Salary Survey Extra: More [Fill in the blank] vendor-neutral certs needed

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

There are gaps in the IT certification market that need to be filled by vendor-neutral credentials.In 1945, two brothers-in-law had a dream to create, well, probably not a global ice cream empire. Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins both liked ice cream, however, and each of them owned and operated his own ice cream parlor in Glendale, Calif. When they decided to combine forces, a still-thriving global brand was born.

Burt and Irv quickly crafted a unique identity for their brand by boldly reinventing the fairly standard practice — at the time — of offering ice cream in just three flavors: strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate. Instead, Baskin-Robbins became famous for offering 31 different flavors. Today, incidentally, it’s more than 1,300 flavors across more than 8,000 different stores.

An important takeaway from this story is that consumers like to have options. This is also true in the IT certification world, where certifications are often specifically tailored to the products and processes of a particular vendor. If you get a cloud computing certification from Microsoft, for example, then your skills will be most applicable when working with Azure systems.

There are, of course, general principles that apply across different brands in the same technology sector. If all of your computer networking certifications are from Cisco, then that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d be entirely bumfuzzled if asked to configure a router from the Juniper Networks product line, or a switch manufactured by Avaya.

A lot of IT professionals and aspiring IT professionals, on the other hand, would rather learn the “applies to everything” stuff first, and figure out the details unique to each brand by interfacing with that brand — ideally in the course of working a full-time job.

Each type of credential, vendor-specific and vendor-neutral, has its champions. There are quite a few vendor-neutral credentials in some areas, and far fewer options in others. Which got us to thinking: Where are certified IT professionals looking for vendor-neutral credentials and not finding them?

We first addressed this topic in the 10-question follow-on section of our 2018 Salary Survey, then moved it to the main body of the survey for the 2019 Salary Survey and have kept it there ever since. Where is there the greatest demand among IT professionals for vendor-neutral credentials? Here’s what we learned:

Q: We really need more vendor-neutral certifications for which ONE of the following specializations or technologies?

Security — 25 percent
Cloud — 23.7 percent
DevOps — 8.1 percent
Blockchain and/or Crytpocurrency — 7.3 percent
Big Data — 6.3 percent
Networking — 5 percent
Virtualization — 4.6 percent
Software Development — 4 percent
Helpdesk/IT Support — 3.7 percent
Programming — 3.1 percent
Project Management — 2.4 percent
Linux — 1.4 percent

This is the fourth time that we’ve asked this question, and security has been one of the top two answers, by a considerable margin, every time. Which is a little odd: Most of the leading security certifications are vendor-neutral credentials already, and the SANS Institute’s GIAC certification library, in particular, offers broad and deep coverage of security topics.

Cloud computing has also been either the No. 1 or No. 2 answer, also by a wide margin, every time we’ve gone over this. That makes a little more sense, given that, with a handful of notable exceptions, most of the cloud certifications on the market are managed by one of the major cloud computing vendors: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, IBM, and so forth.

Big Data, like cloud computing, tends to be an area where vendor-specific certification dominates. Software development and programming certifications, where they exist, are generally highly specific to particular products or technologies. And DevOps and blockchain/cryptocurrency are both areas where there are very few certifications of any type. So it’s understandable to see demand for more vendor-neutral coverage in each of those areas.

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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