A Complete NetApp Certification Guide
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A Complete NetApp Certification Guide

NetApp is a data storage solutions company established in 1992 by David Hitz, James Lau, and Michael Malcolm. Based in Sunnyvale, California, NetApp started with simple storage products and services and moved on to hybrid cloud infrastructure solutions.

The company’s portfolio of technologies fit hand-in-glove with some of the most advanced cloud service platforms on the market, including Kubernetes, Oracle, SAP, and OpenStack. NetApp software includes its ONTAP data management software and its OnCommand network monitoring and management system.

The aim of NetApp certification is to give IT professionals the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills related to the NetApp platform. The NetApp certification system includes four levels of certification, designed to take learners’ skills from beginner to expert:

  • Associate
  • Professional
  • Specialist
  • Expert

The NetApp certification path is a bit more complex than other certifications. Not only does it have a four-tiered progression, it also offers three broad tracks for specialization:

  • Data track
  • Hybrid cloud track
  • Converged infrastructure track

We discuss below a number of topics about getting certified in NetApp. We look at individual exams, and we offer comparisons between NetApp and competitor AWS. We also help you consider what a NetApps certification might do for your career. Finally, we discuss training options, including those offered by CBT Nuggets. Here is what’s included in this certification guide:

  • NetApp Certification Guide
  • What is NetApp Certification?
  • NetApp vs. AWS
  • NetApp Associate-Level Certification
  • NetApp Professional-Level Certifications
  • NetApp Specialist-Level Certifications
  • NetApp Expert-Level Certifications
  • NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Architect
  • How Much Does It Cost to Get NetApp Certified?
  • NetApp Recertification and Renewal
  • NetApp Certification Salary and Career Information

What is NetApp Certification?

The NetApp certification framework includes several certifications at different levels and on different tracks. The certification levels include Associate, Professional, Specialist, and Expert — and these can be pursued along three tracks, the Data Track, Hybrid Cloud Track, and Converged Infrastructure Track.

There are two Associate level certifications, including four at the Professional level, six Specialist certifications, and one Expert exam.

NetApp Associate-Level Certification

NetApp associate-level certifications validate the general and NetApp-specific skills entry-level IT professionals will learn in their first year on the job. Most vendors recommend hands-on experience with a technology prior to attempting an exam — NetApp is no different.

NetApp offers one associate-level exam:

  • NetApp Certified Technology Associate (NCTA)

NetApp has three specialization tracks: Data, Hybrid Cloud, and Converged Infrastructure. The NetApp Certified Technology Associate (NCTA) is viewed as an entry-level exam for all three tracks — although it is not specifically stated as a prerequisite for higher-level exams.

NetApp Certified Technology Associate (NCTA)

The NetApp Certified Technology Associate certification is designed for IT professionals who want an introduction to the NetApp platform and associated technologies. The NCTA exam is the lowest level in the NetApp certification path.

The NetApp Certified Technology Associate exam validates a candidate’s understanding of general and NetApp-specific storage topics, including:

  • Cloud Computing
  • ONTAP Fundamentals
  • Cloud Data Services Fundamentals
  • OnCommand Insight Fundamentals
  • SaaS Backup for MS Office365
  • Insight Sessions

Required exam: Earning the NCTA certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Technology Associate (NS0-002) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends hands-on experience with NetApp portfolio, cloud data service fundamentals and NetApp’s proprietary operating system ONTAP, as well as the management tool OnCommand prior to attempting the NCSA-HC exam.

NetApp Professional-Level Certifications

Professional-level certifications represent a step up in NetApp expertise and experience. NetApp offers three professional-level certifications:

  • NetApp Certified Data Administrator (NCDA)
  • NetApp Certified Storage Installation Engineer (NCSIE)
  • NetApp Certified Support Engineer (NCSE)

NetApp Certified Data Administrator, ONTAP (NCDA)

The NetApp Certified Data Administrator certification is designed for IT professionals with experience on NetApp’s proprietary operating system, ONTAP®.

The NCDA exam validates a candidate’s understanding of general and NetApp-specific topics, including:

  • NetApp Storage Architecture
  • Core Clustered Data ONTAP
  • High Availability
  • NAS and SAN Protocols and Solutions
  • Network Concepts and Components
  • Storage Implementation and Configuration
  • Security Concepts and Strategies
  • Data Protection Operations

Required exam: Earning the NCDA certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Data Administrator, ONTAP (NS0-161) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience administering, implementing, and troubleshooting clustered Data ONTAP features prior to attempting the NCDA exam.

NetApp Certified Storage Installation Engineer, ONTAP (NCSIE)

The NetApp Certified Storage Installation Engineer, ONTAP certification is designed for IT professionals with experience on NetApps proprietary operating system, ONTAP, and an interest in more of a hands-on approach.

The NCSIE exam validates a candidate’s understanding of general and NetApp-specific topics, including:

  • Basic Installation Topics and Tools
  • ONTAP Concepts
  • ONTAP Networking
  • ONTAP Switches
  • ONTAP Configuration and Troubleshooting
  • Customer Handoff

Required exam: Earning the NCSIE certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Storage Installation Engineer, ONTAP (NSO-182) exam.

Prerequisites: While there are no prerequisite exams, NetApp recommends candidates earn the NCDA certification.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience administering, implementing, and troubleshooting clustered Data ONTAP features prior to attempting the NCSIE exam.

NetApp Certified Support Engineer (NCSE)

The NetApp Certified Support Engineer certification is designed for IT professionals with significant experience on the NetApp platform.

The NCSE exam validates a candidate’s understanding of general and NetApp-specific topics:

  • ONTAP Fundamentals
  • Platforms and Storage
  • Configuration and Troubleshooting
  • Performance Analysis
  • NetApp Data Protection and Management Software

Required exam: Earning the NCSE certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Support Engineer (NSO-194) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience with performance analysis, troubleshooting, and data protection on NetApp solutions prior to attempting the NCSE exam.

NetApp Specialist-Level Certifications

Specialist-level exams cover troubleshooting, performance analysis, data protection, and storage configuration. NetApp offers three specialist-level certifications:

  • NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN Specialist (NCIE-SAN), ONTAP
  • NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—Data Protection Specialist (NCIE-DP)
  • NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN Specialist (NCIE-SAN), E-Series
  • NetApp Certified Support Engineer – ONTAP Specialist (NCSE)
  • Cisco and NetApp FlexPod Design

At this level, candidates should have a good deal of experience with hands-on management in the world of NetApp. The Specialist level is the third of four levels in the NetApp certification path.

NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN Specialist, ONTAP (NCIE-SAN)

The NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN Specialist certification is designed for IT professionals with significant experience implementing the NetApp SAN solution from start to finish.

The NCIE-SAN Specialist, ONTAP exam validates a candidate’s understanding of NetApp-specific configuration and troubleshooting topics, including:

  • ONTAP SAN Solution Assessment
  • ONTAP SAN Planning
  • ONTAP SAN Implementation and Configuration
  • ONTAP SAN implementation Testing and Troubleshooting

Required exam: Earning the NCIE-SAN Specialist, ONTAP certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN (NS0-509) exam.

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must earn the NCDA certification.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience planning, implementing, and validating end-to-end SAN solutions for customers in FC and iSCSI environments prior to attempting the NCIE-SAN Specialist, ONTAP exam.

NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—Data Protection Specialist (NCIE-DP)

The NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—Data Protection Specialist (NCIE-DP) is designed for IT professionals with significant experience implementing the NetApp SAN solution from start to finish.

The NCIE-DP exam validates a candidate’s understanding of NetApp-specific data protection and implementation topics, including:

  • ONTAP Replication Technology
  • Planning ONTAP Data Protection Implementation
  • Configuring Data Protection Software
  • Operating Data Protection Deployments
  • Best Practices

Required exam: Earning the NCIE-DP certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—Data Protection (NS0-525) exam.

Prerequisites: Prior to attempting this certification, candidates must earn the NCDA certification.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience planning and implementing data protection solutions, configuring backup and recovery software, and operating backup and disaster recovery deployments prior to attempting the NCIE-SAN exam.

NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN Specialist, E-Series (NCIE-SAN)

The NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN Specialist, E-Series certification is designed for IT professionals with significant experience with the NetApp E-Series storage solution.

The NCIE-SAN, E-Series exam validates a candidate’s understanding of advanced general networking and NetApp-specific topics:

  • Storage Configuration
  • Documentation
  • Hardware
  • Host Side
  • Management
  • Toolbox
  • SAN
  • Troubleshooting

Required exam: Earning the NCIE-SAN, E-Series certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Implementation Engineer—SAN, E-Series (NS0-515) exam.

Prerequisites: NetApp recommends candidates earn the NCDA certification.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience with physical and logical storage requirements, setting up alerts and notifications, and configuring hosts for multipathing prior to attempting the NCIE-SAN, E-Series exam.

NetApp Certified Support Engineer- ONTAP Specialist (NCSE)

The NetApp Certified Support Engineer – ONTAP Specialist certification is designed for IT professionals with significant experience with the NetApp Data ONTAP storage solutions.

The NCSE – ONTAP Specialist exam validates a candidate’s understanding of NetApp-specific storage topics:

  • Data ONTAP
  • Platform and Storage
  • Networking and Protocols
  • Performance

Required exam: Earning the NCSE – ONTAP Specialist certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Support Engineer – ONTAP (NS0-591) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience troubleshooting, analysis and resolution of NetApp Data ONTAP Storage Systems prior to attempting the NCSE – ONTAP Specialist exam.

NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Administrator (NCHC)

The NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Administrator certification Is designed for IT professionals with significant experience with NetApp cloud solutions such as Cloud Volumes Service, Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Cloud Manager, Cloud Sync, SaaS Backup, StorageGRID, and NetApp HCI.

The NCHC Administrator exam validates a candidate’s understanding of NetApp-specific storage topics, including:

  • Cloud Manager Administration
  • Cloud Volumes ONTAP Administration
  • Cloud Volumes Services Administration
  • Cloud Connected Platforms
  • Cloud Data Security
  • Data Protection
  • Public Cloud Prerequisites

Required exam: Earning the NCHC Administrator certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Administrator (NS0-302) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience administering NetApp data management solutions in the cloud prior to attempting the NCHC Administrator exam.

NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Implementation Engineer (NCHCIE)

The NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Implementation Engineer certification Is designed for IT professionals who implement and automate NetApp Hybrid Cloud solutions from private and public cloud configurations to monitoring and troubleshooting..

The NCHC Administrator exam validates a candidate’s understanding of skills and topics, including:

  • Orchestration and automation tools
  • GitHub best practices
  • NetApp Homepage, KnowledgeBase, TR
  • Amazon Block Storage
  • Advanced cloud computing concepts

Required exam: Earning the NCHCIE certification requires passing one exam — the NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Implementation Engineer (NS0-402) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience implementing cloud, orchestration and automation tools in a NetApp environment prior to attempting the NCHCIE exam.

Cisco and NetApp FlexPod Design Specialist (FlexPod Design)

The Cisco and NetApp FlexPod Design Specialist certification is designed for IT professionals who have experience with NetApp FlexPod and its associated hardware.

The FlexPod Design exam validates a candidate’s understanding of these converged infrastructure topics:

  • Hardware components
  • Configuration
  • High availability
  • SAN Boot
  • UCS Manager

Required exam: Earning the FlexPod Design certification requires passing one exam — the Cisco and NetApp FlexPod Design (NS0-173) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends 6 to 12 months experience working with converged FlexPod and Cisco infrastructure prior to attempting the FlexPod Design exam.

Cisco and NetApp FlexPod Implementation and Administration Specialist (FlexPod Administration)

The Cisco and NetApp FlexPod Implementation and Administration Specialist certification is designed for IT professionals with experience using NetApp FlexPod and its associated hardware.

The FlexPod Administration exam validates a candidate’s understanding of these converged infrastructure topics:

  • Hardware components
  • Configuration
  • High availability
  • SAN Boot
  • UCS Manager

Required exam: Earning the FlexPod Administration certification requires passing one exam — the Cisco and NetApp FlexPod Implementation and Administration (NS0-174) exam.

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends six (6) to 12 months experience working with converged FlexPod and Cisco infrastructure prior to attempting the FlexPod Administration exam.

NetApp Expert-Level Certifications

The NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Architect certification is the only exam within the highest of four tiers in the NetApp certification path. Candidates should not only be fully versed in NetApp core knowledge, they should know how to take the customer from planning stages to full production.

NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Architect (NCHC Architect)

The NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Architect certification is designed for IT professionals who analyze customer business requirements and architect NetApp data fabric solutions in hybrid cloud environments with supported public cloud providers.

The NCHC Architect exam validates a candidate’s understanding of both general and NetApp-specific business and technical topics:

  • Core Knowledge
  • Requirements Identification
  • Business Analysis
  • Business Translation
  • Solution Design
  • Solution Validation
  • Solution Adoption Strategies
  • Reporting and Documentation

Required exam: Earning the NCHC Architect certification requires passing two exams — the NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Architect (NS0-602) exam, and one of these certifications from major cloud providers:

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate, or
  • Google Cloud Certified Professional Cloud Architect, or
  • Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies (AZ-300), and
  • Microsoft Azure Architect Design (AZ-301)

Prerequisites: None.

Required experience: NetApp recommends at least one (1) year designing solutions for customers and architecting NetApp data fabric solutions in hybrid cloud environments prior to attempting the NCHC Architect exam.

How Much Does It Cost to Get NetApp Certified?

NetApp certification exams are proctored by the testing company Pearson VUE. NetApp certification costs much less than many other IT certifications we’ve discussed. According to current Pearson prices, certifications cost either $150 or $300. The only two exams that cost $300 are those that deal with FlexPod technology.

NetApp Recertification and Renewal

NetApp University certifications are valid for two years from the date granted. That may seem clear, but the company’s “Expiration Period Policy” seems to muddy the waters. In certain cases, certification may be active for 27 months.

For instance, if a candidate with an active Professional-level certification renews their credential by passing a Specialist-level certification, then the new renewal date will be the date of the Specialist-level certification.

NetApp Certification Salary and Career Information

Payscale.com puts an average salary for someone with a NetApp Certified Data Management Administrator (NCDA) at $101,000 (USD). Someone with the NetApp Certified Storage Associate certification (which they inexplicably abbreviate as NACA) draws in an average salary of $79,000 (USD). So, there appears to be a big jump between Associate-level and Professional-level certifications. Here’s a list of jobs with their salaries for NCDA according to Payscale (in USD):

  • Senior Storage Engineer: $113,111
  • Storage Engineer: $98,852
  • Storage Area Network (SAN) Systems Administrator: $98,074
  • Systems Administrator: $74,000
  • Professional Services Engineer: $100,443
  • Senior Systems Engineer: $104,432
  • Technical Support Engineer: $66,308

Storage engineers in general seem to do pretty well. Payscale puts the average salary for storage engineers at $88,935 (USD). In terms of salary potential, NetApp looks like a pretty good choice. The keyword “NetApp” yielded 2,227 results on Indeed.com. If you are interested in, or enjoy working with, storage technology and are looking for a good salary with lots of opportunities, NetApp certification may be the right fit for you.

NetApp Certification Training

CBT Nuggets provides everything a learner needs to study for IT certification exams, including virtual labs, supplemental files, practice exams, and access to a robust Learner Community.

All CBT Nuggets training provides learners with custom virtual labs or supplemental files to learn technical concepts alongside the video training. Virtual labs were designed by experts to help learners gain hands-on experience in a sandbox environment. NuggetLab supplemental files include practice commands, configuration files, and network diagrams — everything a learner needs to study for a certification exam.

CBT Nuggets learners should also take advantage of the Kaplan® IT Training Practice Exams included with a subscription to CBT Nuggets. Practice exams can either be taken timed or untimed, and provide a good baseline for learners to test their knowledge. Additionally, Kaplan® IT Training Practice Exams evaluate a learner’s strengths and weaknesses, so they know where to focus their attention while studying.

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