The corporate world has evolved into a high-tech, highly-networked environment. As businesses grow, so do those networks. This means more trained IT professionals are needed to make sure everything runs efficiently and reliably. Are you ready to launch an IT career? Job-hunting can be a nightmare, but there's a way you can improve your chances of landing a great job and of getting the best possible salary. As you know, employers want candidates with training and experience. But more and more, they're also looking at Cisco certifications. Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASD: CSCO) is the 26th-largest company in the S&P 500, according to "Forbes" magazine. The company makes the routers, switches and other hardware that move data across computer networks. Lately Cisco has also aggressively pushed into the software market. Cisco's annual revenue totaled $46 billion in its most recent fiscal year. Cisco certifications are yet another Cisco product, one you may not be aware of. But you should find out about them if you are seeking an entry-level IT career. As it turns out, Cisco certifications carry a lot of weight in the IT community. They can really give you, as a job-seeker, a leg up in finding employment and negotiating a great starting salary. General Cisco certifications start with the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) course. Or you can begin with Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), which offers a direct track to associate-level networking certification. (“Associate” is considered the apprentice stage of the networking/IT career path). The CCENT certification covers basic networking knowledge and is for individuals seeking network support positions. CCENT means you are qualified to install, monitor and troubleshoot a small network. The training covers networking fundamentals, WAN technologies, basic security and wireless concepts, as well as routing and switching fundamentals. Earning a CCENT certification requires passing the Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1) exam. CCENT is the first step toward achieving CCNA, which covers medium-sized enterprise branch networks with more complex connections. CCNA training also covers installing, configuring and troubleshooting networks and devices such as switches and routers. The certification also indicates expertise in implementing connections in a WAN (wide-area network), as well as managing certain security issues. To obtain a CCNA certification, you must pass two exams: the ICND1 and ICND2. Alternatively, you can simply take the composite CCNA exam (which combines ICND1 and ICND2). This exam is recommended for those who already have experience administering a network. Whether you opt for CCNA or CCENT certification, it's clear that the investment pays off when it comes time to find a job. A recent survey by Global Knowledge, a provider of IT and business training, showed that Cisco certifications mean an IT professional can command higher salaries from the first day on the job. For instance, CCENT can earn you an average of close to $60,000 per year, while a CCNA can expect to get about $80,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for CCENT and CCNA support specialists has been increasing since 2006 and is expected to top off at 18 percent by 2016. This means that Cisco certifications will continue to be a smart investment for those seeking to join the ranks of IT networking professionals.