If there's one technical area in networking that bubbles to the top of the active and interesting subject matter known as networking, it has to be wireless. With the explosion of mobile devices in the enterprise, wireless networking professionals are more in demand than ever.
CWTS: Certified Wireless Technology Specialist
The Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) organization has been around since 1999, offering vendor-neutral enterprise Wi-Fi certifications and training programs. In the CWNP certification hierarchy, the Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS) is the entry-level cert, aimed at enterprise wireless LAN sales and support professionals and project managers who understand enterprise 802.11 wireless network terminology and basic functionality, radio frequency (RF) behavior, wireless network installation, and hardware configuration.
To achieve the CWTS requires passing a single exam: PW0-071, the bulk of which covers Wi-Fi technology, standards and certifications, hardware and software, and the basics of RF. Other topics include site surveying and installation techniques, deployment scenarios for common wireless LAN network types, support, troubleshooting, security and monitoring.
The CWTS is a lifetime certification, so no recertification exams or continuing education credits are required.
CWNA: Certified Wireless Network Administrator
The Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) credential from the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) organization has been around for over a decade, and still represents a terrific workaday IT certification for those who install, configure and maintain wireless networks in the workplace.
CWNP describes this credential as "an administrator level career certification for networkers," and it acts as a gateway to more senior credentials, including the Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP) and the Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) credentials.
The CWNA is probably the single most worthwhile and useful wireless networking credential for administrators, thanks to its vendor-agnostic approach to wireless technologies. Unless you're firmly ensconced in some particular vendor's wireless tool and technologies -- most notably, Cisco's, from the perspective of this article -- the CWNA is THE credential to start with when seeking to establish skills, knowledge and competence as a wireless networking administrator.
Cisco Wireless Certifications
A wireless specialization is available for each Cisco networking credential at the Associate (CCNA Wireless), Professional (CCNP Wireless) and Expert (CCIE Wireless) levels.
In the case of the Wireless CCNA and CCNP, candidates must first earn the base-level CCNA credential, then take a series of exams to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in working with various Cisco wireless platforms and technologies at the corresponding levels of expertise involved. Because these Cisco credentials are so well known and covered, we only observe that wireless credentials add substantial coverage of Cisco platforms and offerings, as well as general wireless communication, design, installation, and configuration concepts and best practices to the various base-level curricula involved.
SANS GAWN: GIAC Assessing & Auditing Wireless Networks
SANS is well known as a purveyor of security research, training and certification, and their wireless GIAC credential carries their focus specifically into the wireless networking realms.
In the case of the GAWN cert, the focus is on those who inspect and audit wireless networks, with a particular emphasis on security analysis and examination. Thus, the exam zeroes-in on the various security mechanisms used on wireless networks, tools and techniques to evaluate security posture or attack weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and analytical techniques for wireless networks. Candidates must understand how to use a variety of tools, know how they operate and know what kinds of information they can reveal about the protocols and services they are used to evaluate or attack.
JNCIS-WLAN: Juniper Networks Certified Specialist Wireless LAN
As a direct competitor to Cisco, California-based Juniper Networks develops and sells high-performance network infrastructure equipment and software aimed at corporations, network service providers and government agencies. And like Cisco, Juniper Networks has a large and well-developed certification and training program designed to support its solutions.
Whereas other tracks in the Juniper Networks certification program offer Associate, Specialist, Professional and Expert credentials, the Wireless LAN track includes only the Juniper Networks Certified Specialist Wireless LAN (JNCIS-WLAN). The JNCIS-WLAN is an intermediate-level credential that recognizes a networking professional's ability to plan, deploy and configure Juniper Networks wireless LAN systems.
The JNCIS-WLAN is valid for two years. Credential holders must pass the current certification exam to recertify.