in addition to troubleshooting wireless network problems.
CWNA is valid for three years and can be renewed by passing one of the professional-level certifications exams provided by CWNP. CWNA certification is a great entry to a number of more advanced CWNP credentials including the Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP), Certified Wireless Analysis Professional (CWAP) and the Certified Wireless Design Professional (CWDP).
Aruba Certified Mobility Associate (ACMA)
Aruba Networks, a market leader for wireless network devices, was acquired by Hewlett Packard (HP) back in 2015. Since that time the company's main focus has been on wireless access points, controllers, and management products. Aruba Networks focuses on and strongly promotes the IoT and has successfully positioned itself as one of market leaders for IoT wireless products.
ACMA is a foundation-level certification that qualifies one to build mobile first network solutions based on Aruba's products. It validates a candidate's knowledge of design, implementation and management of enterprise wireless infrastructures. Achieving ACMA certification is a widely recommended, and solid, first step towards a successful career in the wireless networking field.
Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP)
No top wireless networking certification list would be complete without a certification dedicated to wireless security. In fact, security for wireless networks remains one of the most in-demand networking skills.
Given the widespread popularity of wireless networking, there is greater pressure to secure user data. As hackers have grown in skill and developed new tools and methods to attack wireless networks — and the billions of devices connected to them — so too has there been a continuous development of technologies and tools to reduce the risk.
CWSP is another successful certification offered by Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP). A vendor neutral advanced level credential, the CWSP gives individuals the knowledge and skills to secure any wireless network. Critical security topics covered by CWSP include wireless vulnerability assessment, WLAN security audits, and compliance monitoring solutions, and implementing Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems (WIPS).
A CWNA is required to sit for the CWSP exam. Certification is valid for three years and can be renewed either by re-taking the CWSP exam, or by advancing to the higher level CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Expert).