5 Recession-Proof IT Certs for Under $399
This year will be one for the record books — and not in a good way. Millions of people have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 and other global issues (myself included), and the United States currently has a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 13.3% at the time of this writing. Think about that. If you lined 10 people up, at least one of them is looking for a job.
This kind of economy often makes people pause, reassess their own skills, and give thought how they can position themselves to be “recession-proof.” One of the advantages of working in the technology industry is that typically, tech jobs handle economic storms better than most industries. The internet doesn’t shut down because the economy goes south. In fact, a number of organizations invest more into technology as they seek ways to make the rest of their workforce more efficient.
So when the economy goes south, how can you prove that you have in-demand skills? Earn IT certifications. Certifications tell employers “Look, I can DO what you want me to do. You won’t have to spend a fortune and months of time training me on skills.” Having been the hiring manager for an IT shop in a previous life, take it from me, that is a very attractive prospect.
There are hundreds of IT certifications, so which ones will create the most stability for you — even during a recession? Here are my top five picks.
1. CCNP Enterprise – Core Specialist (ENCOR)
Hold up. Not the CCNA? That’s right. My pick from the Cisco line of certifications is the CCNP Core Specialist, which is earned by passing the ENCOR exam. You might be wondering, “Why skip over CCNA?” CCNA is no longer a prerequisite for taking CCNP exams. You can immediately skip straight to the professional-level exam. If your goal is to be recession-proof, then you will need something that makes you stand out among a crowd. Keep in mind that in a recession, more people will be applying for the same job.
Beyond that, I don’t feel that that gap between the CCNA and the CCNP is as large as it has been in the past. Sure, you will have to spend more time prepping for the ENCOR exam than the CCNA, but not that much more time.
What makes CCNP Enterprise so recession-proof? As previously mentioned, every industry needs a network engineer. The government, hospitals, banks — all of these still exist, even in a recession. Having a professional-level certification from a respected vendor like Cisco, increases your odds of landing an interview.
2. Microsoft Azure Administrator (AZ-104)
I wanted to type MCSA here. I really did. And I still can’t believe Microsoft is 86’ing the MCSA, but here we are in 2020, where up really is down. Windows Server in some way will always exist, which is what makes it so recession-proof. But after January 2021, there will be no way to validate your Windows Server skills.
The next closest thing to that is Microsoft Azure Administrator. While this certification is heavily centered around IaaS, learning the PaaS offerings that are mostly covered in the AZ-204 exam can be an eye-opening experience.
Your sales pitch during your interview will largely be centered around the promise that your Azure skills will help move the business into the next era in the cloud, and that this can bring budget stability to the business as your shift from a Cap-Ex style budget to an Op-Ex style budget. Not only does this show you have technical chops, but you also have business savvy, which can be a fast track into middle and upper management.
3. AWS Solutions Architect – Associate
While Azure is the fastest growing public cloud, AWS is still king of the cloud market share. Most large enterprises rely on AWS in some form at this point. The AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is the closest thing to the AZ-104 that there is. Or the AZ-104 is closest to AWS Solutions Architect, depending on how you look at it.
With this cert, you’re validating that you understand the AWS IaaS offerings as well as design. Design and planning is often overlooked on vendor certification exams. They typically just jump to “here’s how you deploy this resource” without giving much thought to when or why you should deploy a resource. AWS steps away from this notion in their certification exams, and that is another huge talking point in a job interview.
4. CompTIA Security+
This vendor-neutral certification will never get old. If an exam is so well regarded that it can actually grant you clearance and certification with the U.S. government, it’s a good sign that it is valuable. COVID-19 has forced most people to work from home. That terrifies CIOs not because they’re relying on a stable broadband connection at peoples’ homes, but because of the security risks that come along with it. Some of the biggest hacks and data breaches i occurred because people took work home with them — and didn’t operate in a secure and controlled environment at home.
Your pitch in interviews after acquiring your Security+ would center around reviewing current security policies and making recommendations. However, word of caution, you don’t want to rock the boat just because you can. Many people in IT hate working with security experts largely because security professionals often implement policies that make work for everyone harder or cumbersome. You’ll want to come across as an ally to the IT team while also serving to protect the business’s best interests.
5. Cisco DevNet Associate
At first glance this may seem like a wildcard pick, but it’s really not. You should go for your DevNet Associate for the reason that you would go for ENCOR over CCNA: it can set you apart from the crowd in a big way. Code and automation is here to stay. For example, at Cisco Live 2020, every single presentation I watched included discussion on automation and API. This isn’t to say that all network engineers need to become software developers or that software developers should take this certification. However, DevNet Associate certification bridges the gaps between the two.
Being able to declare how your network should be designed in a block of code, and then put a version on it so that it can be easily altered or rolled back is what employers are seeking. Not only can you land a job with this certification, you can help change the culture of a business.
You can find training for all five of these certifications at CBT Nuggets, which also provides resources like practice exams and virtual labs to help you study for exams with confidence. With a little investment, time, and effort you can help yourself become more recession-proof. Earning any of these certifications can help your application move to the top of a hiring manager’s pile — especially during a recession.