The International Market for Certification
BackBy Kellye Whitney —1 | 2 |
Certification in the United States has had its ups and downs in recent years. In the early part of the decade, there was a widespread industry battle between those who said certification had no value and those who were convinced that it did.
The latter group won — new certs crop up regularly, old certs are retooled to fit technology’s ever-changing needs and more IT professionals have turned to certification as one way to prove they’re skilled, capable and deserving of coveted jobs in a tough employment market.
The international certification space, in particular, is drawing a lot of attention. Although most agree the United States has the biggest certification market, determining who the other major players are, and why they’re busily getting certified, depends on whom you ask.
Industry experts agree, however, that hiring managers need to see not only technical competence, which certifications can demonstrate, but also business capabilities.
Therefore, IT professionals worldwide should think outside the siloed world of IT and expand their knowledge into business.
Who are the Players?
Cushing Anderson, program director at research company IDC, said the U.S. IT market and the resulting spending are four times the size of the next-largest country, Japan. There is a correlation between countries with the greatest IT spending and certification activity, Anderson said.
“Certifications are adopted by individuals who are interested in gaining employment in regions, and increased IT spending suggests there are more job opportunities. Therefore, people get certified,” Anderson explained. “The fastest-growing IT environments, in order, are India, Russia, Mexico and Turkey. India and Russia are about the same size. Compared to the U.S., they are dramatically smaller, but their IT growth rates are triple the more developed countries.”
Explosive growth rates imply there is a faster-growing certification market, although that does not necessarily translate to larger numbers of certified professionals — at least, not yet. For example, India’s certified population is growing much faster than in the United States.
Much of India’s increased interest in certification is the result of its use as an offshore resource, Anderson said. Whether multinational companies are setting up service centers in India, or Indian firms are setting up offshore locations so they can service their clients globally, companies are investing money in IT infrastructures, which require skilled individuals to run efficiently.
“The same is probably true for Russia,” Anderson said. “The most rapid growth of IT spending is probably the result of service centers and IT support centers being opened up in Russia to service other countries. The reason why is that you have an intelligent, well-educated workforce that is a relatively inexpensive labor base.”
India is near the top of the heap in production of software and high-end servers as far as growth, so Anderson said you can assume certifications related to applications development will be in demand, as well as application deployment for things such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), middleware and systems infrastructure software, management software and security.
“High-end servers are high-growth, but they’re a very, very small market,” Anderson said. “We go to other markets such as personal computers (the computer of choice in a lot of different build-outs), contact centers, office buildings, whatever — there’s big growth in India,” Anderson said. “Russia has fast growth in packaged software and applications software, so certifications related to specific software packages are probably going to do very well, and that means vendor-specific to applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) or finance systems. You’re going to be certified to deploy or customize or even run ERP systems, etc.”
Why do International Countries Care About Certification?
Neill Hopkins, CompTIA vice president of skills development, agreed the United States has the biggest IT market, and by association, certification market. He named European countries a close second, however, and said Asian countries such as India and China are catching up quickly.
“I would rank China as one of the most exciting ones for IT implementation, but it comes with a bit of a challenge,” Hopkins said. “The Chinese authorities are not necessarily going to follow the standards that have been set by the West. More particularly, they’re not very good followers of intellectual property.”
As the market in China evolves, the country likely will set new standards, and Hopkins said it will be interesting to see whether that significant market share affects the West.
Further, he said the Chinese government very strictly controls which certs IT professionals can pursue and/or earn. Often, if a certification is not government-endorsed, it won’t get the traction it might in another environment — IT certifications that do well in China usually are supported by a government-controlled group.
“We’ve worked with many organizations in China, and it’s a very tough market to get into,” Hopkins said. “I’m not talking specifically IT certification. People often think it’s the biggest IT market in the world, therefore, you’re going to sell hundreds of thousands of certifications.
That’s not necessarily true.
“However, that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in certifications — they are. You just have to go about it in such a way that it becomes attractive to the individual so that they are interested in having industry recognition and certifications that are world-recognized, not just Chinese government-recognized.”
Internationally, individuals and organizations deploy technology products and services that primarily come from the West, which creates a market for IT certifications the West accepts.
“Microsoft sells certification to this market, Cisco’s in the market, Oracle’s in the market,” Hopkins said. “We are also in the market, and we’re finding it not as simple as going into a country and saying, ‘Let us help you deploy the industry standard,’ certainly not in the Chinese market or, to a lesser degree, in the Indian market. Those are the two rapidly growing economies.”
Hopkins said the Latin American IT market, particularly that in Brazil, is a sleeping giant and most likely will play a role in the world economy in the next five to 10 years as it deploys a lot of IT equipment and infrastructure.
He also highlighted Korea and Japan, both of which are well-established economically and in terms of IT infrastructure.
“The Korean market is probably way ahead of the U.S. market when it comes to broadband implementation,” he said. “They are very, very interested in certification. In fact, these are ‘certification junkie’ countries — they would like their kids to get as many certifications, credentials and degrees as possible before they leave their postsecondary education. They value the certificate and the credential, and they use it as part of their hiring criteria.”
But don’t discount the United States, which is still No. 1 for certifications around the world and probably will remain so at least for the next three to five years, Hopkins said.
During that time, the IT certification market likely will grow, as more certification providers deploy more job role-based certifications. The United States will adopt these, and other countries will follow suit. Europe will become a major market for IT certifications, as well, Hopkins said.
Roughly 35 percent to 40 percent of all CompTIA certifications are taken outside the United States, and that is a greater percentage than last year. The A+ certification, in particular, is growing internationally, while it has flat-lined slightly in the United States.
Hopkins said some international certification growth can be attributed to the fact that many individuals would like to work in the United States.