10 valuable cloud computing certifications

Which IT certifications will boost your cloud computing credentials – and salary? Here’s data and advice on the best cloud certifications
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The value of IT certifications often depends on an individual or an organization. Employer A might place a high value on a particular credential, while Employer B all but ignores it. Similarly, a certification may have helped one person get their foot in the door to their current role, but wouldn’t make sense for the person sitting in the office next door.

[ Read also A practical guide to finding a new IT job in 2019. ]

Which is to say: The IT certification marketplace is fluid. That doesn’t mean you can’t assess the potential value of particular certifications to your career. But as we noted previously in our coverage of top-paying IT certifications, it’s more art than science. Put another way, it’s often better to consider a certification’s value in qualitative rather than quantitative terms.

You can get some quantitative measure of what certain certifications are worth from various sources. Robert Half Technology’s annual salary report, for example, includes top-paying certifications based on a poll of its recruiters nationwide. Research firm Foote Partners also tracks the compensation value of particular certifications and skills.

What makes a cloud computing certification valuable?

Some general variables tend to determine the worth of these professional credentials. They include:

  • How hard the certification is to attain: If it’s a tad too easy to achieve a particular credential – especially if it’s intended to speak to fluency or mastery – that’s likely to drive down its value over time. It’s part supply-and-demand, part reputation: IT pros in particular roles or fields tend to weed out the cakewalks from the serious credentials, as do hiring managers. In our recent piece on security certifications, for example, SAS CISO Brian Wilson and Eric Poynton, lead network threat hunter at Awake Security, pointed to the Offensive Security certs – OSCP and OSCE – as well-regarded in the industry, in part because of the intensive exams.
  • Industry opinions: Attitudes about particular certifications shift and evolve based on a variety of factors. They also tend to vary by field; Wilson told us that the value of some security certifications is a subject of fierce debate among security practitioners.
  • Career level and future goals: You don’t necessarily need the mastery-level certification for a secondary skill; similarly, chasing entry-level certifications doesn’t necessarily make sense for someone with 10 years of on-the-job training. Moreover, that entry-level certification that helped you get your start probably doesn’t need to be front-and-center on your resume in the later stages of your career.
  • Hiring demand for a skill or technology: This is a big one. The reality: If hiring demand is strong for certain skill sets or roles, then certifications that indicate competency or mastery in those skills are more likely to catch a recruiter or hiring manager’s eye. Bonus points if there’s a shortage of qualified people in a particular area. That’s why many of the top certifications in Robert Half’s 2019 salary report were related to cloud or security. As Ryan Sutton, district president for Robert Half, told us recently: “It’s all based on demand. Professionals with these certifications can often receive higher salaries because IT teams need these skills on their teams.”

3 types of cloud computing certifications

Robert Half estimates that IT employers are currently paying a 5-to-10 percent premium for in-demand skill sets, such as cloud.

So cloud-related certifications are, as a general rule, worth something on the job market right now. The specific value gets back to individual and organizational circumstances, but Robert Half estimates that IT employers are currently paying a 5-to-10 percent premium for in-demand skill sets, cloud being one of them. Foote Partners research indicates certifications are worth a 7.6 percent bump in compensation, on average.

Here are 10 good examples of cloud-related certifications that may be especially worthwhile at the moment. They tend to break down into three categories.

Platform-specific certifications

As multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments proliferate, so does the need for IT pros with the right development and infrastructure skills needed to manage everything. That’s why the major cloud platforms and vendors offer various certifications in different areas of their ecosystems. It’s also why some of these certifications show up on lists of premium certifications, like the one in Robert Half’s salary report.

Examples include the AWS Certified Solutions Architect, which made the cut with Robert Half’s recruiters this year. This is also a good call-back to those criteria above – AWS offers multiple levels of certification, as do other public cloud platforms, so give some thought to your career level and future path. Robert Half’s recruiting team also included the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) on its list.

Robert Half SVP Jim Johnson recently pointed out the Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect as one worth watching.

Red Hat’s current menu of certifications also offers plenty of cloud-relevant options. As Chris Janiszewski, senior OpenStack solutions architect, Red Hat, has noted, the Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) is considered a “holy grail” of sorts among open source certifications. It’s the highest certification Red Hat offers and requires multiple other certifications and exams to achieve. Foote Partners noted RHCA and the Red Hat Systems Administrator (RHCSA) as two certifications that had gained more than 10 percent in market value over the three months ending October 1, 2018.