To Certify or Not?

By Blake Krone, Blog Contributor
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Throughout my career I've been fortunate to work with a lot of brilliant engineers, some of them have certifications and others don't. There are always posts about how one should study for an exam or how much experience they need to be ready but the post that never gets wrote is should you even go for certifications? To start off let's split the certifications into two buckets: vendor neutral and vendor specific.

Vendor Neutral

When evaluating certifications like the CWNP program one needs to ask what do you gain by going for the certification? Vendor neutral certifications are great sources of general knowledge of what is going on in your space. For example, with the CWNP curriculum you spend a lot of time focusing on what makes wireless tick, not what checkbox do you need to check to do something. The goal is to provide a foundational knowledge set that can be built upon with vendor specific certifications. These certifications on their own provide a way to ensure you understand how the standards define wireless or what the best way to deploy networks are according to industry standards (loose phrasing there).

Vendor Specific

Moving on to vendor specific certifications we find ourselves learning what checkbox does what and which product supports which license and capabilities. These certifications might gloss over things like RF math or protocol analysis which are important in most people's eyes but they aren't as important for someone that is looking for fill a partner status role. What these certifications do provide is a way to ensure that one knows how to properly and according to vendor guidelines deploy their solutions. While they might focus more specifically on their way of doing things and less on the RF behind wireless they still provide value.

So… Certify or Not?

There isn't really one specific path that you should follow. I find the best way to fully understand the technology both from a standards base and vendor's stance is to mix the two together. For example, let's look at the Aruba curriculum and the CWNP curriculum. What I would recommend one doing is starting with the CWNA. Get a foundational knowledge of wireless and the basic terminology that is going to be used. Then start on the ACMA to get introduced to the Aruba curriculum. Once you have those two exams and knowledge achieved you can move on to the next tracks.

Here is where you need to take a look at your ultimate goals. If you are more focused on troubleshooting I would start with the CWAP to understand packet analysis. After you achieve this work towards your ACMP and ultimately your ACMX. If you are focused more on design work maybe going for your CWDP makes more sense followed by ACMP and then ACDX. if you are security focused look at the CWSP and then the ACCA, ACCP, and finally ACCX. Once you have one of the professional level exams from CWNP don't stop there, start working towards your CWNE, you have 3 years to complete all 3 exams and get your application in.

In the end you need to want to have the certifications not for sakes of having letters after your name or numbers, but to achieve the knowledge by studying for the exams. And remember, the number is just a number, it doesn't mean anything different to be less than a certain number. What matters is that you set a goal and achieved it!