It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the IT industry, and for many IT professionals, the difference between having a job and not having one is the right credentials. For those wishing to enter the IT field, preparing in advance by acquiring the most in-demand certifications can make a world of difference. While some of the certifications below may not necessarily be the highest income-earning certifications – though CCIE debate does typically lead to an increase in pay - these certifications will serve to make the bearer infinitely more marketable to employers and enhance their ability to acquire and retain positions.
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
Cisco’s most popular certification, 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. Training for CCNA certification is easy to come by and not terribly expensive, but the exam’s daunting failure rate reflects the complexity and intricacy of the material. It is highly recommended that you possess the CompTIA Network+ certification or have significant networking experience before attempting this certification.
Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
CCIE, Cisco’s most advanced certification, is designed for expert network engineers. According to Cisco fewer than one percent of networking professionals worldwide hold the CCIE certification, 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 United States. 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. Pursuit of CCIE is not to be taken lightly. The process of testing and acquiring the certification is substantially more rigorous than the lesser CCNA, which is a pre-requisite.
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. Experience with Linux in general is always a positive mark on any IT resume, but the RHCE certification reflects a significant degree of familiarity and mastery of the system.
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 within the MCTS certification include Windows Server 2008 R2, Server or Desktop Virtualization. MCTS is appropriate for IT professionals or developers with at least one year of experience and is practically a must-have for most IT workplaces. With Microsoft’s operating systems holding a commanding market share, the vast majority of employers will be using these systems.
Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)
Microsoft’s intermediate-level MCITP certification builds on MCTS credentials. Key certification areas include Enterprise Desktop Administrator, Server Administrator and Enterprise Messaging Administrator. This certification is highly recommended for most system administrators who work in largely Windows-based environments, greatly enhancing the skills learned with the MCTS certification.