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IT certifications landscape is changing

In a update of the best IT certifications for 2010, many readers will be checking to confirm if their favorites have slipped off the list or earned their way on.

In this blog, Erik Eckel discusses what the IT certification landscape looks like for 2010.

Back in December 2008, TechRepublic published its 10 Best IT Certifications list. The list generated quite a bit of discussion. Now that it's time for revisiting that top 10 list and updating it to reflect changes within the economy and IT world, many readers will be checking to confirm if their favorites have slipped off the list or earned their way on.

Many may be disappointed. There's no sign of NetWare. Sorry. It's not there. Neither is ITIL. Nor is a Linux accreditation.

Why not? Well, for starters, it's the 10 Best IT Certifications list, not the everyone's-list-of-their-favorite-IT-certifications-list. Every accreditation can't make inclusion. And, with changes in the economy and changes to major players' certification tracks, there are significant changes to the list.

Further, I've clarified that the list is for consultants, support technicians and administrators and engineers servicing SMBs. It's not fair to developers, programmers or global multinational administrators to try and lump their minority needs (there are, after all, only 500 Fortune 500 companies by definition) with the rest of the IT world's.

What's changed?

Quite a bit has changed in the last 18 months. Microsoft's MCSA is gone (replaced by MCITP), as is the MCSE. Security+ is absent from the new list. The MCPD is missing as well (due to the audience refinement reasons described above). But so, too, is Linux+ missing.

What gives?

The new updated 2010 list is much more tightly focused to the largest contingent of IT professionals: those providing support, administration and management expertise to small and medium sized businesses. As I noted in the new list, I could have included sexy accreditations to make the list politically correct, more inclusive of fringe technologies, or simply more interesting, but I tapped my experience, education and real-world lessons to build the most authentic list I knew how to create. I'm just not seeing the demand for those skills removed from the list. Therefore, it'd be a disservice to readers to include such accreditations.

Microsoft's technologies run the world. Market share bears that out. As a result, the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) accreditations, when earned, possess the widest base of demand.

There's no substitute for fundamentals, either. So instead of dismissing CompTIA's Network+ and A+ accreditations, IT professionals should adopt these certs as default accreditations gracing their resumes. While these exams cover fundamentals, these fundamentals are so important to everything else that occurs within an IT environment that there can be no argument against them.

Next comes router, firewall and VPN accreditations. SonicWALL and Cisco own this space, as is evident to most every IT professional in the field every day. Support techs and network engineers need more than passing familiarity with these technologies, though. That's why SonicWALL's Certified SonicWALL Security Administrator and Cisco's Cisco Certified Network Associate certifications earn a spot on the updated list. These are necessary skills IT pros can better demonstrate by earning accreditation.

Who's responsible for bumping the developer and Linux certifications? Apple. Let the debate begin. But for my money, and the increasing frequency with which my consultancy is supporting Mac OS X (often in favor of Windows technologies), the Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) and Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) certifications help ensure technology professionals possess the Mac OS X server and workstation (respectively) skills clients are demanding. Understand, I don't have a horse in this race; I simply adopt those technologies that seem to work best and that clients request most.

Rounding out the list are two safe bets: ISC2's Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications. Despite organizations' desire to run from security and project management tasks, the fact remains that businesses must address both topics. Adding these accreditations to a resume helps one demonstrate mastery of these subjects. While I don't recommend concentrating one's expertise only in security or project management, combining these skills with other support or administration skillsets creates a powerful combination hard to dismiss, even in a tight economy.

Which certifications make your top 10 list?

Certainly, there's going to be some debate, hopefully civilized, as to which IT certifications really belong on the top 10 list. Which accreditations make your list? Post your comments, along with the reasons why you'd make adjustments, by joining the discussion below.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

27 comments
lupin109
lupin109

Considering that it's place is becoming more and more prevalent in the IT landscape, the new LX0-101 and LX0-102 are good add-ons to your repertoire. Reason: Alot of the small and medium-sized businesses and even some larger ones are using it for their servers to cut down costs. And at the risk of preaching to the choir, having a certification proves that you are not a "mere hobbyist" but someone who has the competence to assist in a company's goals IT wise. Although it seems I will have to look at apple as well. Knowing the three major OS' out there, is definitely key.

gpalmer1981
gpalmer1981

Hello? How about virtualisation technologies. VMware & Microsoft Virtualisation platform. These are fast becoming commonplace in a modern world where "The Cloud" is so widly spoken of...

Ed.Pilling
Ed.Pilling

Typically I look at how many job listings list they want that cert. In the entire country MCITP has 1632 jobs. Now my cert CISA has 6223 job listings but is not on the list.

1Mannyman
1Mannyman

I am curious about the MCDST?

bscofield
bscofield

I wonder how granular this survey was, or could be, with the new Microsoft certifications. MCSA and MCSE were two certifications that you knew the purpose of. The new MCTS certs have 56 possiblities to be earned, as only one exam passed can sometimes earn you the title. MCP was never measured in these surveys for this reason alone. MCITP has a similar problem with 16 possibilities including Exchange, SQL Server, and even desktop client specialties. MCTS and MCITP can not be substituted for MCSA or MCSE in even these informal situations without further clarification.

mkafafy
mkafafy

What about Java certifications ?? I agree with that certifications makes the most out of your career especially in Egypt although the certifications price is very high putting into consideration that each dollars is almost equals 6 pounds :D thank you

rarsa
rarsa

Product certifications are good, for the outsourcing companies. For us, ITIL so understand how to manage the processes that keep the IT running.

IT_Stargazer
IT_Stargazer

I provide this and similar lists on to my team each year, trying to encourage them to become more knowledgable and competitive both within the company (major telecom provider) and in the larger job market. My mantra to them is continuous education, job related and targeted to meet the business needs of "Me, Inc." (i.e., their personal career needs, not mine). Also believe in leading by example, just took the CISSP exam and am now waiting for the results; pass or fail, will share that with my team too...

Audiblenod
Audiblenod

I was surprised to find that cloud or VM certifications missing from the list. Many companies, including the one I work at are moving away from as many physical servers and an understanding in this technology is important. I do not see this changing soon, simply because of the cost savings involved.

groundhog32
groundhog32

Try including MCSA or MCSE in your search results. the MCITP exams are essentially replacing these 2 qualifications but with updated OSes. They are also very new to market so many businesses will not even be looking for them yet, or will be looking for XP/Server 2003-related product support, rather than Vista/Win7/Server 2008.

bscofield
bscofield

The MCDST is leaving town according to Microsoft. They have set the 70-271 and 70-272 exams required for the certification to expire in March. You will no longer be able to obtain the certification.

ogouninfosec
ogouninfosec

While I whole heartedly agree that ITIL is of limited use in the SMB support market, for those looking to get into management levels in larger corporations or governement it seems that learning some sort of governance framework (ITIL, COBiT, etc.) is necessary, but like she said, that's a small fringe compared to the massive # of folks supporting SMBs. Around here ITIL is the one to know. The Province of Ontario uses it, Durham Region (local gov) uses it, by extension, all of the local hospitals use it... so it is also needed by the consulting companies that service these orgs.

Angel Perez
Angel Perez

I totally agree, Microsoft has just release the MCITP Virtualization Administrator (some of the MOCs are not available yet). This is the only one related to Cloud that I could found. What is the industry waiting for?

dmarsh26
dmarsh26

I concur, is this for real world current certs for SMB's or new and upcomming ? Surely one or the other, so why MCTS/MCITP and no VMWare VCP? If its SMB current stuff it should be MCSA, half of them don't even need MCSE level skills and they will be largely on Windows Server 2003 or SBS. I doubt that most SMB administrators really could justify two Apple certs over some generic security or linux skills. Ditch the Apple certs and stick Security+ and LPI 1&2 back in. CISSP and PMP are not general certs that most SMB adminisrators will get any mileage out of. They require significant time and investment for little benefit. Stick in ITIL/Prince2/Project+ instead. Better yet forget certs and enrol on some university management courses and read some books. A cert is not always the answer. Also not sure if sonicwall deserves a cert in top 10, just get the CCNA. Linux is not a niche product in the web or appliance space, virtualisation is not niche, I think your SMB exposure is rather skewed. Also why not change the name from IT to 'Top 10 Certs for SMB IT Administrators', IT is a HUGE field now, software developers, DBA's, architects, testers, business analysts, progject managers, you can't discount any one group and call it IT.

WMSuperSport
WMSuperSport

This is interesting. I wish someone could point me in a direction to get started in the IT industry. It changes fast and I have no idea where to start. The local community college can't give me much help. Anyone have any suggestions?

beanxyz
beanxyz

I agree Vm cert is good and a trend in the future, but it's really expensive compared to other courses. And Vmware will not let you have a cert if you study by yourself and pass the exam.

QAonCall
QAonCall

The certifications lag the need. VM Ware and MS both now have certifications in this space, but try to find training or boot camps. They are sparse. The early earners of certs in this space will reap the early rewards. I am currently doing video training for the MS cert (I could not find a classroom setting, but have about 2 years of experience). After I get my MS cert (I am already studying for the next test for my MCITP). I was a previous MSCE but lagged behind during the 2k3 evolution. While I do not specifically work in network administration, I service development shops and this space is in need even more than the standard IT shop of the virtual environments. I expect by this time next year SMB's will be more focused on virtual technology, since this year and last most SMB were more concerned with staying in business, than trying new technology. MHO

attamiller
attamiller

With the major push for virtualization, I am wondering why VMware didn't make the list.

Ed.Pilling
Ed.Pilling

When I hear about a cert I have never heard of I go to indeed and see how many jobs want it. Right now there is 1633 jobs that want MCITP, 11,129 that want MCSE and 2541 for MCSA. The MCITP may be replacing the other certs but if businesses do not know about it, it may hurt you in getting a job. Many companies use automated software to look for key words. Right now people want a cert that will get them a job now.

lupin109
lupin109

Comptia A+ Comptia Network+ Comptia Security+ (while still available.) The three basic ones that are undeniable. After that? MSCE (and future replacements) and Linux+, throw in Apple if you want.

Ed.Pilling
Ed.Pilling

You could go for MSCE/MSCA, Network+, CCNA and VMware. The great thing is you can get computer based training to learn them. Also you can get cheap used systems and put demo copies of servers and such to learn how to really config them.

nagendra_pratap_singh
nagendra_pratap_singh

Because of this training there are few paper VCPs around. Also, upgrade to next version of VCP does not require you to retake any training.

attamiller
attamiller

Yeah, I agree it's expensive. I thought the article was based on the top 10 certs, not the top 10 certs on a budget.

QAonCall
QAonCall

You are able to fulfill the VCP4 requirements in any order you choose, so you could take the VCP-410 exam prior to attending one of the qualifying classes - you will not be recognized as a VCP4 until you have completed both elements (exam and class) but ultimately the order in which you complete the elements doesn't matter to VMware. It's a tougher option, as you will of course need to rely exclusively on self-study to prepare yourself for the exam if you do that first.

groundhog32
groundhog32

...with everything you say Ed. I, personally, will continue with my MCSA/MCSE studies and convert/upgrade when it becomes necessary or desirable to do so. A lot of businesses will continue to run and require support for Server 2003/XP for many years to come. But, as the article states, we just need to keep in mind that the landscape is constantly changing and keep in touch accordingly (with business requirements, and not necessarily apace with Microsoft's software development program).

Ed.Pilling
Ed.Pilling

I got my CISA. I put that on my resume and it turns heads. Funny it didnt make the list. But (yes there is a big but) half the people who take it fail the test and you have to have 5 years of security or auditing experience.

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