Just because an IT certification isn’t well-known or sought after doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile pursuit. In fact, here are some certifications we hope will gain more attention this year. Looking to get ahead of the curve? You’ve come to the right place.
Choosing which certification to pursue can be tricky. Study, test prep, and testing will consume your effort, time, and money, even if you’re already skilled in the subject area.
When comparing certifications, there are common questions that are useful, including:
– How much will it contribute to my career (in terms of pay, promotions, and hireability)?
– Is the topic interesting?
– Does it build on what I already know, and am I good at this sort of thing?
– Does this lead to a job I want to be doing?
One reliable default is to pick a tried-and-true certification: a widely-accepted certification in a long-lived domain, like the CompTIA “Holy Trinity” or PMI’s PMP®. These certifications do seem perennially valuable. They focus on platforms with staying power, involve skills not easily automated, and address problem areas that won’t go away. Still, sometimes they do go away. For instance, Netware certifications are not in demand anymore (and that’s not a bad thing).
An alternative strategy is to shift to the front of the curve and get certified in an emerging discipline in an up-and-coming technology. Your goal is to identify a skill set that’s recognized as valuable by many organizations and attested to by a trusted certifying organization that focuses on real-world application of your skills and knowledge.
Picking such a competency area — and a worthwhile certification for it — is tricky when the area is still changing. Some hot technologies simply haven’t shaken out yet — for instance, blockchain and decentralized applications are still pretty immature.
Let’s look at certifications associated with three maturing technology trends whose synergies will shape technology for many years to come.
Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)
In the cloud computing world, container orchestration and serverless computing are technologies to watch. If you haven’t already, you should get up to speed on container technologies such as Docker.
Kubernetes, which started at Google, is an open-source framework for automated management of large numbers of containers. It’s becoming the de facto cross-vendor solution for automating the deployment and management of containerized applications to provide scalability, availability, and fault tolerance.
Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and AWS have all joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which hosts Kubernetes. Docker is adding integrated Kubernetes support and Amazon’s AWS will have built-in support, integrating Kubernetes with key AWS services.
As you probably guessed, a deep understanding of cloud technologies is needed if you want to pursue CKA certification. If you don’t have that knowledge, there’s a lot of good training options out there.
Plus, Kubernetes has a significant learning curve and using it well calls for considerable knowledge and skill. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation now offers a Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) certification “to provide assurance that CKAs have the skills, knowledge, and competency to perform the responsibilities of Kubernetes administrators.” Take a look at the curriculum, which has been open sourced, to help your decision.
Data science, machine learning, and deep learning have not only moved from academia into practice, they are becoming pervasive technologies — detecting credit card fraud, categorizing images, conversing with us, and assisting (or replacing) drivers on the streets.
The tooling and infrastructure for building machine learning applications is reaching the broader developer population. It’s becoming possible for non-experts to do weekend machine learning projects, like protecting a chicken coop via TensorFlow on a Raspberry Pi; and the major cloud providers are all rolling out AI-as-a-service initiatives — the Google Cloud Machine Learning Engine, Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning Platform, and Amazon Machine Learning.
But companies have only begun to scratch the surface of how machine learning will disrupt their default ways of doing business. To move into machine learning, you’ll benefit from bringing analytical and math skills to the table. But the key addition to your toolbox is the ability to think not only in terms of designing and testing software but also in building and vetting models.
The Microsoft MCSA: Machine Learning certification “demonstrates your expertise in operationalizing Microsoft Azure machine learning and Big Data.” Two exams, Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R and Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning, are involved.
To get started, you’ll need to earn a Microsoft MTA Database Essentials certification to be eligible to take the two exams required for MCSA: Machine Learning certification. Once you earn it, you can set your eyes on MCSE: Data Management and Analytics certification, which is Microsoft’s expert-level series.
The connected devices, appliances, vehicles, and industrial equipment that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) are growing ubiquitous. Though we’re not yet to the point where “your toaster mines bitcoins to pay off its gambling debts to the fridge,” it is the case that experts expect more than 20 billion objects of various types to be connected to the Internet by 2020.
With fleets of devices interacting with the cloud, the major cloud providers are actively innovating to support IoT. Amazon’s AWS IoT services, Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite, and Google Cloud IoT are are all beefing up to cover more of the IoT stack and expand services from the traditional cloud to edge computing and fog computing.
The Internet of Things is still fragmented, to the point that there is no certification that spans the topic area, from home to office to industrial plant to vehicle to farm. But if IoT in an industrial setting is your interest, the Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist certification is aimed at plant administrators, control system engineers, and traditional network engineers in “in today’s connected plants and enterprises” — specifically, manufacturing, process control, and the oil and gas industries.
This certification is an associate-level cert from Cisco, meaning that despite all the fancy terms we’ve thrown around, the only prerequisites are the CCENT, CCNA Routing and Switching, or any CCIE certification (Cisco’s expert level certs). Earning the CCNA Industrial can be a gateway to other Cisco certs in areas, such as the cloud and data center.
If you want to get to the front of the curve, picking an up-and-coming technology that’s mature enough for a quality, certification may be your answer. Container orchestration, machine learning, and the Internet of Things are all technologies that are good candidates.