A successful career in information technology requires a variety of skills and areas of specialization. Certifications associated with most skills and specialties help IT professionals market themselves as proficient in those areas. Certifications are available through individual technology companies like Cisco or through organizations like the Computing Technology Industry Association, known as CompTIA.
Certifications through CompTIA are available via online tests that can be purchased for prices ranging from $119 to $439, as of October 2019, depending on the specific certification being sought. Certifications are separated into four different categories:
- Core: As the name suggests, four certifications in this category cover the core skills needed for a career as an IT professional. IT Fundamentals+ covers basic knowledge and common practices. A+ expands that knowledge across a broad range of devices and platforms. Network+ addresses connecting wired and wireless devices. Security+ covers the basics and best practices for system security.
- Infrastructure: Three certifications in this category are self-explanatory in regards to the types of platforms they address—Cloud+, Linux+, and Server+.
- Cybersecurity: This category covers three different certifications. CySA+ stands for cybersecurity analyst, and it focuses on behavioral analytics and how they apply to cybersecurity. CASP+ is an advanced certification that goes deeper into critical thinking and how it applies to security. PenTest+ addresses penetration testing, which is a means of testing network security and identifying weaknesses.
- Additional professional: Three additional certifications fall under this category. Project+ deals with delivering IT projects on budget and on time. CTT+ addresses the tools and skills needed for teaching IT skills. Cloud Essentials addresses cloud computing from a business perspective.
A 2018 survey by Cisco asked holders of its Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification what they thought digital infrastructures would look like in the next five years and which types of skills they think will be in most demand. The most important IT networking skills they identified include:
- Virtualization and Green IT: More than two-thirds of respondents predicted virtualization would top the list of networking investments, with chief information officers (CIOs) continuing to focus on reducing IT costs. Respondents also predicted that data center energy efficiency would be the top green IT initiative impacting networks. So, if you want to increase your value in the workplace, look into learning more about this area of green IT.
- Unified Communications (UC): Survey responses suggest that specializing in unified communications, particularly video-based collaboration, also would be a smart career move. Forty-seven percent of respondents said UC would pave the way for increased collaboration in the workforce, and 30% predicted that CIOs will focus on accommodating the needs of a highly collaborative, global workforce. Real-time video solutions also were cited by 52% of respondents as one of the top green IT initiatives that will affect networks and network engineers, and 25% said video would be a top networking trend.
- Security and risk management: Nearly two-thirds of respondents predicted that these would be the most in-demand networking skills. Furthermore, one-third of respondents said they expect network and information security breaches to remain a top concern for CIOs.