Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
Think of IT certification as being like a blanket, perhaps a giant patchwork quilt. There are some areas where the blanket is thick and cozy, providing ample coverage. In other spots, however, there are places where the blanket is fairly thin, or maybe even has holes. Maybe there are even spots where the blanket is too short, and doesn't really cover anything at all.
The IT certification blanket can be especially thin to non-existent when you're on the lookout for so-called "vendor-neutral" certifications. As a general rule, there are two kinds of IT certifications: those issued by a software or hardware company that are typically product-centered (or at least product-oriented), and those issued by professional associations and organizations that focus on a given technology without being tied to a product or products.
For example, you could learn about database technology by getting a certification from Oracle, which is a global marketplace leader in database software, or you could learn about database technology by getting a certification from Arcitura, the technology education company that sponsors the Big Data Science Certified Professional (BDSCP) program. Either way, you'd learn a lot about databases. You'd just be getting a "vendor-specific" view from Oracle, and vendor-neutral approach from Arcitura.
Each type of credential, vendor-specific and vendor-neutral, has its champions. There are quite a few vendor-neutral credentials in some areas, and far fewer options in others. Which got us to thinking: Where are certified IT professionals looking for vendor-neutral credentials and not finding them?
We first addressed this topic in the 10-question follow-on section of our 2018 Salary Survey, then moved it to the main body of the survey for the 2019 Salary Survey and kept it there for the 2020 Salary Survey. Where is there the greatest demand among IT professionals for vendor-neutral credentials? Here's what we learned:
Q: We really need more vendor-neutral certifications for which ONE of the following specializations or technologies?
Cloud — 19.5 percent
Security — 15.3 percent
Big Data — 9.9 percent
DevOps — 8.2 percent
Software Development — 6.6 percent
Blockchain and/or Cryptocurrency — 5.9 percent
Networking — 5.9 percent
Programming — 5.7 percent
Helpdesk / IT Support — 5.6 percent
Virtualization — 4.5 percent
Project Management — 4.1 percent
Linux — 2.6 percent
Other — 6.3 percent
With cloud computing increasingly becoming the answer to almost every IT question, it's not surprising to find the strongest consensus there. There aren't very many cloud certs of any type out there, and the vendor-specific ones (like those offered by Amazon Web Services) far outnumber the vendor-neutral ones (like CompTIA's Cloud+).
On the other hand, it's been a bit baffling each of the past three surveys to see the level of demand for more vendor-neutral security certs. Most of the leading security certifications are vendor-neutral credentials already, and the SANS Institute's GIAC certification library, in particular, offers broad and deep coverage of security topics.
On the other hand, with new and different security threats emerging every year, and given that many vendor-neutral security certs are concentrated around the same (or similar) core principles, maybe what the market needs is greater variety and more specialized coverage.
Big Data, like cloud computing, tends to be an area where vendor-specific certification dominates. Software development and programming certifications, where they exist, are generally highly specific to particular products or technologies. And DevOps and blockchain/cryptocurrency are both areas where there are very few certifications of any type. So it's understandable to see demand for more vendor-neutral coverage in each of those areas.