15 IT certifications worth watching

Which IT certifications will do your career the most good now and in the future? Check out 15 that are flying under the radar or emerging as valuable
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IT certifications generally rate as positive professional credentials in the field. They’re a sign of someone’s seriousness and willingness to learn new things.

Does that mean a bunch of certifications in lieu of actual experience will land you a lucrative dream job in the age of DevOps and blockchain?

No. Rather, the right certifications can be great complementary calling cards on your IT resume – factors that set you apart from other candidates, especially when it comes to specific skills sets or roles.

[ Tired of crazy requirements? Read also: The trouble with IT job descriptions. ]

Note the use of the word “right.” Who gets to determine that?

This is where things get tricky. The value of some certifications inspires shop talk and debate among IT pros. And no matter your point of view, the certification landscape definitely changes over time.

Consider the value of many cloud certifications relative to their value ten years ago. Heck, many of them didn’t exist ten years ago. But they’re commanding a premium on the job market right now, according to Jim Johnson, senior vice president at the recruiting firm Robert Half Technology.

“Some of the top certifications that are driving higher salaries [in 2019] are in the cloud space,” Johnson says. “More companies are expanding their cloud initiatives and need professionals who have advanced and updated knowledge and experience with cloud platforms and tools.”

There are certifications for each of the major public cloud platforms, for example, not to mention a growing number of other cloud-native or cloud-relevant technologies and tools.

Your success might not be about finding the “right” certifications so much as identifying emerging ones.

Which is another reminder that yesterday’s hot certification might not be quite as desirable today or tomorrow. Moreover, your success might not be about finding the “right” certifications so much as identifying emerging or under-the-radar certs that employers are currently seeking or likely to look for in the future.

We asked Johnson for his national recruitment point of view on newer certifications that are gaining momentum in the job market as well as certifications that tend to fly a bit under the radar – including those that have been around for a while.

We also asked Mahesh Ramachandran, vice president of product management at OpsRamp, for his current hiring perspective on IT certifications as a tech executive.

[ Are you making a faux pas? Read our related story: Job hunt etiquette: New best practices for 2019. ]

Here’s what they had to say about IT certifications that are either valuable but less trendy or gaining momentum on the job market. Plus, we’ve got a bonus topic in the emerging sector: Blockchain certifications.

Under-the-radar IT certifications

CRISC (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control)

This ISACA cert is a good example of one that has been around for a while but lacks the marquee appeal of some other credentials. That’s because risk management isn’t usually marquee material. But it’s an in-demand skill.

“It’s an older certification, but CRISC is still out there – and worth pursuing,” Johnson says. “Gaining these risk management skills for IT is extremely valuable, whether you’re a consultant or work within an organization, especially with today’s security threats.”

CGEIT (Certified in Governance of Enterprise IT)

Speaking of less-than-trendy topics, how about risk management’s quiet family member, governance. Johnson also points to the certification as another one that flies under the radar but remains part of a mainstay need in IT shops.

AWS Certified Security – Specialty

Ramachandran says security – a field long associated with IT certifications – tops his list from a category standpoint when it comes to identifying high-value certifications that don’t carry the trendy appeal of some other credentials.

This is particularly interesting from a public cloud standpoint – most cloud and cloud-native credentials might be a better fit under the “emerging” tag, but Ramachandran notes an irony here: Security has long been one of the biggest enterprise concerns about public cloud, yet public cloud security skills tend to get overlooked in the market.

Ramachandran picks AWS here since it’s the largest public cloud platform by market share, so its certifications tend to be sought after. “It flies under the radar because we see too many job candidates coming to us with operational certifications around network, compute, and storage, when they fail to address the top IT concern [or] initiative today: security,” Ramachandran says. “Maintaining security in the cloud isn’t necessarily sexy, but it is definitely a necessity.”

GIAC Information Security Professional (GISP)

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments, and cloud-native development in general, by their nature, require security know-how beyond one specific platform.

“As security has become a rising concern in multi-cloud and cloud-native environments, we look for candidates well-versed in all aspects of security,” Ramachandran says. “This certification, surprisingly enough, addresses the fundamentals of security that remain relevant as serverless workloads become more standardized.”

Ramachandran likes the GISP because it covers security fundamentals that apply widely across an evolving IT portfolio, such as encryption, role-based access, identity-as-a-service, and risk management, alongside best practices in software development, mobile security, and operations.

“Since much of our world is hybrid, it makes sense to look for these heterogeneous certifications.”

“This is truly a hidden gem of IT certification because, for us, it shows that a candidate has both an understanding of current and legacy security protocols along with the tools to architect secure code for the future,” Ramachandran says. “Since much of our world is hybrid, it makes sense to look for these heterogeneous, hybridized certifications.”

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Some security pros might argue that CISSP isn’t necessarily flying under the radar, but its relevance to various IT priorities – from cloud services to AI and machine learning to big data – isn’t getting enough attention, according to Ramachandran. This may be especially true when you’re seeking (or hiring) management or executive-level roles.

“I believe this certification is often overlooked in the face of other cloud security certifications, but it’s every bit as important, particularly because this specific certification is built for management-level expertise,” Ramachandran says. “Whereas most security certifications are obsessed with ‘bottom-of-the-network’ intrusions and hackers, this certification is focused on how to actually engineer security into an overall solution or department, which is often overlooked. Most IT teams are still looking at specific tools to protect against vulnerabilities without focusing on the larger infrastructure issues.”

Now let’s dig into emerging IT certifications.

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.