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11 Best IT Certifications For Cutting-Edge Skills

Networking and infrastructure professionals looking to improve their job skills should consider these groundbreaking training programs.
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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. 

 

Susan Fogarty has almost two decades of experience writing and developing content for IT professionals, especially those deeply involved in enterprise network infrastructure. She previously worked at TechTarget, where she spent 11 years, six as the Editorial Director of its ... View Full Bio

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Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
6/17/2014 | 1:05:03 PM
Additional certs?
What other additional certifications are community members thinking of to broaden their expertise? I'm sure we missed some -- let us know what they are.
OrhanErgun
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OrhanErgun,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/17/2014 | 2:25:04 PM
Re: Additional certs?
I would like to see CCDE in  the list. It deserves.:)
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/18/2014 | 2:38:24 AM
Re: Additional certs?
Although I am struggling these days to complete my CCIE, but i feel ITIL and JNCIE should also be allowed to make in space in your list.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
6/19/2014 | 9:48:39 AM
Re: Additional certs?
Aditya, thanks for the feedback. I hear conflicting things about ITIL these days and how it works with newer architectures like cloud and SDN. Are companies still training employees in ITIL?
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/20/2014 | 1:30:23 AM
Re: Additional certs?
Yes i can still see numbers increasing for ITIL certification, although i am not sure about conflicting points, would be helpful if you can share some of them here. Also Cloud and SDN is more about Software and SAM (Software asset managment) is a primary topic of ITILv2 and is closely associated with the ITIL Application Management function.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
6/20/2014 | 10:34:13 AM
Re: Additional certs?
Aditya, I unfortunately don't quite understand all the details of the disagreement, but there's an article about it here:

http://ubm.io/1m3H6Ec

And I have heard other speakers and experts say that that ITIL's is too static and forces businesses to adapt to a common model when they should be developing one that is unique to their own needs.
ReturnoftheMus
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ReturnoftheMus,
User Rank: Moderator
6/20/2014 | 1:25:02 PM
LOL, if World-War III were to break out tomorrow Greg would probably blame it on ITIL
'ITIL's is too static and forces businesses to adapt to a common model'

That common model has helped many an Enterprise solve the business/IT alignment conundrum that has plauged them for many years. It's also a framework and like all frameworks, you pick and choose the parts that are most relevant.

However, in this context I doubt it could be classed as a cutting-edge skill, a bit like Project and Risk Management, only for the experienced.

I think the best bets on the list were NSX and Cisco's Network Programmabilty offerings, everything else seemed more geared towards developers. On the OpenStack front, I'd probably go with the RedHat distro rather than Mirantis.
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2014 | 2:38:27 AM
Re: Additional certs?
Yes I agree ITIL ask you to adapt common model, but again you can modify or make hybrid model as per your need. But this shall increase management pain and i guess just to reduce stress and glichtes in process and management ITIL helps you to bring your self on common platform.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
6/18/2014 | 6:45:30 AM
Re: Additional certs?
@Susan, data is increasing becoming mobile and financial data is also coming along for the ride. This make risk and information management very important, individuals in the financial departments have a lot of demand to learn about techniques by which data can be audited, tracked and secured (both from attackers and backups). I feel this is one reason that makes CRISC certification among the top paying certifications for 2014.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
6/19/2014 | 9:46:15 AM
Re: Additional certs?
Brian, I think you're right. There is a lot riding on the success or failure of these folks, so they should be paid well, IMO.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
6/20/2014 | 9:19:15 AM
Re: Additional certs?
Susan, that is a good point, often times it can take decades to buildup these expertise, either through education/certification or from experience, or both, all this requires resources in the form of time or capital, and the returns should definitely be able to match the initial investment.

And rightly so, a firm should expect to compensate an individual that is going from a financial management position to a CFO position, with a $100k+ range pay. 
PMH553
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PMH553,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 5:25:43 PM
Re: Additional certs?
Additional certs play a big role in landing interview and possibly a good job. I always hear that I have 20 years of experience why do I need a cert? Well the person next to you has 15 years experience and has it thats why. There is a point in time where the years of experience flat line as a sell to a company. I know it is not IT technical but PMP Certifcation can be used by anyone. 
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 12:33:12 PM
Re: Additional certs?
@PMH553:

Agreed. While certs do not prove your skills, they do end up doing a couple of favorable things for you on a personal level:

- Make your resumé look better (purely subjective)

- Match keywords from searches (e.g "CCNP or equivalent") meaning you get considered more often

- Provide a differentiator between you and somebody equally capable

 

 
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Strategist
6/21/2014 | 10:30:22 AM
Cost

These certs are all nice to have but not everyone can afford to get certified. That's the issue I have with these certs. I think it's somewhat of a racquet.

aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/23/2014 | 2:41:51 AM
Re: Cost
In India most of the companies and enterprise are sponsoring these kind of certification. I did CCNA, CCNP, JNCIA and they all were sponsored by my company. The only condition is i should pass, in case i fail the exam i had to bear the cost.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
6/23/2014 | 4:21:02 PM
Re: Cost
That condition souds like major motivation to study up before the exam!
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
6/28/2014 | 11:27:00 PM
Re: Cost
For many years my employer paid for exams on the basis that they would pay for your first attempt, and the one you pass. That way you get some buffer especially for less well known exams (or very new versions of them) that don't have the same level of study material out there for them - but the pressure is still very much on you to pass.

 

I think that's a particularly fair policy; so for example with the CCIE, it seems wholly unreasonable to say that a company will only pay for the one you pass, given that most people still fail first time...
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 3:13:48 AM
Re: Cost
I agree you jgherbert on CCIE, one of the exam which seeks lot of pratice, attention and money with chances of getting fail at first attempt. But still fact is company will only pay when you achieve passing grades otherwise you need to feel the loss.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 9:31:51 AM
Re: Cost
@aditshar1: "But still fact is company will only pay when you achieve passing grades otherwise you need to feel the loss."

Obviously I'm not going to argue with what your company actually does, but I will say that in my opinion, the "pay for the first time and the time you pass" is a much more equitable system. It still prevents people from taking exams over and over again at the company's expense, but it does also give some wiggle room for when you simply have a bad day, or realize you totally misunderstood a test. It happens, and certainly with the cost of CCIE I'm not sure I personally could take the financial risk on having to pay for an exam (plus travel expenses) that most people fail on first try. And then the company most likely wants to tie you in for at least a year afterwards in return for ME taking the risk? No thanks.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
6/30/2014 | 4:52:00 PM
Re: Cost
@jgherbert -- That approach sounds like a practical one if a company really wants to encourage its employees to earn certifications.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
6/23/2014 | 9:58:46 AM
Re: Cost
Paul, I have to say I agree with you that the certification model of education and proving your worth is not particularly fair or effective. It just seems to be the way the industry has evolved. As @aditshar pointed out, his company paid for several certification programs for him. But I believe he works for an extremely large company. So only the IT pros working in that environment where their employers have big training budgets are really able to benefit.

I also think the vendor-centric nature of the certs is going to rapidly decline in usefulness, and I wonder if we'll see more cross-vendor certs, or more people not bothering to get certified in the first place because the skills are not applicable enough to their real work. Anyone have thoughts on that?
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/24/2014 | 1:47:27 AM
Re: Cost
I agree you on cross vendor certification, but one hiring tend these days shows that employers prefer candidate with valid certification in the area they expertise. But i do admit that too many certifications also hamper your resume.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
6/26/2014 | 9:34:46 AM
Re: Cost
I always wonder when I see a person with a really long list of certifications how they possibly had time to study and take all of those tests while doing a full-time job. If you are a consultant or something I can see why it might be really useful for getting clients and work, but if not, it seems kind of extraneous to just collect them...
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
6/26/2014 | 10:59:18 AM
Re: Cost
Certifications are always a big point of debate in security; while many say you can't be without a CISSP, others say practical experience is way more valuable, and is what employers are looking for above all. I'm guessing a lot of employers though use the CISSP as a checklist item in hiring.
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/27/2014 | 2:25:20 AM
Re: Cost
Any one out here for Certified Data Centre Management Professional (CDCMP), how well it suits cloud and virtulization needs. Any experiances .
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/27/2014 | 2:17:43 AM
Re: Cost
@Susan, You keep up a point, no use of collecting bunch of certificates it will just take your resume in different and confusing direction. I believe your certificates should reflect your expertise so employer understand what exactly candidate can deliver.
AbeG
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AbeG,
User Rank: Black Belt
6/28/2014 | 5:58:17 PM
Re: Cost
I think certifications are a very controversial issue.  Some people will justify cheating on exams and that may be one (not the only) explanation behind some people who have a long list of certifications.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Strategist
6/24/2014 | 6:28:47 PM
Re: Cost

@Susan... Yes, if you are employed by a company that will pay for you to become certified that's great. If you are coming out of school and trying to break into the field it makes it tough. I don't see certs going away anytime soon.

AbeG
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AbeG,
User Rank: Black Belt
6/28/2014 | 6:09:30 PM
Re: Cost
The question also, of who benefits more employee or employer when the employer pays for the certification?

Oftentimes, the employer will only pay for the certification if the employee gets a passing grade, which can be risky for the employee considering how difficult some of these certifications are.  This could be yet another justification for cheating, not being able to afford (literaly) to fail.

Another common stipulation may be that the employee can only get re-imbursed for 1-2 exams per year and must agree to work at the company for say 1yr after the last exam has been taken.  Let's say a person is going for a certification that requires 5 exams.  That means, it would take you at least 3yrs to get certified if you want to be re-imbursed, plus an extra year working for the company.  Once these 4yrs are over, it is likely that the certification provider has already created an updated version of the credential.

At that point, do you start the process all over again or maybe enter the job marketplace with an outdated credential?
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Strategist
6/29/2014 | 2:58:24 PM
Re: Cost
I can understand those stipulations. If I owned a company and I was paying for my employee it would have to benefit the company. I would require a passing grade to get reimbursed.
AbeG
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AbeG,
User Rank: Black Belt
6/28/2014 | 6:02:45 PM
Re: Cost
I agree.  Not only is cost an issue, but then there is the question of who stands to benefit the most from the fact that you just spend a lot of time and money getting certified?

When there is an abundance of certified professionals for competing technology #1 vs. competingn tech #2.  Technology #1 will become more popular because the labor will end up being cheaper and there will be more experts who know how to handle it, thereby giving the technology a better reputation of being efficient, reliable, and trusted by many industry professionals.
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