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.

By Erik Eckel

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...