The 5 best IT certifications of 2013

IT certificationsEarlier this year I had the fortunate opportunity to watch my little one head off to her first year of school; kindergarten. And while I realized she now has almost two decades of school and university ahead of her, it got me thinking what I could do to polish up on my edumukation education.

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Life is a lesson, and I’ve always believed learning never stops. Perhaps I could get another few letters beside the name, or another piece of paper for validation, or simply a refresher to what these years of wisdom have taught me working on both sides of small business, fortune 500′s, and those young work-hard, play-hard start ups.

Over the months I asked around my network of peers; network administrators, CIO & CTO’s, clients, vendors, and the one question I led these conversations towards was if you sought new hires 6 months from now, what is the one accreditation you’d seek to give your team the edge.  Sure the views varied, but it gave a decent 1,000 foot view of where to begin looking.

From this foundation, a bit of Googling and foreshadowing of IT needs from project pipelines 12 months out, I  was able to pull off the top 5 list of best (or at least ideal) IT certifications for 2013.

I know some may beg to differ and others agree, so share other certifications below you think should be in your top 5.

My top list of 2013 IT certifications also cover what is dear to our wallet, and what is in-demand according to industry response, so I’ve included the top ‘paying’ IT certifications in the below.

Like it or not, those thinking about getting into the world of network administration or a specialized field of IT, a fresh graduate armed with printer-fresh certifications, or you’re just looking to stay current, I hope you find value in this for your 2013 IT career.

1: VMware Certified Professional (VCP)

VCP is not that other contagious ‘V’ disease. It’s all about Virtualization. There has got to be at least a few times a week I hear from clients, co-workers and IT forums about virtualization. Even browsing LinkedIn groups and job descriptions, it pops up as that in-demand skill for 2013 and beyond.

Look at virtualization from a macro view. The IT OEM industry as a whole shows trends of enterprise technology becoming more powerful and faster every quarter, if not every day. Think about it; the more companies grow and keep up with demands on technology to run the business operations, they are maximizing their IT infrastructure and investments. For example, server farms and monitoring solutions, business applications and others are driving the demand to increase virtualization across multiple servers. This growing need should result in strong demand for IT professionals with specialization in virtualization. And who is the leader in this space? VMware. The VMware Certified Professional will be a sought after commodity to address this virtualization demand.

Does it Pay?
VCP (VMware Certified Professional) seems to separate those from the pack financially as a common factor among 80% of jobs seeking this skill set. I don’t have an average – but if its hot and in-demand, organizations will pay.

2. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

What is not a security issue these days? We all know IT infrastructure and security continues to get more complex every month, and over the last 3 years alone there hasn’t been as much interest around IT security than there has been over the last decade.

Companies recognize the need for highly skilled IT managers who know their way around today’s technology, security issues, and how they relate to business objectives. The Certified Information Security Managers IT certification directly correlates with this and the advancing complexities of IT infrastructure.  As a result, the CISM has exploded as must-have for IT manager level certifications, and a solid credential to have under your belt to move up the ranks to Senior IT Manager or CTO executive level positions.

Does it Pay?
Certified Information Security Managers (CISM) range in the +$110,000, with many IT Managers holding this certification. So if you’re a Network and System administrator seeking to capture that promotion to IT Management, you might want to think about this certification.

And again if its hot and in-demand, companies with high security concerns – financial industry, public companies, etc. will value the investment in someone with CISM and this security expertise.

3. Enterprise Administrator Windows Server (MCITP)

I caught this one and added it to my list from a recent IT hiring spree, a global IT survey and posted at TechRepublic. After mulling over this one I realized how undervalued, but over-needed this certification is in today’s IT market.

Think about this…what percentage of the global business markets are running on a Windows server? Sure, Apple sales are hot and eating into the business application world,  but unless your in a design shop or your people are dominated with Apple hardware and apps for business, the majority of businesses today are still windows server driven, or tied-in on the back-end to a windows server.

The Enterprise Administrator Windows Server certification (MCITP) is a solid skill set that countless small businesses and enterprise organizations want, need and require! Experts with MCITP shouldn’t have much time finding opportunities needing windows server administration.

I hate to admit this one as I’m a pro-Apple user, but organizations have the need for Windows server experts…and they are not always easy to find…and they can compensate very nicely for those who do. It is still a Windows world and the windows server is the heart of the business operations. And if your MCITP certified, you’re the insurance and surgeon to the business and its operations…and both should pay handsomely.

Eric Eckel, author at TechRepublic authored his highly recommended top 10 best certifications of 2012, had said it best that IT professionals with MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) for Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008 accreditation demonstrate significant, measurable proficiency with Active Directory, configuring network and application infrastructures, enterprise environments, and the Windows 7 client OS.

Eric’s post at TechRepublic went on to give honorable mentions for the top spot including the MCITP: Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2 and MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator on Exchange 2010.

The rational; Microsoft Exchange owns the SMB/E (small and medium sized businesses or enterprises. Virtualization initiatives are only getting started and will dominate technology sectors for the next decade at least (agreed!).

Does it Pay?
IT Managers and system administrators who can knowledgeably navigate Microsoft’s virtualization and email platforms will only grow in importance.

The  MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) may not have skyrocketed in popularity but it is one of those niche and essential certifications that not enough IT professionals carry. Both small businesses and enterprise organizations alike will find the MCITP expertise a lifeline to their business.  So what’s the pay? General range from $80,000 to $105,000.

4. Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)

How did MCTS make my top 5 best IT certification list of 2013? Among a few criteria’s that weighed it into my list, the deciding factor was the Windows business world reality. Microsoft’s library of servers and operating systems are still the most widely adopted hardware and software in the business world.

And while there are countless levels of  Microsoft certifications ranging from Microsoft Technology Associate level certifications all the way up to Microsoft Certified Architects, the MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) certification applies to the everyday operations and server issues most IT professionals deal with.

IT professionals with MCTS certification show a level of IT expertise many IT professionals can only desire to attain. Those who have already dealt with some form of Microsoft certification can attest to the countless exams MCITP requires. But once attained, organizations in the Windows world do understand the value and reputation the MCTS accreditation offers.

Does it Pay?
The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certification is one that compliments and builds on some of the above listed accreditation’s, and give you that salary boost. Depending on experience and role (IT consultant, support technician, system administrator, IT Manager, etc.), the MCTS shows a range of $58,000 to $78,000. But this is one of those IT certifications that provides the IT professional ‘the edge’, meaning how you leverage the weight of its value in your salary negotiation or raise, will determine its…and your worth.

And remember, it IS a Windows world.

5. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

You don’t need to look far these days to see just how wired people are. Maybe it’s a technology addiction or a shift in business environment mentality, but it’s a sign of the times. It is obvious to see just how wired companies have become; iPhones, Blackberries, iPads, Androids, laptops, etc., there is trend towards moving away from traditional PC’s, and why a Cisco Certified Network Associate certification is an appealing accreditation for 2013.

The shift in how businesses approach communication and connectivity is the strongest indicator of how they are changing the way they do business. This also means how IT operations, systems and networks will structure their IT enterprise infrastructure towards wireless and security (hint: CCNA security certification).

IT professionals with Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certificates will show businesses the expertise in the ability to setup, troubleshoot, monitor, upgrade and maintain networking hardware based on Cisco equipment.

Does it Pay?
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification shows a salary range far to wide to post here. However, a strong indicator on its value I found was many senior level system and network administration careers, and IT Manager positions all highlighted this skill set. Again, another 2013 IT certification that may give you the edge.

Whether you are an IT manager, IT support, Network administrator, engineer, or system support technician, and your daily operations involve server monitoring, business application support, managing email server issues (and the list goes on), you cannot go wrong positioning your career path in 2013 with these IT certifications.

Are there other IT certifications to consider?

Yes, and perhaps you want to share these and add them below with other Deadman Heartbeat readers. And remember, the above 2013 list of the best IT certifications is my accumulation from industry water cooler chat, 9 hole course conversations, client feedback and your chatter and opinions in Google this year.

Can we pay your 2013 IT certification? Yes you say?

IT certifications 2012 and 2013Then follow us (see social buttons above) on Linkedin, Tweet us, Google +1 or Facebook Like us to be eligible  For each one you perform, is another chance to get your 2013 IT certification paid in full.

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About Michael

Michael is a former Director of Digital Marketing and entrepreneur who tends to use analogy's more than he probably should. He is one of the main voices of Deadman Heartbeat's online conversations.
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About The Author

Michael is a former Director of Digital Marketing and entrepreneur who tends to use analogy's more than he probably should. He is one of the main voices of Deadman Heartbeat's online conversations.