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The CP List: 20 Top In-Demand IT Certifications

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Want to increase your value and earn more money in the channel? IT certifications are the ticket, but which ones are most worth pursuing?

Industry trends, such as the ongoing cybersecurity talent shortage and massive cloud migration, are impacting which certs are most in demand and which ones lead to the highest-paying salaries.

Industry experts like CompTIA, Global Knowledge and Robert Half, as well as Jo Peterson, vice president of cloud services at Clarify360 and Cloud Girls‘ co-founder, and member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board, all weighed in on why certs are important and which provide the most benefit. Global Knowledge’s list and Robert Half’s list highlight top-paying certs.

Global Knowledge's Zane Schweer

Global Knowledge’s Zane Schweer

Zane Schweer, Global Knowledge‘s director of marketing communications, said a cert recognizes that you have a “proven understanding and mastery of the concepts, skills and capabilities within a specific body of knowledge.”

“So the top-paying certification list highlights some of the areas where organizations are paying top salaries for specific knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs),” he said. “One of the cool stats that we’ve started to see emerge and proved true again for this year is that over half of the professionals that have achieved certifications say their expertise is more sought after. So with technology being more democratized … people are finally being more widely recognized as the competitive advantage, which is why we believe that technology is only as powerful as the people who are trained to use it.”

James Stanger, CompTIA chief technology evangelist, said it’s not so much a shortage of certs, but a shortage of qualified workers who are trained, educated and credentialed to fill high-demand positions.

CompTIA's James Stanger

CompTIA’s James Stanger

“Certifications are a part of the mix, but not necessarily the driver that establishes a salary,” he said. “Top-paying tech jobs are more a reflection of the supply and demand for a particular position, the importance of the job role within the organization and the experience level required to fill those jobs. We see a lot of demand in certifications that lead to both moderate and high-paying jobs. We are seeing ever-increasing demand for technical support and help desk professionals, as well as higher-paying jobs, such as for security analysts and penetration testers.”

Peterson said IT certs tend to fall into two buckets — technical and non-technical, or technical sellers. AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials (Second Edition) would be an example of a technical seller cert, while MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) is an example of a technical cert, she said.

“There is a high shortage of AWS Certified Solution Architects,” she said. “In the security space, the same thing applies to Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSPs). IDC also raised its forecast for total spending (vendor revenue plus channel mark-up) on cloud IT infrastructure in 2018 to $65.2 billion with year-over-year growth of 37.2%.”

Jim Johnson, senior vice president for Robert Half Technology, said in general, leaders are looking for the most well-rounded team members possible, and certs can reflect the breadth of a candidate’s skill set.

Robert Half's Jim Johnson

Robert Half’s Jim Johnson

“Companies are increasingly focused on security, cloud projects, software development and business intelligence, but we’re seeing a shortage of skilled talent in these areas,” he said. “Certifications are very important for a technology professional’s career. Employers often place a great emphasis on them when hiring, as they want a candidate with current knowledge and a great deal of experience with a certain technology or area. And in an industry that changes as quickly as technology, certifications are a great way for professionals to show that they’re eager to advance their skills and learn new systems, software and management practices.”

Based on feedback, we’ve compiled a list, in alphabetical order, of 20 top IT certs that are resonating most with technology leaders as they are seeking talent for their teams.

AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials (Second Edition)

Cited by Jo Peterson, this cert provides an overview of cloud concepts, AWS services, security, architecture, pricing and support.

This will be the 12th year of our report and cloud has been mentioned 216 times since 2007-2008, but 206 of those mentions have occurred since 2015,” Schweer said. “That just shows how all of a sudden it just skyrocketed, and because of that skyrocketing we also saw cloud-related and cloud-based certifications take off, and the salaries of those take off as well because it was new and people needed to get the skills to be able to bring that into their business.”

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

Cited by Global Knowledge, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate cert demonstrates an individual’s expertise in designing and deploying scalable systems on AWS.

“IT certifications are readily available – and so are jobs in tech – to anyone with the aptitude, commitment and desire to pursue them,” Stanger said. “There are many pathways into the tech workforce. Some enter through the traditional high school, community college or four-year university route. We also see a good number of careers changers — veterans who’ve transitioned out of the military to civilian life, workers who’ve been laid off in other industries, and individuals returning to the labor force.”

(list continued on next page)

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