Is Wi-Fi training and certification keeping pace?


I’m sure that hearing me even ask this question may come as a surprise to many. For that reason, I will present my reasoning for asking such a question.

First, I’d like to present my opinion on a couple of related items:

1) I believe that there is a need for vendor neutral Wi-Fi technology training.

  • I think any company going down this road will struggle because good courseware and study guides are financially a losing proposition for almost everyone involved in their creation and delivery, if produced over a sustained period of time and/or priced reasonably. It’s been this way for quite a long time. Ask anyone who’s ever done it for a living, and they’ll quickly tell you about it.

2) I believe there is a need for entry-level, vendor neutral Wi-Fi technology certifications.

  • Think “CompTIA level” exams. CompTIA has been successful because they are an industry organization supported by huge vendors, schools, and trade organizations who mandate their constituents pass their exams.
  • CompTIA exams, for example, are expensive and have low-end content created quickly/cheaply. It’s a sustainable business model and it has its place in the industry, but eventually all certs of this nature decrease significantly in value – to the point of being only bumps in the road for newbies armed with brain dumps. As the value goes down, people stop taking the exams unless forced. Note that there are very few organizations forcing their constituents to get vendor-neutral Wi-Fi training or certification, but it’s normal for organizations to say, “we’ll buy you a book.”

3) I believe that there is a need for advanced, vendor neutral Wi-Fi certifications.

  • I don’t believe any company can sustain such a program and thrive over a long period of time because in-depth, multi-skilled labor is too expensive, the content changes too quickly, the content takes too long to create, brain dumps quickly become available for exams this difficult, the industry is too small, there are too many competitors (especially vendors) vying for share-of-wallet, employers don’t stress and value certification strongly enough (especially advanced certs), and the industry and technology are expanding both horizontally and vertically far too fast.

Now that my opinion is out there, let’s get back to the question I posed. I’d like to now pose some “sub-questions” as food for thought while you’re pondering my title question and my opinion …

  • Is there any industry MORE competitive than Wi-Fi?
  • Is there a protocol equivalent to 802.11 in size, complexity, and rate/diversity of expansion?
  • Can you think of any vendor-neutral training/certification companies that have been financially successful with both entry-level and expert-level training materials and certification exams covering a topic set as broad (design, administration, security, installation/deployment, architecture, management, analysis, troubleshooting, diagnostic tools, etc.) as Wi-Fi over a significant period of time?
  • How many Wi-Fi vendors have their own training and certification programs?

Are you starting to understand why I’m asking the question?

As part of this 3-part blog series, I’m going to work through the details of several key topics. Each topic is certainly up for discussion, as I’m not trying to pontificate, but rather to pose a question that you’re free to offer an opinion on … or not.

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Devin Akin is Chief Wi-Fi Architect at Aerohive. Devin has over 10 years in the wireless LAN market and over 15 years in information technology. Devin's background includes working as a network design engineer for EarthLink, AT&T/BellSouth, Foundry Networks, and Sentinel Technologies as well as working as an RF engineer in the US Army. He has authored and edited several books with Wiley-Sybex and McGraw-Hill and holds some of the industry's most esteemed certifications, including CWNE, MCNE, MCSE, CCNP, CCDP, CCSP, and INFOSEC. He is considered an authority on Wi-Fi.