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Ranking Certifications, Part 2: The Ratings (2011 Edition)

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Aspiring or active IT professionals can benefit from an improved understanding of how top IT certifications are ranked in terms of time commitment, cost, and other factors to obtain the certification against the ultimate financial or career advancement return on investment. Here, you’ll find a table with rankings for more than 100 top IT certifications.

Editor's Note: This is the 2011 version of this article. For a more recent look at certifications and their rankings, please go to the 2012 Edition of this article, posted on February 10, 2012.

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Aspiring or active IT professionals can benefit from an improved understanding of how top IT certifications are ranked in terms of time commitment, cost, and other factors to obtain the certification against the ultimate financial or career advancement return on investment. Here, you’ll find a table with rankings for the 86 top IT certifications.

Certifications Mentioned

There are 86 certifications from 28 vendors listed in our rankings. To see the list in alphabetical order by vendor/sponsor name, click here to open a PDF.

To see the certifications in order by ranking, click here to open a PDF.

The Rankings

In Ranking Certifications, Part 1: One Method for Rating Certifications, we examined one way to take an objective look at how the time commitment for completion, cost, and other factors stack up when compared to the financial benefit that we all hope to reap by obtaining such certifications. The criteria included career level, completion time, number of exams required, exam cost, prior experience or skill required, and perhaps most importantly, the income earning potential associated with such certification.

We used the ranking system described in Ranking Certifications, Part 1 and applied it to 86 leading IT credentials. Because of the high value of experience and pay related to the credential, we double those values and add them to the rest of the ranking values unchanged (and thus also unweighted). We also used an out-of-range value for experience in the CCIE ranking because of its extremely demanding curriculum and numerous observations that this credential demands an unusually high level of technical acumen and experience.

You can add other criteria to create your own chart, with your own values and ranking approach, but our rankings should give you enough information to assist in your decision making when selecting the right IT certification in which to invest your time and money.

The ranking is organized as follows:

  • Name: Provides a moniker for each certification.
  • Level: Defines a job ranking as entry-level (2), intermediate (4), advanced (6) or expert (8).
  • Time: Defines the average time to completion in months.
  • # Exams: The total number of exams required.
  • Cost: Totals the cost for the exams that must be taken. We divide this number by 100 to scale it to match other ranking values, so the value represents thousands of dollars.
  • Experience: Defines how much hands-on experience is required to attain this cert. Valid values are low (2), medium (4), high (6) and extremely high (8). Some values go even higher than this, as you will see for the CCIE. We double this value when calculating the rank metric to make sure it receives proper emphasis.
  • $$$: Defines the income potential for cert holders. Values come from averaging reported pay at Indeed.com for job postings that mention the certification by name. All $$$ values are divided by 10,000 to adjust pay into a range between 3 and 16, but the weighting algorithm doubles this value to make sure it assumes its proper significance.
  • Rank: Sums the total of all ranking values for the certification.

For more information on the criteria definitions and ranking weights for this table, please see Ranking Certifications, Part 1: One Method for Rating Certifications.

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