Must-have Certifications for IT Pros

There are some certifications that are nice to have and others that are simply “must haves” in today’s competitive job market. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the certifications that IT Pros must have to be relevant today and some that will be gaining increased importance in years to come.

1. Project Management Professional (PMP)

The role of a project manager is to serve as the intermediary between the IT project team members and the key individuals who are involved with a project. A project manager tries to ensure that a project is completed in a timely manner and within all budgetary and legal constraints. The typical scope of project managers responsibilities include overseeing the processes and methodologies used for the successful completion of the project. The successful project managers can not only help save money for their company, but can also by ensuring all timelines are met (which some would argue is also money as well). There is a growing demand for skilled and competent IT project managers. These are the PM’s who can work through a budgetary crisis and conflicting resource priorities. 

2. Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE)

The Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) certification was Microsoft’s premier certification up to 2006. The MCSE has been around since the NT3.5 days (mid-90s) and in its 12+ years old in its’ current form and we have developed a certain comfort and familiarity with our beloved MCSE. An entire generation of IT Professionals has “grown up” knowing exactly where an MCSE fits into the certification scheme and they also have a good idea of what is involved in earning the MCSE and also the worth of this certification both financially and professionally.

This is not to mean that there haven’t been additions and other enhancements to the program over the years. The original MCSE was earned on a specific variant of the NT system. So let’s say you earned your MCSE on NT 3.51 and then on NT4, You were certified on those two systems – as a Systems Engineer. This same naming approach held true for Windows Server 2000 and Server 2003.

3. A+ (CompTIA) Computing Technology Industry Association

Of all the IT certifications available, few of them can be viewed as verifying and validating the computer skills of entry level employees. The A+ Certification is one such an exam and has been extremely popular since originally released in 1993. The A+ certification validates foundation-level knowledge and skills necessary for a career in PC support.

This certification is viewed as the starting point for a career in the IT field. The CompTIA A+ certification is an international, vendor-neutral certification that proves competence in such computer areas as installation, preventative maintenance, networking, security and troubleshooting.

In January 2010 the ANSI/ISO approved A+ certification had the certification expiration period to three years. Prior to this, those earning a CompTIA held the certification for life. A changed to this was made so that current certificate holders will still have valid certifications for life, but any new certifications earned after December 31, 2010 will expire every three years.

4. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

The CCNA certification is a highly regarded networking certification from Cisco. It is the second level of Cisco’s five tiered certification track. Having passed the CCNA exam (or exams, how many you take depends on which CCNA certification approach you decide to pursue), you have demonstrated a high degree of competency and have validated your skills in install, configure, operate, and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in a WAN

5. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential is for security managers and professionals who develop policies and procedures in information security. The CISSP certification has become the gold standard in information security certifications and education. Earning and maintaining a CISSP certification is required for many governmental, military and civilian security positions. The CISSP was the first credential in the field of information security, accredited by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Standard 17024:2003. Earning your CISSP certification is not only an objective measure of excellence, but is a globally recognized standard of achievement.

6. IT Infrastructure Library Certification (ITIL)

What is this ITIL that we hear so much about? The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (TIL) is a foundational process that provides for quality IT Service Management. The success of ITIL is through the use of documented and proven processes that cover the entire IT Service Lifecycle. ITIL v3 is the current version of this widely adopted best practices framework for IT management The ITIL Foundation certification is the first of four levels in ITIL and offers those who are certified a general awareness of the key elements, concepts and terminology used in the ITIL Service Lifecycle, including the linkages between Lifecycle stages, the processes used and their contribution to Service Management practices

7. Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP) – CCNP Voice

Pick your voice flavor of choice, Lync Server 2010, Polycom, Avaya, or Cisco to name but a few – they all require highly skilled and knowledgeable people. This is even truer when trying to integrate conferencing or Unified Messaging into the network. VoIP is growing rapidly – businesses are demanding the integration of voice with their messaging and conferencing networks. The problem is there just aren’t that many experienced voice people, especially ones who are skilled in two or more platforms. If you happen to be a Cisco voice guru and have also mastered the intricacies of Lync Server 2010 Unified Messaging and conferencing, than you are set!

8. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

A Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is a skilled security professional who understands the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target systems and knows how to use this knowledge and specific tools as if he were a malicious hacker. Individuals who have earned the CEH certification from EC-council may fulfill job roles such as security officers, auditors, security professionals, site administrators or anyone who is concerned about the integrity of the network infrastructure. An Ethical Hacker is an individual who is usually employed or contracted by an organization and who can be trusted to ethically penetrate corporate networks and/or computer systems using the same methods and tools as a hacker. The key point is that an Ethical Hacker has written authorization to probe and possibly penetrate the target network.

9. VMware Certified Professional (VCP)

Virtualization and those who are knowledgeable on virtualization products are in heavy demand. VMware is one of the leading vendors of virtualization products and earning a VMware certification is the first step toward gaining industry recognized expertise in virtual infrastructure and the industry recognition that goes along with it. The VMware Certified Professional (VCP) demonstrates that you have the skillset to successfully install, manage and deploy VMware vSphere 5.

10. Security+ (CompTIA)

Security+ is a very popular certification as it validates the knowledge of security professionals in one of the fastest-growing fields in IT. The Security+ certification was developed in 2002 to address the rise of computer and information security issues. This certification should not be viewed as strictly an entry level certification as it has become an industry standard for security certifications. The Security+ certification encompasses such topics as: Access control and identity management, Application, data and host security, Compliance and operational security, cryptography and access control, Threats and vulnerabilities. Those security individuals in the United States Department of Defense, the DoDD 8570, IAT Level II certification guidelines lists Security+ as one of four choices.

In January 2010 the ANSI/ISO approved A+ certification had the certification expiration period to three years. Prior to this, those earning a CompTIA held the certification for life. A changed to this was made so that current certificate holders will still have valid certifications for life, but any new certifications earned after December 31, 2010 will expire every three years.

11. Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)

The MCITP certification is the successor to the venerable MCSE. The MCITP certification is tied to a specific product and the certification will be retired when that particular product is no longer supported. This certification is for those IT professionals who work with a variety of products and are involved with advanced planning. You earn your MCITP by taking two or more MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist). So, while you re earning your MCITP, you will also earn MCTS certifications as well. Therefore, you will earn one or more MCTS certifications on your way to earning an MCITP certification. Currently there are 18 MCITP certifications available, covering such subjects as SQL, SharePoint, Windows Server and Lync Server, among others.

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