Redmond's Top 10 Hot Certs for 2008
Here are our predictions for next year's fastest-climbing certifications.
When it comes to IT certification, there's no such thing as a perfect, "one-size-fits-all"
title for every candidate or every job. Some employers don't even care if their
candidates are certified (see "Certification: No Magic Bullet").
Still, it's helpful to know what your peers, coworkers and competition are
planning in the next year. That's why we're taking a stab at predicting the
10 certifications we think will be "hot" over the next year. By hot,
we don't necessarily mean the most popular. If that was the criteria, Microsoft's
MCP would always be first. We're talking about the ones we think will climb
the fastest over the coming year, like "hot singles" on Billboard's
With all the new certifications Microsoft has launched in the last year (28
and counting) and most of you being Microsoft-focused, it's no surprise that
the company's new titles would dominate our top 10 hot certs for 2008. So what
exactly is Microsoft's new certification structure?
Here's a quick primer if you aren't familiar with the next generation of certifications
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): This is the new first level
of Microsoft's certification program. It's basically the company's new Microsoft
Certified Professional track, with entry-level titles that take from one to
three exams to earn.
- Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): This is the next step
up for networking professionals, with its titles roughly equivalent to MCSE.
There are currently five MCITP titles. These are considered higher-level because
of the technology they cover and their focus on job roles.
- Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD): This is the other
group of mid-level certifications Microsoft is offering for developers. Right
now, there are three MCPD titles, all for specific job roles: Web developer,
Windows developer and enterprise applications developer.
- Microsoft Certified Architect: This is the brand-new, high-level
certification. Architecture professionals earn this title based on an intense
peer-review process. That and its $10,000 price tag will ensure that it remains
elite for years to come.
|We asked readers
responding to our salary survey to tell us what certifications
they hold, plus what they plan to earn during the next 18 months.
We converted this data into a point scale, which is the biggest
part of our scoring equation. We also added data culled from
a survey of 408 hiring managers to see which of these titles
they wanted most, and included general buzz from the industry
to make sure the final 10 titles are truly worthy of being "hot
certs." (For more on what hiring managers are thinking,
see "What Do Hiring Managers Want?") --B.N.
That's the basic framework. So here's our best guess at what we think will
be the top 10 hottest certifications over the next year. Let us know what you
think -- post your personal top 10 at the bottom
of this article.
This is the only MCPD certification to make our top 10 list. This will be the
title to identify yourself as a Web developer with well-rounded .NET skills.
And for most who get the MCTS: .NET Web 2.0 title, it requires passing only
one additional exam.
This one-exam title is basically the equivalent of an MCP or Microsoft's Certified
Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) for Vista. It's one of only a handful of
titles in Microsoft's new certification lineup that's Vista-specific. Look for
this cert to pick up steam.
This is the only "old-school" Microsoft designation to make our list.
Thanks to its recognizable MCSE brand along with the well-documented need for
Exchange and messaging experts, this title blasted past fierce competition from
newer Microsoft certifications. If you want a certification tied to your Exchange
skills, go for this MCSE.
Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
This long-running and highly respected mid-level certification from Cisco Systems
Inc. is the only title to break the Microsoft juggernaut on our top 10 list.
All of Cisco's certifications have an excellent reputation, thanks to lots of
hands-on questions throughout almost every exam, high visibility with hiring
managers and IT professionals alike, and covering hardware that's basically
ubiquitous across all networks.
|This is a list
of top 10 certifications total, and two certifications tied
for fifth place -- so we skipped sixth place on the list.
5 (Tie): MCITP
Database Developer and MCTS
.NET Web 2.0
These are two new Microsoft certifications you may not have heard of -- yet.
The MCTS: .NET Web 2.0 title is the first step for any Web developer's 2.0-certification
path, and requires just two exams. Considering the Web-based direction development
is heading, it's not surprising the only two development-related titles to make
this list are both Web-focused. The MCITP Database Developer is one of several
database-related titles to make the top half of this list.
SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence:
How did a such a specialized SQL certification land so
high on this list? SQL is hot, and BI is where the real money is coming. If
you're going to certify your SQL BI skills, this is the perfect solution. Few
IT hiring managers recognize this title yet, but the combination of high reader-desirability
plus excellent buzz make this the SQL specialization title to get in 2008.
Enterprise Support Technician
How do you get ahead as a support technician? Focusing on the enterprise may
be one way. Enterprise shops by nature have more complicated environments, and
since they're generally larger, they typically pay more.
This is the be-all, end-all of the new Microsoft certifications: a $10,000 price
tag, rigorous testing through a live peer-review panel, and pre-qualifications
that exclude all but the most experienced IT professionals. With experienced
Microsoft architects earning more than $100,000 per year, expect to see this
title in this lofty position for years to come.
No Magic Bullet
While many of
our IT manager readers expressed a preference for one or more
certifications, a full 25 percent said they don't look for
any credential. A few even ventured to say that certification
can be a negative.
"Certifications only prove that the candidates can pass
tests -- nothing more," comments one reader. "Holding
a certification doesn't correlate [with] the ability to do
the work, and often indicates an inability to do the work,"
The fact that many IT and hiring managers don't consider
certification a plus shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Back in the certification heydays of the late '90s, many companies
were burned when candidates were hired based on their certifications
and little else. Employers soon caught on to "paper certifications"
-- those who learned only through books and training.
While many certification vendors, including Microsoft, have
taken steps to improve the difficulty and security of exams,
anyone getting certified should know that the value of any
title will vary significantly from employer to employer. Here
are three basic tips to ensure you make the most out of your
1. Don't spend a lot to get certified. Consider self-study
books, home labs and online user groups in lieu of expensive,
in-person training. If you decide to go the instructor-led
route, consider attending a local community college. This
will take longer, but you'll most likely pay a lot less.
2. Don't overreach. Many newcomers to IT think if
one acronym behind their name is good, five must be better.
That thinking couldn't be more wrong. Many IT managers see
an acronym soup of certifications as a red flag that the candidate
is "paper certified." Most experts recommend looking
at the job market in your area, seeing which certifications
are most desirable and then pursuing one or two titles at
your current level or one step above.
3. Get experience any way you can. Experience is the
key for any IT job, but it's a catch-22 for anyone new to
the industry. How can you get experience without having a
job? Any way you can. Volunteer for a local community organization
or school, network within IT user groups and help other members
with projects or tinker with a home lab. It's better than
walking into a job interview with nothing more than a vendor
SQL Server 2005
SQL is the perfect specialization for most any IT pro, as only the purest networking
and hardware tasks don't have some sort of back-end database. Hiring managers
love it, and it's a low-level MCTS title, so you can add this SQL specialization
to your resume by passing only one exam.
Other titles that made this list might have given us pause, but we're firmly
behind any plans you may have to specialize in SQL in the upcoming year.