"Why do I need IT and business certifications if I already know how to do my
job?" Well, it's no secret that most employers use certifications to differentiate
between job seekers that are otherwise equally qualified. It's about remaining competitive
in the marketplace. IT certifications in particular are highly valued by employers
seeking IT professionals. Some companies and organizations require job seekers to
hold particular certifications to even apply for certain positions.
But student beware. All certifications are not created equal and certainly offer
different rewards to those who hold them. And, while some professional certifications
may result in a more lucrative career path, as well as a higher salary, seeking
a certification can be a huge commitment of time and resources. So before you start
your certification journey, take a long, hard look at what you want to accomplish
with a particular certification and how much effort it will take you to achieve
it. To help you chart your path, here are the top IT and business certifications
that I've determined are worth the effort.
1. Project Management Professional (PMP®)
To quote Theodore Roosevelt, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing
unless it means effort, pain, difficulty." If you are considering pursuing PMP certification,
prepare yourself most definitely for quite a bit of effort, probably some pain depending
on your project management skills, and some difficulty. To be blunt, achieving PMP
certification isn't easy.
Established by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) in 1984, the PMP has become
one of the most valued and respected certifications in the business world. If you
think you are up to the task, PMI has a few requirements you must meet before you
can even apply for PMP certification. Applicants with a four-year degree must have
at least three years of project management experience, including 4,500 hours leading
projects, and 35 hours of project management education. Applicants without a four-year
degree must have at least five years of project management experience, including
7,500 hours leading projects, and 35 hours of project management education.
All that effort appears to be rewarded beyond the experience and self-respect
gained from having completed such a challenging task. PMP consistently ranks as
one of the highest paying certifications in Global Knowledge's annual IT Skills
and Salary Report.
2. Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA®)
RHIA certification is awarded by the American Health Information Management Association
(AHIMA). At a time when securely handling personal information, especially medical
information, is so essential to all organizations, this certification is becoming
more popular and more valuable. Health professionals working with patients, healthcare
providers, and insurance and pharmaceutical companies will find that the RHIA certification
is a must-have if you want to manage patient health information, including medical
records, computer information systems and patient personal data. Plus, the RHIA
ensures that certified professionals are well aware of the ethical requirements
and legal standards related to delivering healthcare services, as well as the importance
of patient information privacy (e.g., rules like HIPAA). Career opportunities for
RHIAs exist far beyond the healthcare industry. Over the years, the scope of the
certification has reached consulting firms, software vendors, state and federal
government, and higher-learning institutions.
3. Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®)
PMI also offers CAPM certification. The CAPM is designed for those who have less
project management experience than the PMP requires but who still can demonstrate
an understanding of the project management fundamentals, focused primarily on the
terminology and processes used to successfully manage a project. The requirements
of the more entry-level CAPM are not as stringent as those for the PMP. CAPM candidates
must have a secondary degree with at least 1,500 hours of project management experience
or 23 hours of project management education. Like all worthwhile credentials, obtaining
the CAPM requires much time and effort. But if you're looking for a stepping-stone
certificate to the PMP and other IT certificates, CAPM may be a great path for you.
4. CompTIA A+
The long-time standard for entry-level IT helpdesk support and computer technicians,
CompTIA's A+ certification may be best known for its vendor neutrality. As opposed
to certifications focused on vendor-specific technology from the likes of Cisco,
Microsoft and Apple, the skills that CompTIA A+-certified professionals develop
aren't tied to a particular company or technology. This ensures that A+ certification
holders are uniquely prepared for any environment, no matter the equipment used
in their organization's IT system.
Until 2011, A+ certification never expired, which probably helps account for
much of its popularity. Now CompTIA requires A+ certification holders to recertify
every three years. But is the A+ certification worth the time and effort? More than
one million A+-certified IT professionals since its inception in 1993 can't be wrong.
5. GRC Professional (GRCP™)
GRC, also known as corporate governance, risk management, internal control and
compliance, probably isn't the most exciting-sounding career path, but believe it
or not, there is an increasing need for GRC Professionals. When companies reach
a certain size, they institute GRC activities to ensure efficient operation. GRCPs
help their organizations operate more efficiently via corporate governance, enterprise
risk management and compliance with related laws and industry regulations.
The two-hour GRCP exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. Once you pass
the GRCP exam, you are certified for a year. To maintain your certification, you
must pay an annual renewal fee and participate in continuing education.
6. Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
CRISC certification is awarded by the nonprofit IT governance association Information
Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA®). If managing IT risks is your gift,
then take a good look at this certification. There's a written exam, plus you're
required to have at least three years of experience in three of five CRISC domains:
risk identification, assessment and evaluation; risk response; risk monitoring;
information systems (IS) control design and implementation; and IS control monitoring
and maintenance. If CRISC certification seems like just any other certification,
think again. Based on Global Knowledge's 2015 IT Skills and Salary Report, CRISC-certified
respondents reported an average salary of $119,227. That was the highest of all
certifications held by at least 100 survey respondents.
7. ITIL® Expert
known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, ITIL is a process framework
that shifts IT from product development to a service provider model. Simply put,
ITIL-certified professionals help their organizations better align their IT departments
with the needs of the organization. An ITIL certification, especially ITIL Expert,
demonstrates an advanced understanding of ITIL practices. It can also jump-start
a stagnant IT career by sharpening your IT service management (ITSM) skills that
are becoming more in demand by the business world.
Achieving ITIL Expert certification requires an ITIL Foundation certificate (v3
or newer), as well as 15 credits from the ITIL Intermediate level and five credits
from Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC). To qualify for ITIL Expert certification,
the required credits must come from content modules that don't overlap. Once you've
reached the level of ITIL Expert, you'll soon see that you have become more attractive
to organizations seeking highly skilled ITSM professionals
8. Red Hat® Certified Engineer (RHCE®)
Another high-level and rigorous credential worth acquiring is Red Hat's RHCE.
With a four-hour performance-based exam that measures actual competency on live
systems, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more demanding testing environment. The
RHCE provides proof that you are able to efficiently configure networking services
and security on servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux®. If you are responsible
for supporting Linux as a primary server platform, the mid-level RHCE might be an
ideal transitional credential for your career path between its prerequisite Red
Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) certification and the advanced Red Hat
Certified Architect (RHCA) certification
9. Convergence Technology Professional (CTP)
Feature-rich and cost-effective unified communications (UC) solutions are all
the rage, and it takes a highly skilled workforce that understands how essential
integration of UC technologies can be to an organization. If you currently hold
the Certified in Convergent Network Technologies (CCNT) certificate, the next logical
step in your convergence career path should definitely include CTP certification
to validate your voice, data and convergence skills. Like CompTIA's A+ certification,
the CTP certificate program is vendor-neutral. You will gain the broad skill set
required of professionals managing converged voice, video and data network solutions.
10. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
Considered one of the most respected and sought-after IT certifications for many
years, Cisco's CCIE is the San Francisco-based networking company's highest-level
credential available. With a two-hour written qualification exam in addition to
an eight-hour hands-on, performance-based lab exam, many IT professionals will tell
you that the CCIE is one of the most difficult certifications to achieve. Since
its inception in 1993, tens of thousands of IT pros have earned Cisco's top-tier
certificate. The CCIE started out as a single networking certification, but Cisco
now offers several specialization tracks, including collaboration, data center,
routing and switching, security, service provider and wireless.
11. VMware Certified Professional 6 - Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV)
If you are using VMware's vSphere 6.0 virtualization platform, you are going
to want to investigate obtaining VMware's VCP6-DCV certification. With vSphere,
you can virtualize any application and transform your virtual data center into a
scalable, on-demand infrastructure that can handle any cloud environment. With the
VCP6-DCV certificate, you can confirm that you have the vSphere 6.0 skills needed
to build a reliable, scalable virtualized data center. You'll improve your odds
on the exam if you have experience with virtual machines, VMware's Virtual Machine
File System (VMFS), vCenter Server and vRealize Operations Standard. Pass the 90-minute,
65-question exam, and you will be on your way to expertly deploying VMware vSphere
12. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Private Cloud
At the turn of the century, if you wanted to validate your Windows system admin
skills, Microsoft had two flagship certification routes: the highly sought-after
and respected Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified
Systems Engineer (MCSE). Sensing a need for more refined skills as technology broadened
at a feverish pace, Microsoft added MCSE technology specializations. Nowadays "MCSE"
stands for Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, with specializations in desktop
infrastructure, server infrastructure, data platform, business intelligence, SharePoint,
communication, messaging, enterprise devices and apps, and private cloud.
MCSE: Private Cloud certification is quickly becoming the standard for candidates
using Microsoft private cloud computing technologies. Also, server administrators,
systems programmers, and network managers looking to sharpen their skills and seeking
careers with organizations using Microsoft private cloud environments see the MCSE:
Private Cloud certification as a viable path. MCSEs can build Microsoft private
cloud solutions to optimize IT service delivery and gain the automation and flexibility
needed in their organization's IT infrastructure.
To obtain MCSE: Private Cloud, you must pass five exams. Current Microsoft Certified
IT Professionals (MCITPs) only need to pass two exams. To maintain any MCSE certification,
you must complete a recertification exam every three years to demonstrate your continued
ability to perform in your chosen solution area, including the private cloud.
13. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
Created in 1994 by the nonprofit International Information Systems Security Certification
Consortium, Inc. (ISC)2, CISSP certification consists of an exam based
around eight domains:
- Security and risk management
- Asset security
- Security engineering
- Communications and network security
- Identity and access management
- Security assessment and testing
- Security operations
- Software development security
The rigorous six-hour exam contains a whopping 250 questions. Long considered
the premier security certification, CISSP certification typically appears at the
top of IT salary reports, including our own 2015 IT Skills and Salary Report. CISSP-certified
respondents to our survey reported an average salary of $110,603. That was the third
highest of all certifications held by at least 100 survey respondents, falling below
CRISC and CISM certifications, respectively.
14. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
If you are an information security manager and have or are interested in gaining
expertise on the relationship between information security and the broader goals
and objectives of your organization, you should consider obtaining CISM certification.
Like CRISC, CISM is awarded by ISACA, a nonprofit IT governance association.
The four-hour, 200-question CISM exam is based on four domains: information security
governance, information risk management and compliance, information security program
development and management, and information security incident management. Becoming
a CISM demonstrates that you can expertly develop and manage an information security
To apply for the CISM, ISACA requires that you have at least five years of work
experience in information security management. Luckily for you newbies, ISACA allows
applicants to use some security-related certifications and information systems management
experience to satisfy up to two years of the required five years of experience.
15. VMware Certified Professional 6 - Cloud Management and Automation (VCP6-CMA)
Any IT professional looking to make a move within the industry has to be eyeing
the cloud. The increasing demand for cloud professionals won't let up anytime soon,
and neither will the increasing demand for VMware's VCP6-CMA certification.
To earn the VCP6-CMA certification, you must pass two exams: vSphere 6 Foundations
Exam (90 minutes, 65 questions), and VMware Certified Professional 6 - Cloud Management
and Automation Exam (100 minutes, 85 questions). By gaining the skills to deploy
and configure vRealize Automation into a vSphere virtualized data center and to
manage services across a multivendor, multicloud infrastructure, achieving VCP6-CMA
certification will certainly set you apart from your peers in cloud computing.
16. GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
To say the GCFA certification process is rigorous might be an understatement,
but few if any GCFA holders would say it doesn't pay dividends career-wise. Awarded
via the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), the GCFA is designed
for professionals involved in advanced IT security and forensics, as well as incident
response fields. Those candidates obtaining the GCFA certificate are well suited
to investigate a wide range of complex digital forensic cases, including advanced
persistent threats, anti-forensic techniques used by attackers, and internal and
external data breaches.
17. Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
CHFI certification is awarded by the member-supported professional organization
International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council). Though the
organization is better known for its popular Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification,
EC-Council's CHFI certification has been gaining momentum in the IT security field
in the past few years.
The four-hour 150-question CHFI exam requires a passing grade of 70 percent.
Being CHFI-certified demonstrates that you have the skills to successfully detect
attacks by hackers, to gather evidence required to prosecute hackers, and to prevent
or minimize future threats. Designed to build computer forensics skills from a vendor-neutral
perspective, the CHFI certification provides the level of IT security expertise
required of positions within law enforcement, the military, the legal industry,
financial institutions and any other organization concerned about the integrity
of its network infrastructure.
18. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect - Associate
Compared to some of the other decades-old certifications I mentioned, AWS Certified
Solutions Architect - Associate certificate probably seems untested and unworthy.
But with more and more companies choosing the AWS cloud platform, I predict this
new cert on the block will be around for a good long time. While not a tried and
true certification yet, mark my words, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate
is a great upcoming credential to seek, especially if you want to work for some
of the huge corporations choosing to go "all in" on the AWS cloud.