Log on to the network

Lokesh Mehra , Regional Manager- Corporate policy, Cisco- South Asia

As countries race to embrace the next phase of growth, it is technology that will provide the advantage. Today, every country is vying for a place in the global economy and the 'network' can give them the edge they need. In the public sphere, the Indian government is focusing on rolling out intenet infrastructure and increasing its e-government programs. The National e-Governance Action Plan (NEGAP) is one such example that will drive significant demand for skilled networking professionals. Under the plan, State Wide Area Networks are earmarked as the core infrastructure needed to support these initiatives.
On the other hand, the private sector IT consumption is primarily being driven by infrastructure build-up in India's main metros, but network adoption outside these metropolitan cities is also growing at a steady pace. Thus, with the dynamics of the industry constantly changing, networking is a field that combines and interlocks several disciplines: making it a lucrative career option in the years to come. However, as the business relevance of ICT grows across all sectors, the demand for networking professionals also continues to rise. And while there has been a steady increase in the number of IT professionals in India, there is an increasing shortfall of skilled networking professionals. Employability too is a huge concern.

Certification and Remuneration
There are several options available for students and professionals looking for professional networking certifications. Cisco-certified courses are at three levels: Cisco Certified Networking Associate - CCNA, Cisco Certified Networking Professional - CCNP. and Cisco Certified I Networking Expert - CCIE. The duration of these courses ranges from 4 to 16 weeks. In addition to the most common Routing and Switching certification, network professionals can enhance their core networking knowledge by obtaining specialist certifications in areas such as security, IP telephony and wireless.
Students interested in networking can opt to enroll at their nearest Cisco Networking Academy or at a Cisco Learning Partner (fast track courses for existing IT professionals with prior networking knowledge). AICTE or UGC approved institutes can always apply to become a part of the globally recognized Networking Academy family. A word of caution, students should always check the credentials of the institute where they are enrolling for the networking training and ensure the institute has sufficient practical equipment and certified faculty.
Each certification track equips a student for a specific role. Many of the designations vary depending on the area of specialization. Generalist jobs can have vaned designations like Network Systems Administrator, Networking Engineer, Network Manager, Infrastructure Manager and Network Systems Analyst among others. For professionals with advanced networking skills the designation could vary from Systems Architect, Wireless Specialist, Voice Specialist, NOC Specialist to Remote Office Specialist. Remuneration depends on an individual's qualification and the kind of organization he/she loins.
For entry-level positions, salaries could vary from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 12,000 per month in small organisations and Rs. 20,000-, 25,000 per month in an MNC. Advanced specializations can command a salary of up to Rs.2,00,000 a month depending on experience levels and competency. Unlike software, all it requires to get into networking is a mix of analytical skills, good Communication skills and a technical background. Training individuals for the Jobs of the future and allowing them to visualize what is possible today will not only make a difference in their lives but will enrich our communities now and for the future.

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