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IT Certification FAQ

What Certifications Are There?

You have probably heard of certifications granted by IBM, Microsoft, CompTIA, and maybe a few others. But most information systems pros don't realize that there are currently more than 600 technical certifications you can earn. You can become an IBM Certified Database Administrator (DBA), IBM Certified Architect Cloud Computing Architect, ISACA Certified Implementation Systems Auditor (CISA), or a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), just to name a few.

With so many certifications out there, it's helpful to divide them into two categories by type of sponsor. The largest chunk of the certification list is taken up by vendors who offer certifications related to their product lines, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, Adobe and Microsoft. These certifications are tied to specific products and/or job roles.

The second category consists of vendor-independent (a.k.a. vendor-neutral) certifications. Vendor-independent certifications include those sponsored by professional groups and industry organizations. For example, the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) developed the Certified Computing Professional (CCP) designation, and the A+ Service Technician Certification is overseen by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

The vendor-independent group also includes certifications developed by independent training companies. Mile2 Training, for example, administers a series of certifications related to computer forensics and security.

Certifications can have a broad focus, such as open systems, or hone in on the details of a particular technology, such as IBM Tivoli Storage Management. There are many to choose from, depending on your goals and needs. A few certifications enjoy much wider recognition than most, but that doesn't mean the others won't prove valuable to you. The key lies in matching your work goals, time availability, and financial resources to a certification program. If you choose one of the lesser-known certifications, you may have to take greater pains in explaining and promoting it, but if it's in line with your goals, it's a better choice than an instantly recognized certification that doesn't relate to what you really want to accomplish.

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