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Network and System Administration Certifications Survey

Authors Ed Tittel and Kim Lindros cover many of the most popular networking and system administration certifications available today. From networking basics to advanced technologies in vendor-specific and vendor-neutral flavors, you can choose from a variety of networking credentials. One of them is sure to fit your needs!
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As one of the biggest and most recognizable job roles in information technology (IT), those who take care of systems and servers comprise an important part of the overall working IT population. This is true not only because the job is so important for keeping companies, organizations, institutions, and other places of business and work running. It is true also because IT professionals—who start out as system and network administrators—so often move on to more technical, specialized (and arguably, more important) jobs later in their careers. These roles include security, storage, infrastructure, or other technical specialists; or technical managers, CIOs, and so forth. Athough the roots of this job may be humble and widespread, they reach into virtually every aspect of business and the workplace.

In general, network and system administrators cover a large collection of technical topics and have to know anywhere from a little bit to a lot about all of the following areas (exactly how much they must know depends on their seniority, responsibility, time on the job, and demands of the position they occupy):

  • Networking hardware. Cables, connectors, interfaces, hubs, bridges, routers, and other networking devices

  • Network topology and design. How to deploy and employ networking technologies from 10Mbps up to 1Gbps and beyond

  • Network addressing and routing. How to design, implement, and troubleshoot common network addressing, subnetting and supernetting, and name resolution services

  • Common network protocol suites. Includes some or all of TCP/IP, frame relay, ATM, X.25, and so forth (may occasionally also include legacy protocols like IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, SNA, and so forth)

  • Common network services. Includes protocol-related request-reply sequences, traffic patterns, related packet formats, and so on

  • Network attack and pathology signatures. Includes common attacks (Denial of Service, Distributed Denial of Service, Ping of Death, and so forth) and misbehaviors (broadcast storms, excessive errors, and so on)

In fact, system and network administrators are often Jacks or Jills of many technical trades because their real mission is to make things work (and to keep them working)—be those things on people's desktops, nearby servers, or on the networks that tie all the pieces and parts of a typical workplace together.

When making a survey of system and network administrations, it's convenient to divide such credentials into two major categories:

  • Vendor-specific certifications. Credentials that deal with specific platforms, tools, technologies, or products fall into this category. Although such credentials can't help but stress basics, best practices, and standards to some extent or another, their primary focus is usually squarely on proprietary platforms, tools, and so forth from the vendors who create the certification programs to which those credentials belong.

  • Vendor-neutral certifications. Credentials that deal first and foremost with basics, best practices, standards; and generally accepted terminology, concepts, and so forth are usually more catholic in their approach and less partisan about the platforms, tools, technologies, and products they cover. That said, many such programs do include some coverage of vendor-specific topics to some degree or another, simply because such coverage is required to ready certified professionals for the workplace.

Vendor-Specific Certifications

Table 1 shows find system and network administration credentials from vendors ranging from Apple to Sun Microsystems—with lots of server, network infrastructure, and platform-specific stuff from vendors such as Cisco, Citrix, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and Novell in-between.

Table 1: Vendor-Specific Certifications.


Title (Acronym)




Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA)

Identifies individuals who install and configure Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server; and design, tune, and troubleshoot heterogeneous networks.



Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC)

Identifies individuals who have a thorough knowledge of Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server; and configure services and troubleshoot the operating systems.


Cisco Systems

Network Management Specialization

Identifies individuals who deploy and support CiscoWorks, LAN Management Solution (LMS), and Routed WAN (RWAN) to manage complex LANs and WANs.



Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

Identifies individuals who manage simple routed local area networks (LANs) or WANs, small ISPs, or smaller switched LAN or LANE environments.



Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

Identifies individuals who focus on security, converged (telephony and data) networks, quality of service (QoS), VPNs, and broadband technologies.



Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional (CCIP)

Identifies individuals who work in Cisco-intensive environments; concentrations in IP routing, IP multicast, cable, IP telephony, or DSL.

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Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)

Identifies individuals who demonstrate expert-level knowledge of maintaining complex, multivendor networks; with concentrations for service provider, routing and switching, security, or voice.



Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA)

Identifies individuals who administer Citrix MetaFrame XP Presentation Server, Citrix MetaFrame Presentation Server for UNIX, or Citrix MetaFrame Presentation Server 1.8 for Windows.



Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator (CCEA)

Identifies CCAs with greater experience installing and administering Citrix MetaFrame products.



Dell Certified Networking Professional (DCNP)

Identifies individuals who design, plan, install, configure, and manage Dell switched networks.



Dell Certified Server Professional (DCSP)

Identifies individuals who implement, configure, manage, and monitor Dell servers.



Dell Certified Storage Networking Professional (DCSNP)

Identifies individuals who tune and maintain Dell enterprise SAN products.



Accredited Integration Specialist

Identifies individuals who help to create effective work environments using HP servers, products, platforms, and more.



Accredited Platform Specialist

Identifies individuals who deal with HP servers, desktops, workstations, and mobile computing platforms.



Accredited Systems Engineer (ASE)

Identifies individuals who manage complex systems, servers, and services across a broad range of HP platforms and technologies.



Certified Systems Administrator

Identifies individuals who manage HP systems that run HP-UX, OpenVMS, or Tru64 UNIX.



Certified Systems Engineer

Identifies individuals who design, deploy, and manage HP UX, NonStop Kernel, OpenVMS, or Tru64 UNIX systems.



Master ASE

Identifies individuals who dig deeply into HP-based system and network management, server technologies, databases, SANs, and databases.



Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)

Identifies administrators who support Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 systems.



Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)

Identifies systems engineers who design, deploy, and support networks built around Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003. Specializations include MCSA: Security and MCSA: Messaging.


Network Associates

Sniffer Certified Professional (SCP)

Identifies individuals who can detect and troubleshoot common network problems using the Sniffer Portable Network Analyzer.



Sniffer Certified Expert (SCE)

Identifies individuals with SCP credentials who then pass any two exams on topics and technologies that include Ethernet, WAN, RMON, ATM, Windows, TCP/IP, or wireless analysis and troubleshooting using the Sniffer Portable Network Analyzer.



Sniffer Certified Master (SCM)

Identifies individuals with SCE credentials who then passed three additional technology exams that focus on the use of the Sniffer Portable Network Analyzer.



Certified Novell Administrator (CNA)

Identifies individuals who administer NetWare 5 or 6 networks at a basic level.



Certified Novell Engineer (CNE)

Identifies individuals who administer NetWare 5 or 6 networks at an advanced level.


Red Hat

Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT)

Identifies individuals with technician-level experience supporting and troubleshooting systems that run Red Hat Linux.



Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)

Identifies individuals who design, install, configure, maintain, and troubleshoot systems and networks that run Red Hat Linux.


Sun Microsystems

Sun Certified System Administrator For The Solaris Operating System

Identifies individuals who administer a networked server running on the Solaris operating system (version 7, 8, or 9).



Sun Certified Network Administrator For The Solaris Operating System

Identifies individuals who administer a LAN that includes computers that run the Solaris operating system (version 7, 8, or 9).


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