Is the CWNA Certification Worth it?
| technology | networking - Landon D. Foster

Is the CWNA Certification Worth it?

The Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) certification is a foundational-level certification from Certified Wireless Network Professionals (CWNP) that focuses on wireless local area network technology. All CWNP certs are vendor-neutral, meaning the concepts and skills they cover can be applied regardless of vendor.

CWNA is considered the most basic of CWNP's professional track of certifications and covers the basics of RF Theory, applications, architectures and protocols. It won't validate the skills needed to administer networks, but it will absolutely teach you how protocols work.

The CWNA should be considered to be the first step into being a wireless professional after your basic networking knowledge. You'll need to come in with some understanding of how networking in general, TCP/IP and the most common wired networks work. Remember, wireless is just one part of your network. Let's determine if pursuing the CNWA is right for you.

What Experience Do You Need to Take the CNWA?

CWNP suggests that you have a bit of experience before taking the CWNA. That said, the cert will be most useful for IT pros who are in entry-level roles. Most people who take the CWNA are concerned with one thing: getting their first big break into the networking field. Mentorship programs often suggest this as a way to prove skills, increasingly employers are looking to verify you already know your job before they hire you to it, even for entry-level positions.

How Much Does the CWNA Cost?

The simple answer: The CWNA exam costs $224.99.

The full answer is that it entirely depends on you and how you learn. CWNP offers an E-learning course to go with it in a bundle (#849.99) and a Study Guide, practice test and test voucher bundle for 349.99. These may seem like a lot, but the last option is an in person course which can range from $1,500 to $3,000 per person or more.

If you're not under a time crunch, my suggestion would be to self-study this course with the study guide ($30 to 80). CWNP also has a monthly newsletter that sometimes contains promotional codes for bundles.

Who Should Take the CWNA?

The following is not an exhaustive list, but rather a high-level overview of who might benefit the most from earning their CWNA certification.

CWNA for Network Administrators

Network admins have one of the most broad job descriptions out there. You'll find them working in just about every organization that has IT operations. The CWNA will be most effective at broadening your skill set. As a network admin you have to deal with wireless technology every day.  This cert gives you the ability to know what's supposed to happen, and more importantly, how to troubleshoot issues.

CWNA for Security Analysts

The CWNA is a great way to know how to mitigate possible vulnerabilities that might come up if your environment has a moderate surface exposed via wireless. You'll need to know how to mitigate security risks and establish good policy for your company; the CWNA covers both. If you've a large wireless use case, it gives you the chance to also take Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP), which is purposely designed for security and wireless professionals.

CWNA for Wireless Engineers

For you, the CWNA is a stepping stone. The CWNA will give you a fairly in-depth and shockingly broad practical understanding of how 802.11 works in most production situations at the protocol level. It opens up the world of wireless to you in a way that few tests and study material will, and leads perfectly into Professional-level tests (CWSP, CWAP, CWDP). Paired with a little lab work, it's the perfect way to advance your already growing career or begin one with credibility.

Is the CWNA Worth it?

Earning the CWNA is absolutely worth it if you're wanting to start your career or advance up the ladder. Specifically for those wanting to make a career in wireless, the CWNE Track is phenomenal and carries a fair amount of weight in interviews and computer-driven talent management systems. Of note here is the upcoming CWINE track, which is centered around IoT; a critically underserved and evolving sector. The CWNA is a requirement for CWISE, and conversely CWISA is for CWNE. IoT and IT have begun the process of merging and the clock is ticking.

Just for learning factor alone, the CWNA can pay dividends. It covers what's going on under the hood with WiFi, not just what button to press. In-depth knowledge is much easier with a vendor when you know both where the buttons are, and what they do.

The CWNA also is a "stamp of approval" for less experienced engineers. It shows that you have made a commitment to better yourself and learn more about your craft. Employers like people who reach farther and don't have to be hand-led, especially in IT. From the employer's side, it's a much better bet than relying on interview questions It turns the conversation from "What do you really know" to "Where are the holes in your knowledge", giving you a crucial advantage over the table in an interview.

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