6 Essential IT Certifications for 2015


Figuring out which IT-related certification program to pursue, from among more than 100 of them, can prove a daunting task for anyone. ITworld recently posted their top suggestions, based on a study from consulting firm Foote Partners. Add to that a very comprehensive annual evaluation guide from Pearson’s IT Certification website, which contains detailed information on many programs. Both are good places to start your own investigation.

Any certification program is a compromise between your own skill and learning gaps, and where you want to take your career. Here are a few questions to ponder about as you begin your research:

What is the total cost of the certification?

Okay, you know the cost to take the certification exam. But you may not initially consider the cost of travel to a remote city if the course isn’t offered online or nearby, and there may be additional exam fees or annual maintenance expenses to take refresher exams to renew the certification. Some programs require that you join a professional association as part of the certification process, too. Speaking of which, you might want to check out joining the IEEE, where, for about $100 a year, you can access numerous books, online resources, and training classes from Skillsoft. Eric Geier, in this Computerworld article earlier this summer, offered other ways to pinch pennies.

Do you have the time to complete the coursework?

Some programs have completion time limits, and some have complex course requirements that could get in the way of a full-time job. Some employers expect you to stick around with them after you get your credentials, too.

What is the salary benefit to the certification?

There are two good sources for independent evaluations of these programs. The first is from GoCertify, and is an online evaluation tool that asks you a series of questions, such as what subject area you are interested in, and whether you need to renew your certification or obtain a new one. A second resource comes from Ed Tittel, author of the aforementioned Pearson annual guide. He has his own set of metrics that he includes in that roundup, and he shares his methods here.

Tittel told me in an interview about a very simple measure he uses to evaluate the salary benefit: “A certification that costs tens of thousands of dollars to earn had better also improve its holders’ income potential by at least one-third of those costs in yearly compensation increases.” Why one-third? This assumes that the typical lifetime of any certification is just three years, so he wants to see a payback over that period. “Otherwise, the cost-benefit argues strongly against shelling out the cash for somewhat less salary gain.”

Is this certificate actually in demand?

It’s one thing to want to get certified. But does any hiring manager really care? One way to find out is to scan the job boards, to see if the certificate is mentioned in job requirements or even in the titles of the job posts. Use the acronym of the credential in your search. Also, check the news posts on Dice and see if the acronym is mentioned in those articles.

Do you have any peer support?

Look at the study groups, meetups and other resources that are available online and in your local city; these can help supplement classroom training and also provide a handy shoulder to cry (or brag) on. “Put extra effort into creating a community of learners,” suggested Jonathan Haber in this post.

In addition to having taken several online classes, Haber is the author of an upcoming book on online training. “It’s all too easy to get lost in the crowd in an online course,” he thinks. If you can’t find any of these resources, that’s a sign that perhaps you should consider pursuing some other credential. Look at vendor-sponsored support programs as well, such as the Cisco Learning Network, Microsoft’s TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network sites. If you are using a third-party training vendor, examine the array of support materials that comes with their classes, such as customized or real-time coaching, sample practice exams, test-taking exam prep guides, certification details, offline training resources, and virtual environments for code writing and debugging. The more ways you can learn the material, the better.

And so, without further ado…

Six Leading Certifications

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10 Responses to “6 Essential IT Certifications for 2015”

  1. I have tons of certifications, but they don’t mean much without work experience in that field. It’s no fun spending thousands of dollars and years of studying just to get low ball minimum wage offers for IT recruiters. I would highly recommend Cisco and Linux. Microsoft certs are not worth the time and effort. Also, reading a Microsoft book will not prepare you to pass a Microsoft test. If someone tells you that you will make $80,000+ getting certified in something then you should run. I’ve been fed that line for years and after getting certified it does not guarantee a higher paying job. The only exception is a hiring manager that understands the work and money involved getting these certs.

    • You are right certification does not mean anything unless you can produce experience. It may help current employees with lots exp. They may get promote or pay if they get certified. It may also help job hopping for experience ones. Remember it is maybe. I used to work with a guy who just got certify on Novell when Novell was popular. He could not find any job. Eventually, he found a crappy job. The place i worked. The manager need someone cheap with some tech background. Back in early 90’s, that would be difficult. I eventually found a better job. He was laid off when company laid off 90% of people.
      Years later, i helped my boss interviewing candidate. It was 1999 during dot com boom and Y2K fix era. My boss did not want to pay high salary. One person told me she was Ms ceritify, VB, VC++ and sql server certify. I ask her basic programming question such as for loop, she could not answer. I ask her simple Database question such as inner join. She could not answer. I am very sure she has certificates, but she was ggod about testing but not real knowledge. You cant blame managers. So many people are like that. Either with good test skills, or ppl with good knowledge but lack of practicap exp

  2. when i passed my fourth microsoft exam on exchange e-mail server ( 70-284 ), i thought “this is it, i’m actually going to move out of my parents house and get my own place”…..nope.
    Microsoft certifications such as 70-687 configuring windows 8, 70-410 installing and configuring windows server 2012 are Worthless for getting an entry level job in IT……go for an a+ certification instead……
    got a call about a help desk job. interviewer asked if i had experience with ticketing, said no so they said were not interested. so i used the program citrix gotoassist because it was a ticketing program, and updated my resume. nothing, not one call. huh?

    applied through careerbuilder for a tier 1 technical support job at comcast. they like my resume so they gave me a phone interview, i passed their 5 technical questions and sent me an email to apply and take an assessment to see if a was a good fit. the assessment took an hour and 15 minutes. the next day they emailed and said they were looking at other candidates. all that and didn’t even get a face to face interview. i’ve never got an interview after applying for a job, and the application involved psychological questions like “which one of these words best describes you”.

    a headhunter got me a level 1 tech support job at a large corporate clothing chain, no phone interview, no face to face interview. payed more than i thought it would. got there on time everyday, did everything they asked, took alot of notes, asked alot of questions…they had my full attention. the supervisor said they would give me a test on the training about 3 days in. did 5 days of training, mostly sitting in on tech support calls. the next week i got a call from the headhunter saying they were firing me because i didn’t learn fast enough. how would they know that when they didn’t test me? it was just their opinion i didn’t learn fast enough. or maybe they are right, i didn’t learn fast enough..i tend not to learn as fast when im getting used to walking up at 7 AM and coffee doesn’t even work…how stupid are they, i got a microsoft windows server 2008 running as a remote access server to run secure sockets tunneling protocol for the vpn server, i think i can figure out some point of sale system. don’t know how you recover from this, i didn’t break any rules or do anything illegal, i tried hard and they fired me. if this wouldn’t destroy your self esteem, well your a better person than me.

    ! if guess the lesson learned here is don’t ask too many questions, or if you do ask whisper questions so your supervisor won’t hear. i’m just guessing here since i emailed that manager why i was fired, got a receipt that said they read my email, but didn’t reply
    if no one wants to hire me guess i’ll keep taking it easy and having afternoon naps. Recently i spent the entire day in bed reading comments bashing crossfit on deadspin.com. then the next day i spent all day watching orange is the new black on netflix.

    got a call from a recruiter about a tech support job, before an interview could take place they wanted me to do a test on microsoft office on proveit.com. 30 questions each on excel, word, outlook, and powerpoint. almost passed the excel test, passed the word and outlook. never used powerpoint, emailed the recruiter about whether i should take the powerpoint test, this person who works at becker technical staffing wouldn’t even respond back. so unless you know all 4 well don’t waste your time. another recruiter called me about an IT job and said I sounded discouraged….yeah being long term unemployed will do that to you.

    you know what grinds my gears, when some people (workaholics) tell you looking for a job is hard work for 40 hours a week…um no. if you want to interview me then good. i’m not going to stress out over it. should get something out of it for the whole job search/40+ hour workweek stress factory (cars, 4k tv, surround sound, trips to cancun in february) for me, no hour long tests online to get an interview if I can help it, no driving over 20 minutes to a recruiter (just skype me), no calling up some stranger in an IT department to find out what equipment they use so I can network, and i’m definitely not creating any accounts on a website of a company so I can apply for 1 job and never see them again.

    • Matt – job searching is a full time job, and if all your doing is sending a resume or filling out an application it’s going to take a long time. Instead of waiting for someone to come to you, you need go to them. When you hear of a job that interests you (through a job board, want ads, networking etc) do some research before you apply. Go to the company’s web site to find out what they do and what’s important to them. Find the hiring manager on linked-in. Send emails to the hiring manager and HR after you’ve applied, introducing yourself, explaining how you can help the company reach their goals, or how you can help them become more efficient. Start keeping business hours now..your job is job searching. Get up early, exercise, then start the search and research process early.

      If you haven’t done so already get a good profile set up on LinkedIn and start networking. Find groups on the site that align or are otherwise related to your professional goals and start attending networking events that they put on. Order business cards from VistaPrint. Send connection requests to people who work in the same field that you want to work in, and to people who work for the companies that you’ve targeted.

      Take your IT skills and volunteer to help non-profits in your area with their technology challenges then put those activities on your resume. if you spend the morning job searching and the afternoon volunteering you’re going to find a paying job through those activities, and your attitude will improve because you’re being productive

      Yes, job searching can be discouraging. I was unemployed for over a year and I had 2 young children and a mortgage to pay for. I eventually found a job, but only after applying for well over 200 positions and having countless phone and face to face interview. That job ended up launching my career in a new direction.

      • Old School American

        Some bosses are helpful. Some bosses are difficult. Some bosses are terrible. Obviously your experience was terrible. But, you live you learn you move on. The certifications (you pass)mean you are either more marketable by those who act as middle men and sell your services or that you may not be lying when you say you know what you know. Nothing more. Do not set unreasonable expectations based on your passing a certification. Instead cultivate a culture for your self of life long learning. Why? Because to survive or even to move ahead in the IT industry you need to always be focused on learning more. Most of what you learn has a half life of about six to eight months. After which there will be either a new product overing which renders your certification obsolete or the whole industry will take a radical turn.
        Also, stop logging in to Netflix and ease up on the “Orange is the New Black”. Follow Microsoft products, open source solutions and Linux like they were TV shows. Every day. Because you have to to be valued by the people who will pay your salary. They need rapid solutions and will now slow down for you to learn. Learn every day on your own time. Practice on theirs.

    • Haha. That’s what i said. I only have 1 of those certs and have yet to run into issues finding a job. 95% of my interviews i have to tell the interviewer i have certifications… they don’t care. They do care (a lot) about experience.

  3. R. Turner

    “A certification that costs tens of thousands of dollars to earn had better also improve its holders’ income potential by at least one-third of those costs in yearly compensation increases.” Why one-third? This assumes that the typical lifetime of any certification is just three years, so he wants to see a payback over that period. “Otherwise, the cost-benefit argues strongly against shelling out the cash for somewhat less salary gain.”

    This is the worst justification for a certification that I can think of. If one shells out big bucks for a certification, and then gets a raise that covers 1/3 of the certification’s cost per year, and the certification is only good for three years, the net benefit to the employee is… Zero. The certification is no good any more and if the employer really wants to have their employees certified than they’ll all be required to begin the process all over again, right? All that was accomplished was the organization that provided the certification was neatly able to siphon the cost of the classes, etc. from the employer. Or am I missing something?

  4. Real-world, professional experience is far more important than any certification. I have interviewed and worked with peers who were certified but did not have a clue on how to architect, design, develop software solutions. Certifications can certainly help in some areas but is real skills and experience are essential.

  5. I’ll study and have certifications in a+,network+,MCSA,MCSE ,CCNA, ccnp,security+. From year of 2000 to 2011 I need your opinion how to get back the certifications and what type of jobs should I search for a New Jersey and New York