Bulk up your skills: Big Data certifications for heavy hitters
Posted on
September 14, 2016
With the right Big Data certification, you can rule the data science realm.

Information overload. Sometimes also referred to as "infobesity" or "data smog," few problems plague the information age as much as being completely swamped by intelligence. When my wife and I want to go out to eat, it's no longer a matter of "X or Y?" No, we have a spreadsheet. Anything less wouldn't cut it. A quick Google search on the simplest of topics will bombard you with an array of facts, figures, and opinions. Being effective in the modern world is much less about finding information, and much more about being able to distill a useful decision from the information you've garnered.

If your everyday consumer has this problem on their end of the mobile phone, then imagine how much worse it is server-side. Whether you're browsing for new carpeting or visiting social media, the websites are collecting information: Where is the user? What are they shopping for? Which links did they click on? What did they search? Which ads worked? Which ones didn't? Thousands of data points from thousands of users on thousands of devices, all flying over the internet back to the servers, pouring into massive data banks, and then ...

Well, and then you've got your work cut out for you.

IT professionals who can take those digital landslides of data and turn them into something useful to marketing departments and corporate executives will make their employers a lot of money, and can expect six figures in compensation. These are the Data Scientists, men and women who can identify trends in the data. As we enter the long-anticipated Internet of Things, demand has only been increasing. So, to summarize; steady work, high salary, sweet title. Intrigued yet?

If so, then you're in a luck! Let's go over a few of the biggest certifications in the Big Data industry. Note that these are not the beginner certifications; these are the heavy-hitting, resume-starring certifications that will make an interviewer's jaw drop. Amaze your friends! Befuddle your enemies! Let's get started!

Cloudera Certified Professional: Data Scientist (CCP:DS)

According to a recent Dice.com survey, knowledge of Cloudera is the second most-desired data science skill and plays second fiddle only to proficiency in MapReduce. Cloudera has made it big in big data by creating, maintaining and supporting their own distribution of Apache Hadoop, an open-source analytics framework. The CCP:DS is their in-house certification for Data Scientists.

It doesn't technically have any prerequisites, but you had better know what you're doing if you want it; earning your CCP:DS requires passing three exams, at a total cost of $1800. Cloudera also offers three other big-data related certifications: the Cloudera Certified Developer for Apache Hadoop (CCDH), the Cloudera Certified Administrator for Apache Hadoop (CCAH), and the Cloudera Certified Specialist in Apache HBase (CCSHB). For maximum respect and leverage, though, stick with the CCP:DS.

Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation 11g Implementation Specialist

This one's a little more complicated. With Cloudera, the idea is Train, Show Up, Certify, Profit! However, this exam is geared specifically toward Oracle partners, IT pros who specialize in learning and implementing Oracle analytics and cloud solutions even to the exclusion of others. While technically there are no prerequisites, you'll probably want to be well-versed in Oracle solutions before attempting this one. Additional study aids are available at the link above.

If nothing else, it's much cheaper than the Cloudera certification. One exam, $245, done. Recertification is recommended but, as with Cloudera, not required.

MCSE: Business Intelligence

If specializing as an Oracle Partner isn't for you, then you may opt into a more varied career. And if you do, then there's a good chance that, sooner or later, you'll find yourself working with a Microsoft SQL Server. The MCSE: Business Intelligence is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert flavor geared for data scientists, and by the time applicants obtain this certification they will be expected to know how to query and administrate a Microsoft SQL server.

More specifically, you'll be expected to know how to implement data warehouses, data models and reports, and other Business Intelligence solutions on that same server. The course requires passing five exams in total at a combined cost of $825 ... so again, not a certification you want to tackle unless you've already gotten your practice in. The certification also needs to be renewed every three years by taking a single recertification exam.

EMC: Data Science Specialist, Advanced Analytics (EMCDS)

Quick background: EMC is one of the big-hitters in the tech world, specializing in data storage and related fields. Arguably, few corporations are as fit to offer certifications as this juggernaut, and while it may not be as widely known as some of the others we've mentioned, the EMCDS commands a lot of respect from industry insiders. It's worth noting that, unlike the others, applicants need to have earned the Associate-level certification before this one; the exam is intended for IT pros who know what they're doing, not beginners.

Although these certifications are intended for professionals already established in the field, they can provide a field for where the market is and what's expected. Obviously the big data field is much broader than what we're able to gather from just these, and it may be that you find yourself at the top of the field with a completely different set of certifications. If you're just trying to get started, here are some usable strategies:

With the right Big Data certification, you can rule the data science realm.

Take a College Course

Traditional education typically has difficulty keeping up with IT, and big data is no exception. However, big data's sudden importance has led many universities to build courses. Look into your local college or university to see if they have a reputable course you can take.


Hadoop is open-source, meaning it can be a great starting point for the blank-slate learner. It's also so commonly used that you're not at all wasting time by learning it, and it has a free guide you can work from here. Because Cloudera is based in Hadoop, you're also looking at an easy transition there, but even if Cloudera isn't your thing, you'll get a chance to get a feel for how Data analytics work in a real environment.

Entry-Level Certs in Other Fields

The trickiest part of the Big Data field is that it's fuzzy at the borders. Generally you know what you want the end result to be, but the methods for getting there overlap with so many other disciplines that there aren't really many entry-level certs for Data Scientists, but there are fields that lend themselves more to Big Data than others. Cloud Computing and Database Administration are great places to start.

About the Author

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.

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