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IT certifications have evolved since their humble beginnings in the mid-eighties. Today, they’re a mandatory requirement in the IT job market, with almost every technology vendor offering some level of a certification program. Technology professionals proudly — and rightfully so — promote their credentials like badges of honor, for these credentials act as an immediate testament to their proficiency and skills in certain areas. IT environments are more dynamic and complex, end users are more demanding and organizations place the customer experience front and center to compete in a crowded, global economy. Therefore, investing in technical training has never been as critical as it is today, and many organizations actually mandate certifications.
Over the decades, these training programs have carved a niche for themselves, filling the gap in the curriculum offered by slowly adapting universities. IT certifications have now surpassed academic degrees when it comes to many employers’ preferred form of credentialing. But are these certifications worth the investment, and where do you start?
Are Certifications Worth It?
According to TechRepublic’s CIO Jury, 83 percent of tech leaders say IT certifications are usefuli. If you’re an IT professional, it’s the fastest way to prove your knowledge and skillset, which allows you to secure jobs more quickly and earn a higher salary. Additionally, confidence stems from training — both the confidence to do your job well and the confidence to advance your career. The time invested in learning particular technologies not only proves your willingness to learn and grow, but also gives you something to strive for professionally. It’s about being relevant and staying relevant by learning skills you’ll take with you throughout your career.
From a business or government organization standpoint, IT certifications provide an automatic benchmark for comparing skills and technology mastery when reviewing current employees and considering job candidates. They also ensure your new hires are “workplace-ready” before they even start, coming with knowledge and capabilities applicable to their new jobs on day one. This delivers instant efficiency and productivity gains for your organization, which you’ll continue to benefit from with the right ongoing IT training programs in place. These same programs also help ensure maximum job satisfaction and retention in a job seekers’ market.
So, Where Do You Start?
Once you’ve decided to invest in these certifications, the next hurdle is determining which ones are most relevant, especially when the technology and training landscape is so dynamic. According to TechRepublic’s IT jobs report, IT jobs are evolving more in the direction ofii:
- Cloud adoption
- Big data
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
To be a little more specific, Robert Half Technology outlines the following ExitCertified IT certifications as some of the most valuable options available todayiii:
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Cloud Platform and Infrastructure
Additionally, the following are the most popular certifications as seen by ExitCertified IT training customers:
- Red Hat® Certified Architect (RHCA) and Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE®)
- AWS Certified DevOps Engineer
- VMware Certified Professional (VCP) – Data Center Virtualization (DCV), Cloud Management & Automation (CMA), Network Virtualization (NV)
- Google Cloud Certified – Professional Cloud Architect, Cloud Engineer, Cloud Developer
Five Things to Look For in a Certification Program
Regardless of what you choose to focus on to advance your career or your organization, here are five things to look for when it comes to IT certification programs:
- A carefully chosen combination of certifications that can be married with skill and experience
- Alignment with your organization’s IT plans
- Alignment with the IT professional’s level of expertise and experience
- Awareness of emerging technologies to future-proof your skills and your organization
- Quality of the issuing organization or training institute
As an IT professional, what you want to avoid is looking like a “ribbon chaser” by racking up too many certificates that present you as more personally driven than company focused. And as a business or government organization, it’s about being in tune with your IT staff’s current skillsets, and what gaps they need to fill to best support the future technology direction of your company.
ii TechRepublic, Special Report: IT Jobs in 2020: A Leader’s Guide, https://www.zdnet.com/topic/it-jobs-in-2020-a-leaders-guide
iii Robert Half Technology, 2020 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide, https://www.roberthalf.com/salary-guide/technology