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5 hot IT certification picks for 2010

IT certification and training can help IT pros increase their high-tech knowledge and their paychecks

By , Network World
April 15, 2010 03:42 PM ET

Network World - Certifications have always been beneficial to IT job seekers, but lately there's increased emphasis on vendor- and technology-specific training as the economy begins to recover and companies look to plug talent holes in their IT organizations.

"There are great opportunities in technology, but there is increased competition for jobs," says Ray Kelly, CEO of certification provider Certiport. "I have never seen a time like today where there is such a focus on certifications."

Cisco, Microsoft certifications increase high-tech salaries

When the economy tanked, certifications became more important for IT pros who wanted to make themselves more employable.

"For the past couple of years, the economy has been challenging, but from a technical education standpoint it has been a positive market," says Fred Weiller, director of marketing for Learning@Cisco. "In pure volume, the foundation technologies such as routing and switching -- without which no network exists -- represent a huge amount of our certification portfolio."

These days, Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts see virtualization as the top networking investment area (cited by 67% of 970 CCIEs polled by Illuminas on behalf of Cisco). Another 64% say security and risk management will continue to be the networking skills in greatest demand -- an expectation echoed by Weiller.

Already, "professionals with 'cyber' on their resume can command a 20% salary premium as both the public and private sectors are becoming more aggressive in building their security talent pipeline," notes Thomas Silver, senior vice president at Dice. The high-tech job board listed more than 62,000 tech jobs available as of early April, about half of which are contract or part-time positions.

Determining the best IT certification to pursue depends on an individual's existing skill level, career goals and accessibility to training. Here we detail five of the hottest IT certifications for 2010.

1. VMware Certified Professional

The VMware Certified Professional (VCP) program, now available on vSphere 4 (VCP4), seems like a no-brainer. With virtualization technology growing within the majority of organizations, it is critical that the talent pool keep up with the technology. Yet recent research shows that enterprises are worried about a lack of expertise specific to virtualization. New skills need to be acquired for virtual systems, and new management and automation technologies must be introduced into the environment to truly reap the rewards of virtualization. According to Forrester Consulting, which interviewed 257 IT professionals on behalf of CA, "the proper skills for the future are difficult to attain and retain."

2. Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist

Microsoft continues to dominate most desktops in U.S. business. Its Windows operating system boasts more than 91% market share, according to March figures from Net Market Share, and Microsoft has seen accelerated interest in the latest revision, Windows 7.  

"Microsoft continues to leave its computing fingerprints on most desktops," says Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish.

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