Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
In addition to featuring prominently in one of Western culture’s longest-lived creation stories, the apple has been a favorite fruit for most of recorded history. For almost as long as humans have cultivated apples, however, growers have been messing with the original formula. Some varieties of apples still grown today are believed to be thousands of years old.
In all, there are more than 7,500 different documented varieties of apples, including more than 2,500 that are grown just in the United States. Sometimes new varieties are carefully cultivated, like the Gala (developed in 1930s New Zealand by J.H. Kidd) or the Honeycrisp (created at the University of Minnesota in the 1970s and 1980s).
Sometimes Mother Nature takes a hand. Two of the most common varieties of apples, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, were happy accidents. The first Golden Delicious apple tree was discovered on a family farm in West Virginia, while the original Red Delicious apples cropped up (so to speak) in an orchard in Iowa in 1872.
One fruity conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that consumers like to have options. This is also true in the IT certification world, where certifications are often specifically tailored to the products and processes of a particular vendor. If you get a cloud computing certification from Google, for example, then your skills will be most applicable when working with Google Cloud systems.
There are, of course, general principles that apply across different brands in the same technology sector. If all of your computer networking certifications are from Cisco, then that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d be entirely bumfuzzled if asked to configure a router from the Juniper Networks product line, or a switch manufactured by Avaya.
A lot of IT professionals and aspiring IT professionals, on the other hand, would rather learn the “applies to everything” stuff first, and figure out the details unique to each brand by interfacing with that brand — ideally in the course of working a full-time job.
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 have kept it there ever since. 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 — 18.5 percent
Security — 16.6 percent
Blockchain and/or Cryptocurrency — 11 percent
Big Data — 8.5 percent
DevOps — 7.9 percent
Helpdesk/IT Support — 7.7 percent
Networking — 5.8 percent
Software Development — 5.2 percent
Programming — 4 percent
Project Management — 4.4 percent
Virtualization — 3.8 percent
Other — 3.6 percent
Linux — 3 percent
This is the fourth time that we’ve asked this question, and security has been one of the top two answers, by a considerable margin, every time. The ongoing demand in this area is unusual: 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.
Cloud computing has also been either the No. 1 or No. 2 answer, also by a wide margin, every time we’ve gone over this. That makes a little more sense, given that, with a handful of notable exceptions, most of the cloud certifications on the market are managed by one of the major cloud computing vendors: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, IBM, and so forth.
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.
The top recommendation from the catch-all “Other” category is artificial intelligence. This is a key area of rapid technology growth, so perhaps it’s time to start listing this IT specialization as a standalone category of its own.