Four IT Certifications That Are Really Worth It
Certifications are a hot topic in the IT industry, but they aren't easy to get. Attaining top-tier certifications can be time-consuming and expensive, leaving many wondering if they are really worth it.
If you're just starting out in IT and looking for your first entry-level job—or if you're trying to get a job with a different skillset—a certification can help strengthen your resume. When employers are evaluating candidates with similar educational backgrounds and expertise, certifications from reputable companies like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft can help you stand out.
Certifications are also a great way to add to your overall IT mastery. The more you know, the better equipped you are to solve problems on the job.
That said, certifications don't always translate to higher salaries. IT certifications don't hurt your case for a raise, but they generally won't be the only deciding factor. On-the-job experience, your skillset, your overall work ethic and even your personality play a part in the salary negotiation process.
When it comes down to it, your ability to do the job outweighs your certifications. Performance always wins over qualifications. Impressive certifications might help open the door with employers, but they won't be the reason you ultimately get a job or succeed in that position long-term.
If you would like to use certifications to strengthen your resume or increase your IT mastery, here are four that are worth the time and money.
#1: Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
Employers globally recognize the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification—formerly Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer—as the highest level of certification you can achieve in Microsoft operating systems. It is the standard for IT professionals.
The MCSE: Server Infrastructure certification has been replaced with the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification and is one of five new expert-level areas of competence. Late last year, Microsoft streamlined its MCSE offerings. As a result, all current MCSE certification holders have been migrated to one of five specialties:
- MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure
- MCSE: Data Management and Analytics
- MCSE: Mobility
- MCSE: Productivity
- MCSE: Business Applications
Earning the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure expert-level certification indicates that you have the skills needed to effectively run a modern data center, complete with cloud technologies, identity management, virtualization, systems management, networking, storage and more.
This certification lets employers know that you understand how to successfully deploy Windows both on-premise and in the cloud. It qualifies you for jobs such as cloud administrator, cloud architect, computer support specialist or information security analyst.
How to Get It
To become certified, you must pass five exams. Courses are offered at certified training company locations, online through Microsoft and at some high schools and colleges.
This certification builds on the foundation of MCSA: Windows Server 2012, MCSA: Windows Server 2016, MCSA: Cloud Platform or MCSA: Linux or Azure plus a single elective exam.
#2: Veeam Certified Engineer (VMCE)
This certification course provides extensive information on everything Veeam—from architecture to deployment and configuration of all Veeam solutions.
Candidates for this certification include anyone who wants to become an expert on Veeam software including system engineers and administrators, backup and virtualization administrators, salespeople, solution architects and consultants.
How to Get It
Courses are available at one of Veeam's Authorized Training Centers as a three-day instructor-led class but can also be completed online in a remote lab or from your home or office. A recorded Video On Demand Learning (VODL) course is also available online and can be taken over a 30-day period.
The VMCE exam consists of 50 randomized questions and must be taken in person at a certified local testing facility. A score of 70% or higher is required. Certification is valid for the major release of the product attached to the certification, as well as for the next major release.
For current VMCEs, there is also an additional certification course available: VMCE – Advanced Design & Optimization v1. This two-day technical course teaches engineers how to design and optimize the Veeam Availability Suite™ solution.
#3: VMware Certified Professional 5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP5-DCV)
The demand for certified professionals who can install and maintain a virtualization infrastructure continues to grow, and VMware is the world's largest virtualization vendor.
VMware's most successful and longest running certificate, VMware Certified Professional (VCP), is an entry-level certification that validates your ability to install, configure and upgrade vCenter Server and VMware ESXi, vSphere networking and vSphere storage. It also confirms that you are able to deploy and administer virtual machines and vApps.
As VMware has added products to its portfolio, it has also added more specialization and advanced tracks and certifications. The VCP6-DCV certification, part of the Data Center Virtualization track, certifies the ability to perform basic deployment and administration of vCenter and ESXi.
How to Get It
To be certified as a VCP, you will need to take the official VMware course online or in-person and receive a passing score on the VCP exam. VMware requires VCPs to re-certify on their current track every two years. You may instead choose to take an exam in another VCP track or a higher-level exam. With the release of vSphere 6, certification requires an overview exam and a track-focused exam.
If you have a current VCP certification in data center virtualization, you can take a single delta exam. Or if you are currently certified in another VCP track, you can just take the DCV exam.
#4: Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching
A Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching certification is a widely respected certification for network engineers and anyone who needs an in-depth understanding of networking.
As the role of the network engineer continues to evolve with advancements in technology and increased business needs, network engineers and IT professionals will also have to prepare for the next generation of networking — whether on-premise or in the cloud.
This certification covers Cisco networking fundamentals, focusing on foundational IP networking skills required to deploy, operate and troubleshoot network layers 1-3.
Other key topics include awareness of programmable network (SDN) architectures, expanded VPN topics and IPv6 routing protocols and configurations. You will also gain a deep understanding of QoS concepts and cloud resources deployed in the enterprise network environment.
How to Get It
Two training courses are recommended (Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Parts I & II), and two exams are required. An accelerated course, CCNA Routing and Training Boot Camp, is also available and requires a single exam.