Top 10 IT Certifications in 2012 (CTS)

Mobile, Cloud, Social and Data Analytic Technologies are Expected to be the big movers in 2012, says a December 2011 article from iTWire. Virtualization and security were already buzzwords in 2011, but new in 2012 is the emphasis on enterprise social collaboration and business analytics Technology.

Social enterprise is projected to become a $6.4 billion market by 2016, eclipsing unified communications, with a 61 percent compound annual growth rate, according to a November 2011 Forrester report. Vendor-specific certifications target these applications, for example, IBM credentials or Microsoft certifications for SharePoint Server.

Meanwhile, demand for business intelligence could enhance opportunities for professionals certified in IBM Business Analytics and SAS tools. Database certifications have gained more market value than other classes of IT credential, as noted in an August 2011 report from Foote Partners.

10 Hot IT Certifications for 2012

Networking, virtualization, data mining and security appear among the most valued IT certifications. Industry sources include Robert Half’s 2012 Technology Salary Guide as well as Global Knowledge’s 2011 IT Skills and Salary Report, which provides mean annual salaries for professionals holding these credentials.

1. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

Cisco’s most popular certification, the CCNA covers fundamental administrative skills for entry-level networking professionals working with mid-sized routed and switched networks. Skills include WAN, IP and other protocols, wireless networking, and security. Robert Half estimates that Cisco network administration skills can boost salaries by 9 percent. Global Knowledge lists the mean annual salary for those holding the CCNA at $79,536.

2. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)

CCIE, Cisco’s most advanced certification, is designed for expert network engineers. Less than 1 percent of networking professionals worldwide hold the CCIE, according to Cisco. Cisco no longer reports the number of certifications awarded, but as of 2011 unofficial estimates put the number at 5,496 in the U.S. CCIE is seen as one of the most lucrative certifications. For example, Foote Partners ranks CCIE second only to Cisco Certified Design Expert as a top-paying networking certification in 2011. Those holding the CCIE Routing and switching credential report an average salary of $120,008, according to Global Knowledge.

3. Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)

RHCE targets senior system administrators working with enterprise Linux systems. Building on the basic RHCSA certification, RHCE covers IP traffic routing, virtual host and private directory configuration and other intermediate-level Red Hat skills. Red Hat is the only Linux credential included in Robert Half Technology’s 2012 certification list. RHCE is also a top-earning Linux certification, with an average salary of $92,322 on Global Knowledge’s 2011 survey.

4. Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)

MCTS and MCITP offer training in newer Microsoft technologies like Exchange Server 2010, Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008. High-demand areas include the MCTS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server or Desktop Virtualization. MCTS is appropriate for IT professionals or developers with at least one year of experience.

Professionals with the MCTS took home an average of $73,474 in the 2011 Global Knowledge report. Robert Half notes that IT support staff can claim a 6 percent earnings boost for Windows Server 2008 expertise. SharePoint skills could add a salary premium of 12 percent for developers in the U.S., while SQL Server database skills reportedly boost salary by 10 percent for database professionals.

5. Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)

Microsoft’s intermediate-level credential builds on the MCTS certification. Key certification areas include Enterprise Desktop Administrator, Server Administrator and Enterprise Messaging Administrator. Global Knowledge indicates that MCITP Enterprise Administrator-certified professionals earn $79,824, on average.

6. Project Management Professional (PMP)

PMP, considered the gold standard for project managers, is available to candidates with at least three years of industry experience, a bachelor’s degree and 35 hours of project management education. PMP validates the skills necessary to lead a technology project, including planning, budgeting and project execution. According to Project Management Institute, PMP professionals increase their earning power by 10 percent. Robert Half estimates that project managers earned $76,250 to $113,000 in the U.S. in 2011. With the PMP, the mean salary can reach $103,570, says Global Knowledge.

7. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP certification from (ISC)2 is among the top-earning certifications in security, with an average salary of $100,735 per Global Knowledge. Security professionals with at least five years’ experience can seek this credential. Named among PCWorld’s IT Certifications That Matter in 2010, CISSP validates competency in domains such as security architecture, cryptography, telecommunications security, application development security and more.

8. Check Point Certified Security Administrator (CCSA)

Check Point’s CCSA and CCSE certifications join the CISSP on Robert Half Technology’s list of the security credentials in greatest demand in 2012. CCSA is the entry-level qualification, requiring a basic knowledge of networking. The CCSA demonstrates administrative capability for Check Point 3D Security systems, from implementation and configuration to daily management. Global Knowledge sees average wages of $93,512 for CCSA-certified professionals, while Robert Half calculates that Check Point Firewall administration skills can add a 7 percent salary premium.

9. VMware Certified Professional (VCP)

Virtualization skills are on the top of IT employers’ wish lists in 2012. Robert Half calls the VCP the virtualization certification in greatest demand for 2012 and predicts salary premiums of 9 percent for Internet professionals as well as systems engineers with these qualifications. The VCP shows skills in the deployment and administration of enterprise virtualization technology VMware vSphere 4. Different tracks accommodate both basic and advanced skill levels. No official count exists for VCPs worldwide, but the VCP community estimates there are over 20,000 certified professionals. Global Knowledge shows an income of $87,151 for IT pros with this certification.

10. CompTIA A+ (A+)

For entry-level IT support professionals, A+ certification remains an essential vendor-neutral credential. Technology companies such as Dell and Intel, and the federal government, endorse or require A+ certification for IT service technician jobs. The certification covers preventative maintenance, networking, installation, security and troubleshooting. A+ Professional earn a mean yearly salary of $67,608 in Global Knowledge’s 2011 survey, compared to $49,930, the 2010 mean annual wage for all computer support specialists reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CompTIA A+ PC Technician is among the few certifications to post a gain in market value this past year, according to an August 2011 Foote Partners report.

IT Trends for 2012

A vast data infrastructure calls for IT pros in cutting-edge tech like social enterprise architecture, fundamental roles like Microsoft Windows support, and specializations like business analytics. IT certifications offer a way to rise to the challenges of the ever-changing computing environment, with the chance to develop expertise in key technologies.


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