Five certification notions to chew on for 2015

Well, 2014 is nearly in the books, and we're about to step into a new year of information technology certification stories and developments. Whether you are an industry veteran looking to keep your certs current, or a newcomer to the IT field getting ready to step into a test center for the first time, 2015 promises to offer a number of interesting and exciting IT certification developments.

 

Here are some forward-looking thoughts concerning IT certification-related developments to watch for in 2015.

 

At-home cert testing will grow

 

Microsoft recently announced a significant expansion of its beta program offering certification candidates the option of taking certain MCP certification exams at home. This program uses online exam proctors who keep a virtual eye on exam takers via a webcam and headset. Initially only available in the United States, the program has just been expanded to another 20 countries.

 

At-home test taker

We expect this trend to continue to grow in 2015, with other certification vendors launching (or at least considering) at-home exam availability. These programs offer certification opportunities to people who live long distances from authorized test centers, or have mobility issues that make travel difficult.

 

Retail security will be a top priority

 

The past 12 months were filled with numerous incidents of security breaches at retail stores, resulting in massive numbers of consumers having their credit card information compromised. The most recent case in this epidemic was just reported by retail giant Staples, which has admitted that more than a million customer payment cards may have been exposed.

 

Computer and network security isn't just for corporate offices and datacenters: Retail stores must begin to take the safeguarding of their customers' information as seriously as they treat loss prevention from internal theft and shoplifting. This year, we hope to see more retail giants using certified IT security pros to help prevent these data crimes from happening.

 

Windows 7 will still be the desktop OS of the enterprise

 

Yes, Microsoft is ending mainstream support for Windows 7 on January 13, 2015. Yes, some sites have run FUD-based (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) stories about Windows 7 vanishing soon. Doom! Doom, I say!

 

Don't believe it. Windows 8 adoption has died in its tracks, and no CTO in their right mind is planning to move to Windows 10 immediately after it's released in late 2015. Windows 7 will continue to be the prevalent enterprise desktop OS in 2015. If you are planning on earning a Windows client certification in 2015, make it Windows 7.

 

Big Data skills will be rewarded

 

Business social network LinkedIn just released its list of the 25 hottest skills of 2014, based on an analysis of LinkedIn members' skills and experience, and their related employment activities. The skill at the top of the list: Statistical Analysis and Data Mining. It seems that every modern corporation, and agencies at every level of government, are looking for IT professionals who can transform massive data sets into information assets that will drive successful strategic decisions.

 

The relatively new emphasis on Big Data doesn't just benefit stat analysts and data scientists. All of this data wrangling requires IT technicians, network administrators, and storage network architects who can design, create, manage and support so-called "Big Data" installations.

 

IT Certifications will still have value

 

Many education-based credentials have been called into question over time. Is a high school diploma worthless? What about a Bachelor of Arts degree? An MBA? When it comes to assessing the value of educational earmarks, the sky is always falling.

 

IT certifications, like the credentials listed above, are not a guarantee of respect, employment, or elevated salary. Instead, like a college degree or any secondary education achievement, an IT certification stands as a validation of specific knowledge, and as a symbol of a candidate's commitment to a career path in a specific industry.

 

It is this idea of commitment that critics of industry certifications ignore. Earning an IT certification is a symbol of intent. It demonstrates your desire to gain knowledge, and to apply that knowledge in a professional environment. This concept is something that many HR departments and hiring personnel understand, and will continue to assign value to, into 2015 and beyond.

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About the Author
Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.

Aaron Axline is a technology journalist and copywriter based in Edmonton, Canada. He can be found on LinkedIn, and anywhere fine coffee is served.