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Ed Tittel's Wireless Certification Survey

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With the advent and widespread use of Wi-Fi (an abbreviation for wireless fidelity, a popular wireless technology), wireless networks are popping up all over the place. Deploying and managing this technology takes skills and knowledge, particularly to keep such networks safe and secure. Ed Tittel identifies the IT certifications that cover wireless networking and what's involved in working this growing market niche.
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Because it offers incredible convenience and costs less than conventional networking, wireless networking is taking the IT world by storm. Because deployment and security issues differ so greatly from wired networking, and because wireless technologies offer a broad range of access options, wireless gets its own category in many of the current taxonomies. There's an interesting mix in this space between vendor-specific programs from companies such as Cisco Systems, as well as vendor-neutral programs from CompTIA, NARTE, and Planet3 Wireless. Wireless technologies are attracting lots of interest and attention from administrators, developers, engineers, designers, and architects these days.

With wireless networking technology taking off like a rocket, both at home and in the workplace, it's no wonder that wireless networking certifications are experiencing a big jump of their own. Though Cisco's proprietary wireless specializations are also doing well, the leading vendor-neutral source for wireless certifications is the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) program from Planet3 Wireless.

Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) Program

The CWNP program, available through Planet3 Wireless, is emerging as a leading—if not the leading—wireless certification program around. On the market for over a year now, it's attracting endorsements, prerequisites, and recommendation references from numerous vendors and wireless communications providers.

Currently, the CWNP program includes three credentials, as follows:

  • Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA): The CWNA is the program's entry-level certification. It identifies network administrators with experience in designing, installing, configuring, troubleshooting wireless networks—in addition to assessing and deploying security on those networks. The CWNA is a prerequisite for other credentials in this program. For more information, go to http://www.cwne.com/cwna/index.html.

  • Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP): The CSWP identifies IT professionals with a broad and deep knowledge of wireless LAN intrusion issues, security policies, and security solutions. Although the CWNA is the only required prerequisite, Planet3 Wireless recommends that candidates obtain a general entry-level INFOSEC cert such as the SCP's SCNP or CompTIA's Security+ before starting a CWSP class. For details, visit http://www.cwne.com/cwsp/index.html.

  • Certified Wireless Network Trainer (CWNT): This credential identifies qualified technical trainers who have one year of training experience, a preapproved training certification (for example, CTT+, MCT, and so on), course and exam experience for the CWNP course that the candidate wants to teach, and completion of the application form and payment of the certification fee. For more information, go to http://www.cwne.com/cwnt/index.html.

The CWNP program plans to add two certifications to the offerings in 2004, as follows:

  • Certified Wireless Network Integrator (CWNI): The CWNI is the next step after acquiring the CWNA and focuses on WLAN switching and indoor/outdoor enterprise wireless design and deployment issues. Candidates must thoroughly know wireless network design, installation, management, and troubleshooting—and how to incorporate them on an enterprise wired network. For details, go to http://www.cwne.com/cwni/index.html.

  • Certified Wireless Networking Expert (CWNE): What is expected to be the leading certification in the CWNP program, the CWNE identifies network administrators and engineers who have advanced wireless networking skills and knowledge. Advanced topics include routing, switching, packet analysis, and complex wireless and wired networking scenarios. To obtain a CWNE, a candidate must pass an intensive, hands-on lab exam. For details, go to http://www.cwne.com/cwne/index.html.

The CWNA and CWSP exams are administered through Prometric, they last for 90 minutes, and they cost $175 each. The CWNP program has been adopted or endorsed by numerous third parties, including Fortress Technologies, Symbol, AirMagnet, Funk Software, WildPackets, and Colubris Networks. For those interested in wireless networking, it's definitely worth looking into!

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