The job market for IT professionals right now is challenging. Whether you’re seeking your first job in IT or looking to further your career into a more pronounced and distinguished role, certifications serve as a way to separate from the crowd of applicants. Certifications show a functional level of proficiency, often making them more valuable than college degrees in certain entry-level positions, and just as valuable as years of experience in more established roles. Certifications show functional knowledge of technologies, with labs and virtual environments that set users up to hit the ground running; often more useful early in a career than learning theory in a college classroom environment.
Looking at certifications can be daunting. The first step should be to visualize an intended career path and search for related jobs and the qualifications necessary for those roles. Microsoft, Google, Citrix, and others have shifted their entire certification process to focus more on roles than on specific technologies, with distinct paths for DevOps, system administrators, network engineers, and others. These role-based certifications are great both for landing that first job, as well as changing responsibilities and promotions.
For 2021 and beyond, certifications in cloud and containers will offer the most for the future-focused, while the CCNA, Net+, and Sec+ sit as the most important for entry-level IT positions. Learn more about some of the most popular and in-demand certifications below:
General IT Certifications
Entering the world of IT and associated certifications should probably start with CompTIA certifications. Sec+, Net+ and/or A+ are all highly important, and constantly in demand as a prerequisite for a variety of entry-level roles and career advancement. The A+ teaches foundational knowledge in IT to prepare applicants for a variety of different IT careers and is often used to attract candidates with no professional IT experience.
The Sec+ is the gold standard for starting a career in IT Security, while the Net+ is great for getting a foot in the door to networking roles.
Learn more about CompTIA Certifications:
- CompTIA A+ Certification – Learn more
- CompTIA Network+ Certification (Net+) – Learn more
- CompTIA Security+ Certification (Sec+) – Learn more
Across IT, the CCNA may be the most highly recommended network certification and offers the perfect all-around crash course that can be extensible into furthering your career. The CCENT, another popular Cisco certification, was recently molded into the CCNA, making the CCNA even more important for networking roles. Additionally, Cisco offers a variety of different certifications based on different career tracks. The CCNP, CCIE, and CCAr all also serve as fantastic advanced certs, depending on the career path. The only catch with the certifications is that they are all, obviously, Cisco specific. Nevertheless, the foundation and concepts, especially in the CCNA track, make it the most required certification in networking-related job applications.
Learn more about Cisco Certifications:
- DevNet Associate
- CyberOps Associate
- Devnet Professional
- CCNP Enterprise
- CyberOps Professional
- CCNP Collaboration
- CCNP Data Center – 2nd most
- CCNP Security
- CCNP Service Provider
- CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure
- CCIE Enterprise Wireless
- CCIE Collaboration
- CCIE Data Center
- CCIE Security
- CCIE Service Provider
Microsoft is moving to role-based certifications and has announced its popular MCSA, MCSD, and MCSE programs will be sunsetted on January 31, 2021. Originally planned to be retired on June 30, 2020, due to COVID-19, the certifications have been extended. With this change, Microsoft’s certifications are stepping away from networking and moving more towards Azure and cloud-based proficiency. Of these, the Azure Solution Architect shows expert skill levels for cloud-based roles and can provide a leg up in DevOps applications as well.
Learn more about Microsoft Certifications:
- MTA (offered in various fundamental concentrations)
- Azure Administrator Associate
- Azure Developer Associate
- Azure Data Engineer Associate
- Azure Security Engineer Associate
- Azure Data Scientist Associate
- Azure Database Administrator Associate
- Azure Solution Architect Expert
- Data Analyst Associate
- Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
- Azure AI Engineer Associate
With the whole world moving to the cloud, AWS certifications have never been more in need. The most sought after certification is the AWS Solutions Architect, which is offered at both the associate and more advanced professional levels. AWS has the most market-share of cloud, so between Azure, GCP, and AWS, AWS is the one that will be the most applicable to most companies. In addition to the AWS Solutions Architect track, AWS also offers developers and DevOps specific tracks for more depth into each role.
Learn more about AWS Certifications:
- AWS Cloud Practitioner
- AWS Solutions Architect Associate
- AWS Solutions Architect Professional
- AWS SysOps Administrator Associate
- AWS Developer Associate
- AWS DevOps Engineer Professional
Google Cloud Platform Certifications
Google offers a series of different certifications, but their GCP related ones are the most sought after in DevOps and cloud-related roles. In addition to their GCP certs, they also offer more entry-level IT professional training through Coursera. The Associate Cloud Engineer certification opens the door to the professional level certs which, similar to Azure, offer more role-based certifications depending on career goals.
Learn more about GCP Certifications:
- Associate Cloud Engineer
- Cloud Architect
- Cloud Developer
- Data Engineer
- Cloud DevOps Engineer
- Cloud Security Engineer
- Cloud Network Engineer
- Collaboration Engineer
- Machine Learning Engineer
Red Hat Certifications
Red Hat offers Linux-based certifications and is highly recommended for those in the Sysadmin career path. The RHSCA specifically provides a great foundation for Linux based systems analysis and can help kickstart a career. Although there are not as many jobs available for Linux System specific roles, the need for the jobs currently outweighs the number of applicants, and earning Red Hat certifications can move a resume to the top of the pile.
Learn more about Red Hat Certifications:
- Red Hat System Administrator (RHCSA)
- Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)
- Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)
- Red Hat Certified Enterprise Application Developer
- Red Hat Certified Enterprise Microservices Developer
- Red Hat Certified Specialist in Configuration Management
- Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation
- Red Hat Certified Specialist in Security – Linux
- Red Hat Certified Specialist in Security – Containers
- Red Hat Certified Specialist in Containers for Kubernetes
- Red Hat Certified Specialist in OpenShift
- Red Hat Certified Specialist in Virtualization
VMware offers four tiers of certifications, most prominently the Vmware Certified Professional (VCP) roles. VCP certifications are role-based and cover a variety of topics within VMware, the most extensible and used being the VCP-DCV and VCP-NV. In addition to the VCP level, VMware also offers VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) and VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certifications for most tracks.
Learn more about VMware Certifications:
- VCP-DCV VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Visualization (also offered in VCAP and VCDX)
- VCP-NV VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization (also offered in VCAP and VCDX)
- VCP-CMA VMware Certified Professional – Cloud Management and Automation (also offered in VCAP and VCDX)
- VCP-DTM VMware Certified Professional – Desktop Management (also offered in VCAP and VCDX)
- VCP-DW VMware Certified Professional – Digital Workspace
- VCA-DBT VMware Certified Associate – Digital Business Transformation
While Cisco is great, it’s best not to be tied down to one technology, and branching out into different disciplines is important. Enter Citrix. Citrix offers high-quality training for Networking and digital workspace related certifications. Amongst them, the CCP-N (not to be confused with the AWS CCP) provides depth into Citrix and is great to show proficiency in networking over just the Cisco CCNA.
Learn more about Citrix Certifications:
- CCA – N: Citrix Certified Associate
- CCP – N: Citrix Certified Professional
- CCE – N: Citrix Certified Expert – Networking
- CC – SDWAN: Citrix SD-WAN Certified
- CC – XENSERVER: Citrix XenServer Certified
Application and role-specific certifications can help stand out in the job market for carving out more exact career goals. The most in-demand career path right now: containers. Docker and Kubernetes both offer their own container-specific certifications. Along with cloud roles, container knowledge stands as the most needed right now and for the future.
For a full list of available Kubernetes Certifications, check out our blog explaining all the levels.
Learn more about Container Certifications:
Python is easily the most desired coding language and skillset that IT professionals look for. The Python Institute certifications are a great way to learn Python and show off a functional knowledge of the language. With it’s growing popularity, the Python Institute expanded its program in 2020 to offer the PCPP, Certified Professional in Python Programming. It has two levels, 32-1XX and 32-2XX. The 32-2XX will be offered starting in late 2020.
Learn more about Python Certifications:
- PCEP – Certified Entry Level Python Programmer
- PCAP – Certified Associate in Python Programming
- PCPP – Certified Professional in Python Programming PCPP-32-1XX and PCPP-32-2XX
- CEPP – Certified Expert in Python Programming
It’s important to focus on certifications based on the career you want. Almost every niche and technology has a specific certification attached to it that can help teach about the technology, as well as look good on a resume. Visualize the IT professional career you have in mind, and work backward to find the most needed certifications to excel in the role.