A Complete F5 Certification Guide
A Complete F5 Certification Guide
| training | certification paths - Richard Bevis

A Complete F5 Certification Guide

F5 Networks’ is well-known for their software- and appliance-based cloud and security application services solutions, based on the Company’s BIG-IP product suite. F5’s flagship solution is their BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager.

Although they are not a dominant networking player like Cisco, F5 does have a solid position in enterprise customers. They claim that 49 of the Fortune 50 companies use F5 solutions. The Company also enjoys a complementary relationship with a number of the ‘800 pound gorillas’, including Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Microsoft Azure, and VMware.

Like many IT vendors, F5 is a firm supporter of certification programs as a way to ensure that customers and channel partners have access to a pool of F5 certified IT professionals with the assured proficiency to design, build, deploy and manage F5-based solutions.

F5 supports a comprehensive F5 certification program, with a defined F5 certification path for IT professionals.

This F5 Master Certification Guide contains a comprehensive introduction to the various F5 certifications, recommended F5 certification paths, and the costs associated to acquire F5 certification. The guide also discusses the job opportunities related to F5 certification.

What is F5 Certification?

The F5 certification program has four tracks related to different job roles—Administration, Product Specialization, Solutions Engineering for Cloud and Security, and Channel Sales.

The main F5 certification path begins with the F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) and each higher level F5 certification builds upon the knowledge and proficiency required for this certification.

The higher level certifications in the F5 certification path are the F5 Certified Technical Specialist (F5-CTS), the F5 Certified Solution Expert (F5-CSE), and the F5 Certified Technical Professional, Sales (F5-CTP, Sales).

Candidates for F5 Certified Technical Specialist have the option to certify with one or more specializations:

F5 Certified Solution Expert candidates have the choice of two F5 certification paths with separate F5 Certified Solution Expert specializations for Security and Cloud.

The final F5 certification is the F5 Certified Technical Professional, Sales (F5-CTP, Sales). This stand-alone credential is designed specifically for technical professionals who work for F5 channel partners—solution providers and consulting firms. The F5-CTP, Sales certification shares the same starting exam—Application Delivery Fundamentals (Exam 101)—as all other F5 certifications.

All F5 certification exams are administered through Pearson Vue and can be taken in a local Pearson VUE testing center. Each F5 certification exam costs 135. Candidates who fail an exam may retake it, but must wait a designated amount of time—from 15 days for the first retake, and up to a full year for the fifth or subsequent attempt.

Before starting on their F5 certification path, candidates are required to sign up for the F5 Certification Program at the F5 Candidate Portal, after which they will receive an authorization-to-test email from F5.

Certification candidates and F5 certified professionals can use the F5 Candidate Portal to schedule their F5 certification exams and track their overall F5 certification status. Once they have earned one of more F5 certifications, they may publish their F5 certification credentials—badges, certifications, and transcripts—to third-parties they identify, such as current and potential employers.

F5 provides a number of exam preparation resources for F5 certification candidates:

  • F5 certification exam blueprints, which outline the topics for an exam and what should be studied, and
  • F5 certification exam study guides, which provide examples and links to in-depth information about specific topics.

F5 has also partnered with third-party vendor ExamStudio to provide F5 practice exams. Once candidates have registered at the F5 Candidate Portal, they can set up an ExamStudio account and are then allowed to purchase practice exams.

Where to Start: F5 vs. Cisco

Cisco is arguably the ‘big dog’ in networking and their professional certifications are among the most sought-after badges of technical proficiency. IT professionals can carve out an impressive career in networking by just following their certification path.

F5 on the other hand—although a leader in application delivery networking—is a niche player in the overall networking market. For this reason, networking professionals should look at F5 certification as complementary to credentials from Cisco or another of F5’s cloud and technology partners. The decision as to whether to pursue an F5 certification path in the first place should be guided by how heavily F5 technology features in the IT roadmap of your organization or prospective employer.

F5 Certifications

F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA)

The F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) certification is designed for IT professionals who handle day-to-day management of an F5 Application Delivery Network (ADN). The F5-CA serves as the foundation for all of F5’s higher-level technical certifications, and validates a candidate’s understanding of these topics and skills:

  • Troubleshooting basic virtual server connectivity issues,
  • Troubleshooting basic hardware issues,
  • Troubleshooting basic performance issues,
  • Troubleshooting basic device management connectivity issues,
  • Opening a support ticket with F5,
  • Identifying and reporting current device status,
  • Maintaining system configuration, and
  • Managing existing system and application services.

Required exam: Earning the F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) requires passing two exams — Exam 101: Application Delivery Fundamentals and Exam 201: TMOS Administration.

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting TMOS Administration (Exam 201), candidates must pass Application Delivery Fundamentals (Exam 101).

Required experience: F5 recommends that candidates have a basic understanding of network fundamentals, protocols, and common traffic management concepts, and must be capable of performing day-to-day operations on TMOS-based devices.

F5 Certified Technical Professional, Sales (F5-CTP, Sales)

The F5 Certified Technical Professional, Sales (F5-CTP, Sales) is designed for sales engineers who work for F5 channel partners — such as resellers and solution providers. The F5-CTP, Sales certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these F5 topics and skills:

  • Discovery
  • Education
  • Proposal
  • Supporting the Close
  • Ongoing support/maintenance

Required exam: Required exam: Earning the F5 Certified Technical Professional, Sales certification requires passing one exam — Pre-Sales Fundamentals (Exam 202).

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must have either passed Application Delivery Fundamentals (Exam 101) or earned the F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) certification.

Required experience: F5 recommends that candidates have a proven track record of selling F5 solutions.

F5 Certified Technical Specialist (F5-CTS)

The F5 Certified Technical Specialist certification is designed for networking professionals who design, implement, maintain, and troubleshoot enterprise application networks that are built upon advanced F5 product features.

Candidates may pursue one or more of four F5-CTS specialization tracks:

  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM)
  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Domain Name System (DNS)
  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM)
  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM)

The first two F5-CTS certs (BIG-IP LTM and BIG-IP DNS) are prerequisites to the expert-level F5 Certified Solutions Expert, Cloud certification, while all four are required for the F5 Certified Solutions Expert, Security certification.

F5-CTS BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM)

The F5-CTS BIG-IP LTM certification is designed for networking professionals perform day-to-day operations and basic troubleshooting of TMOS-based devices installed in various application environments. The F5 LTM certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these topics and skills:

  • Architecting an application
  • Setting-up, administering, and securing LTM devices
  • Deploying applications
  • Troubleshooting basic virtual server connectivity issues
  • Troubleshooting basic hardware issues
  • Troubleshooting basic performance issues

Required exams: Earning the F5-CTS LTM certification requires passing two exams — BIG-IP LTM Specialist: Architect, Setup, and Deploy (Exam 301a) and BIG-IP LTM Specialist: Maintain and Troubleshoot (Exam 301b).

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must earn the F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator certification.

Required experience: Minimally qualified candidates (MQC) for this F5 certification must understand the underlying principles of BIG-IP LTM and the OSI stack. They must also be able to design, implement, maintain, optimize, and troubleshoot advanced BIG-IP LTM product features.

F5-CTS BIG-IP Domain Name System (DNS)

The F5-CTS BIG-IP DNS certification is designed for networking professionals who deliver scalable intelligent DNS/Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) infrastructure across multiple data centers. The F5 DNS certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these topics and skills:

  • Global Traffic Manager Introduction
  • Deployment
  • Operations and Troubleshooting

Required exam: Earning the F5-CTS DNS certification requires passing one exam — BIG-IP LTM Specialist: Architect, Setup, and Deploy (Exam 302).

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must earn the F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator certification.

Required experience: F5 recommends that candidates have at least one year of experience as BIG-IP DNS administrator with the ability to deploy and test configurations, and troubleshoot and remedy common misconfigurations.

F5-CTS BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM)

The F5-CTS BIG-IP ASM certification is designed for networking professionals who design, implement, maintain, and troubleshoot the full functionality of BIG-IP ASM product features to assure the security of an application delivery network.

The F5 ASM certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these topics and skills:

  • Architecture/design and policy creation
  • Policy maintenance and optimization
  • Reviewing event logs and mitigating attacks
  • Troubleshooting

Required exam: Earning the F5-CTS ASM certification requires passing one exam — BIG-IP ASM Specialist (Exam 303).

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must earn the F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator certification.

Required experience: F5 recommends that candidates have at least one year of experience as a senior network, system, or application security engineer delivering highly-available, secure, and scalable applications with ASM technology.

F5-CTS BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM)

The F5-CTS BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) certification is designed for networking professionals who manage the day-to-day operation of application delivery networks based on F5 Networks technology.

The F5 APM certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these topics and skills:

  • Authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA), single sign-on (SSO), federated authorization, and mobile device management (MDM)
  • Network and application access
  • Visual policy editor
  • Deploying and maintaining iApps
  • Administering and troubleshooting BIG-IP APM
  • Security

Required exam: Earning the F5-CTS ASM certification requires passing one exam — BIG-IP APM Specialist (Exam 304).

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must earn the F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator certification.

Required experience: F5 recommends that candidates be proficient in configuring, implementing, troubleshooting, and maintaining BIG-IP APM in various application environments.

F5 Certified Solution Expert

The F5 Certified Solution Expert (F5-CSE) certifications are the highest level of the F5 certification path. An F5-CSE certification validates that the holder is highly proficient in architecting, designing, and troubleshooting complex solutions incorporating both F5 and non-F5 products.

Candidates for this expert-level credential can choose between two tracks:

  • F5 Certified Solution Expert, Cloud (F5-CSE, Cloud)
  • F5 Certified Solution Expert, Security (F5-CSE, Security)

F5 Certified Solution Expert, Cloud (F5-CSE, Cloud)

The F5-CSE, Cloud certification is designed for network and application architects who assess and determine business requirements and then satisfy those requirements with a F5 cloud solutions. The F5-CSE, Cloud certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these topics and skills:

  • Foundational cloud concepts
  • Cloud infrastructure design
  • Cloud migration
  • Cloud deployment
  • Cloud orchestration and automation

Required exam: Earning the F5-CTS ASM certification requires passing one exam — Cloud Solutions (Exam 402).

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must earn two certifications — F5-CTS BIG-IP LTM and F5-CTS BIG-IP DNS.

Required experience: F5 recommends that candidates have experience integrating cloud infrastructure with other technologies into optimal cloud solutions.

F5 Certified Solution Expert, Security (F5-CSE, Security)

The F5-CSE, Security certification is designed for security professionals who assess and determine the cybersecurity requirements of the business and then satisfy those requirements with a technical security solutions. The F5-CSE, Security certification validates a candidate’s understanding of these topics and skills:

  • Assessing requirements
  • Designing a unified solution that includes multiple security modules
  • Building security solution
  • Maintaining security solution/Ongoing maintenance
  • Identifying, diagnosing, and resolving security solutions issues

Required exam: Earning the F5-CSE, Security certification requires passing one exam — Security Solutions (Exam 401).

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must all four F5-CTS BIG-IP specialization certifications:

  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM)
  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Domain Name System (DNS)
  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM)
  • F5-CTS BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM)

Required experience: F5 recommends that candidates have practical experience designing security solutions leveraging F5’s BIG-IP, BIG-IQ, IP Intelligence (IPI), WebSafe, and MobileSafe technologies.

How Much Does It Cost to Get F5 Certified?

F5 certification cost is based on the number of exams per badge, with each exam costing 135. The F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) requires two exams at a total cost of $270. F5 Certified Technical Specialist (F5-CTS) specialties cost $406 or $540. The F5 Certified Solution Expert (F5-CSE) certifications cost $912 for Cloud and $1,080 for Security.

F5 Recertification and Renewal

F5 certifications are valid for two years from the date that certification was achieved. F5 certification expiration is based on the last, highest certification that the F5 certified individual has achieved. So, for example, someone who holds the F5-CTS BIG-IP LTM cert will have previously earned the prerequisite F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) credential. Their certification expiration is driven by the date they earned the F5-CTS LTM.

In order to renew their F5 certification, the F5 certified individual is only required to retake the last exam in the highest certification they achieved.

F5 certified individuals can go to the F5 candidate portal to determine their certification dates and status. In addition, for the three months prior to their certification expiration date, F5 certified individuals will receive a monthly email that alerts them to register for a recertification exam at the Pearson VUE website.

Individuals who pass the expiration date without recertifying are no longer certified. However, there is a 30-day grace period—beyond the expiration date—for them to take the recertification exam and reactivate their certification.

Beyond this 30-day grace period, the certification expires completely, and the individual must start the entire F5 certification process over from scratch. At this point, the person is not F5 certified and is not eligible for higher-level exams, nor for any benefits tied to F5 certification.

F5 Certification Salary and Career Information

A search of the Indeed.com for IT jobs requiring F5 experience confirms the earlier comment that F5 technology is typically viewed as complementary to products from other vendors, especially Cisco.

We found over 4700 job openings that specified F5 experience and/or certifications. While some of these openings were clearly for F5-specific roles—e.g. Senior F5 Engineer, F5 Systems Engineer, and F5 Network Engineer—the clear majority were for generic titles.

In both the general and F5-specific job title openings, Cisco certifications — CCNA, CCNP, CCIE — were frequently preferred or required. The F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator and F5 Certified Technology Specialist were the F5 certifications cited most often. The generic title search indicated annual salaries ranging from $80,000 to $125,000, with an average of almost $95,000.

When we drill down to the subset of F5-specific titles, where F5 certification is preferred or required, the annual F5 certification salary ranges from $95,900 to $117,400, with an average of over $103,000. This suggests that employers are willing to pay an F5 certification salary premium of $8,000 over the general job titles.

A take-away from this is that a laser-focus on the fewer F5-specific jobs could deliver a premium F5 certification salary. However, a combined Cisco and F5 certification path might be a better personal development strategy, offering a larger pool of well-paying job opportunities.

F5 Certification Training

CBT Nuggets’ F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager training class prepares students for the two exams that must be passed to become an F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA).

Good luck to you as you start on your F5 certification path. Our course offerings do change from time-to-time as we support the F5 certification roadmap, so be sure to check CBT Nuggets for new and updated on-line courses that are relevant to your personal F5 career journey.

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