Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

11 Best IT Certifications For Cutting-Edge Skills

  • The networking industry is suffering a bit of an identity crisis, making the once clear path to networking success seem mighty murky. Industry leaders are debating basic ideas like whether networks should be hardware or software, and a significant percentage of the most experienced architects and engineers are veering off into such disciplines as virtualization, cloud architecture, and even application development.

    Cisco's CCIE has long been the pinnacle of networking certifications. But in a time of uncertainty, the predictable route may not be the best one. Even Cisco is introducing new education programs to adapt to the changing technology landscape, as you'll see.

    So, this might not be the best time to lean back on that old CCNA and take it easy. In fact, it's probably an excellent time for enterprising IT pros to explore the new opportunities in emerging technologies and job roles. We've assembled a list of certification and training programs in areas that show large amounts of growth for networking professionals. Check them out and consider just where your career path might take you next. 

    Looking for IT education? Interop Las Vegas offers dozens of learning opportunities and showcases the latest technology developments. Don't miss out! Register now for Interop, May 2-6, and receive $200 off.

  • Amazon Web Services Solution Architect

    How many businesses do you know of that don't use AWS at all? Right, neither do we. That's why it might be a very good idea to look into the Amazon Web Services certification program. The Professional level of the Solutions Architect certification aims at networking pros with two or more years of experience designing and deploying cloud environments on AWS. Their job would entail evaluating cloud application requirements and making architectural recommendations for implementation, deployment, and provisioning applications, as well as providing guidance on design across multiple applications, projects, or the enterprise as a whole. AWS offers three-day training classes to help prepare for the certification exams.

  • VMware network virtualization training

    Based upon its NSX network virtualization platform, VMware has launched a series of NSX training and certification classes slated to become full certification programs later this fall. The company stresses, however, that its education is not simply about its product, but about the changing nature of network architecture and providing expanding opportunities for IT professionals in a changing environment. It even points out how its programs align to Cisco certifications on its web page. The first class, in beta now, focuses on network virtualization in the context of the software-defined data center and is five days long.

  • Certified ScrumMaster

    Although this certification sounds like something you might have pretended to be in the basement with a group of dorky high-school friends, the Certified ScrumMaster is actually a sought-after designation in application development. Scrum refers to an iterative and team-based approach to agile development; the ScrumMaster plays a crucial role leading teams through the process helping them work together. As DevOps flourishes, these professionals will be in high demand.

    Offered by the Scrum Alliance, the ScrumMaster certification requires taking a two-day live class and passing an exam. Recipients must also agree to a path of continuous improvement, involvement in the Scrum community, and incorporating Scrum principles and practices into daily work.

  • CRISC certification

    Barely a day goes by without news of yet another major retail or international security breach, leading us to think that risk management is a pretty good bet for beefing up your skills. The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification was introduced by the non-profit security organization ISACA in 2010. Since then, the cert has gained an excellent reputation, rising to number one on Global Knowledge's list of top-paying certifications for 2014 earlier this year (with recipients earning $118,000 per year on average).

    Of course, one cannot attain the CRISC designation overnight; it is intended for IT professionals who work in the field managing complex information security controls. In addition to passing the required exam, candidates must have three years of work experience against three of the domains covered by the certification. These include risk identification, assessment and evaluation; risk response; risk monitoring; information systems control design and implementation; and information systems control monitoring and maintenance. The exam must be taken in person, and is offered only in June and December.

  • Hurricane Electric IPv6 hands-on learning

    Many networking professionals are finding themselves faced with depleted IPv4 addresses, impending IPv6 migration, and the many resulting questions. Although the protocol is covered in many broad Cisco certifications and a few companies provide classes in IPv6, if can be difficult to demonstrate "official" proficiency. Internet service provider Hurricane Electric offers a series of free IPv6 certification exams aimed at helping individuals demonstrate familiarity with IPv6 concepts and the ability to correctly configure IPv6 systems. The program is presented as a series of tasks the student must perform by applying complex knowledge learned along the way. Merit badges are awarded as the student progresses, all the way from "Newbie" to "Sage," the highest level.

  • Mirantis OpenStack certifications

    Software startup Mirantis is offering its own OpenStack Certification Exams, currently the only company to offer a vendor-agnostic certificate in the open-source cloud platform. As OpenStack becomes a prominent feature of corporate architectures around the world, IT professionals with expertise in the field will be sitting pretty. Mirantis offers Associate and Professional level exams now, with plans for a Master level in the future, according to the company's website. In addition to proctored exams, prospective students can also purchase study materials and three-day bootcamp sessions.

  • SNIA Certified Storage Network Expert

    Who doesn't need more storage? With the constant mushrooming of data quantities and the acceleration of big data analysis, enterprises are storing -- and accessing -- more data than ever. What's more, storage environments are increasingly heterogeneous, connecting a variety of storage technologies, from SAN to NAS to cloud-based file sharing. By attaining this designation from the vendor-neutral Storage Networking Industry Association, infrastructure pros can ready themselves for what will undoubtedly be a dynamic future on the storage front. Even better, they can expect an immediate 5% to 11% bump in pay, as well as a 30% to 40% increase in their market value when it comes time to consider making a career move, according to SNIA.

  • Certified Wireless Networking Professional

    Having made the transition from luxury to necessity, wireless networks are integral to the enterprise landscape and only gaining in importance. The same can be said of the skills required to design, build, and maintain those wireless networks, making the Certified Wireless Network Professional group of certifications from the vendor-neutral standards organization of the same name some of the fastest-growing specialties in IT. Most in demand, according to professional research firm Foote Partners, are the CWSP security specialization and the highest ranking CWNE expert level. Pay for these certifications was up 35% and 42% respectively in the year from April 2013 to 2014, said the firm.

  • Cisco network programmability

    Networking hardware giant Cisco, which awards more professional certifications in the industry than any other entity, is creating new education for networking job roles that will focus on network programmability services and architectures. As part of this, it's offering a short Introduction to Network Programmability Fundamentals course online now, and will launch four new certifications in the fall of 2014. These include the Business Application Engineer, Network Application Developer, Network Programmability Designer, and Network Programmability Support.

    Geared toward software developers and networking professionals working in software-defined and open network environments such as Cisco One and ACI, these programs are intended to accelerate the pace of software development, applications deployment, operations, and troubleshooting for programmable network environments.