Editor's Note: A previous edition of this article covered information on certifications for 2014. It has been updated to account for changes to certification programs up through and including 2016.
Many prospective IT employers actively seek out job candidates who possess college degrees and various specific certifications. Perhaps even your current employer looks at IT certification as an important or deciding factor when it comes to promotions, bonuses, or raises. With so much attention focused on certification, many IT professionals enter the certification maze trying to determine which one is "right" or the "best" for them.
Deciding which certification to pursue is no easy task. There are hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of worthwhile certifications from which to choose. They come in varying shapes and sizes in terms of price (some can be costly), time to complete, ongoing continuing education requirements, and membership or renewal fees. But let's face it—although IT certifications provide IT professionals with specialized information and improved skills and knowledge, certifications must also be worth the investment. At a minimum, they should give you an edge on the competition in a job search or help you move up within the ranks in your current organization.
It can be daunting to sort through the many and various IT certifications to strike the right balance between time and money spent, and then assessing their actual financial and career benefits.
To help in this selection- and decision-making process, many experts and IT professionals rate IT certifications according to specific, well-defined criteria. Although everyone uses different criteria, here we introduce and explain those we consider to be most important: career level, time commitment for completion, number of exams and costs, along with prior experience required, and (of course) the potential for future income such credentials can confer.
We use the ranking system described in this article and apply it to nearly 110 leading IT credentials from 51 vendors. Click below to see a table showing certifications in alphabetical order by vendor/sponsor name.
Click below to see a table showing certifications in order by ranking.