Unlike many other senior level IT credentials, not all IT Architect certifications are vendor-specific. In fact, a leading sponsor of vendor-specific credentials in this areanamely, Microsoftrealized the need for industry-wide and vendor-neutral certs in this space and is a major sponsor and underwriter of IASA, an association for IT architects of all stripes. Other key vendor-neutral players include the Open Group’s IT Architect Certification (ITAC) program, the Institute for Enterprise Architecture Developments (IFEAD), and the Federated Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute (FEAC). Even Carnegie-Mellon University’s esteemed Software Engineering Institute (SEI) offers an SEI Software Architecture Professional Certificate as well. Of all of these offerings, the SEI and ITAC offerings have been around longest, and probably enjoy the biggest name-recognition and industry following, though all of these appear legitimate and at least worthy of investigation.
Beyond the vendor-neutral realm, where acquiring a cert will bring general credibility, it is often necessary to venture into the vendor-specific realm to acquire credentials for a specific platform, operating system, or vendor-related knowledge to tackle some or all of a IT Architect’s job role requirements. Here’s a short list of the leading vendor-specific IT architect programs, in alphabetical order by sponsor:
- Brocade Certified Architect for FICON: of all the items in this list, this is the only architect-labeled credential to also be described as “intermediate level;” all the other items in this list are labeled advanced, and most of them represent the pinnacle of the various certification programs or ladders to which they belong. Candidates have two recommended courses to consider and a single exam to take for this credential.
- Check Point Certified Master Architect: Like many other high-end certs, this one involves extensive experience and preparation, plus both a written and a demanding lab exam. Candidates must hold CCSA, CCSE, and CCSE+ certifications to qualify for this program, and should have 5 or more years’ experience working with Check Point products.
- Cisco Certified Architect: Described as “the highest level of accreditation achievable within the Cisco Career Certification program,” candidates must first earn a CCDE (Cisco Certified Design Engineer, which itself takes the CCIE as a pre-requisite). A lengthy application (including original content that candidates must develop) and a demanding board exam are required to earn this credential.
- Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) for Virtualization: Candidates must first earn the Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) for Virtualization before they can enter this program. Next, they must earn (and document) extensive hands-on experience in the field, pass a detailed and demanding architecting exam, and file a complete application.
- Microsoft Certified Architect: Candidates generally have ten or more years of IT experience, and five or more years of specific IT architecture experience as well. A Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) credential is also a pre-requisite for this program. Candidates often take six months to a year to prepare the required program documentation, which includes a work history, an architectural solution case study, and an explanation of how skills and work experience apply to each of all seven of Microsoft’s architect competencies.
- Oracle Certified Master, Java EE 5 Enterprise Architect: Candidates must take and pass two exams and submit a lengthy essay that documents a complex and demanding development project crafted to meet a detailed assignment/specification document. Candidates who hold the Sun Certified Enterprise Architect (SCEA) certification may also take advantage of an upgrade path to this credential by taking a single exam.
- Red Hat Certified Architect: Red Hat’s senior-most Linux credential focuses on deployment and management of numerous systems in large enterprise environments. To qualify for this program, candidates must first earn the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) credential, then take and pass 5 expertise exams (each of which is associated with a 3-5 day class that costs from $3,000 to $5,000 to take; candidates do not have to take these classes, but they are “strongly recommended”).
- SAP Certified Professional Enterprise Architect: Candidates must take and pass a single exam to qualify for this credential, and complete several assigned projects as well. Any of the following SAP certifications may serve as a pre-requisite to qualify for this one: SAP Certified Application AssociateBusiness Process Expert, SAP Certified Associate Enterprise Architect, or SAP Certified Associate Technology Architect. It is the capstone of the SAP consultant certification program, and in ultra-high demand.
Generally, the IT Architect roleand the certifications that go with itappeal to technical experts who don’t shy away from demanding requirements and pre-requisites as they seek to add skills and knowledge to their already distinguished careers. None of these certs is for the faint of heart, or for those not prepared to devote a year or more of their lives (and spare time) to their pursuits. But the rewards can be great, and many of the more specialized credentials routinely lead to salaries in excess of $150,000 per year, and serious responsibilities and high visibility to go along with them.