Pearson VUE Cert Survey Sheds Interesting Light on IT Landscape

Man with serious expression using laptop

Before I launch into a discussion of the responses to a question that Pearson VUE raised on a recent survey conducted among over 400,000 people who took a Pearson VUE exam in 2015, there are a few things I need to observe.


First, while Pearson VUE does administer certification exams for a large number of certification program sponsors — including the three 800-pound gorillas of IT certification: Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA — it does not administer certification exams for all such sponsors and their credentials.


My best guess is that they've got between 70 and 80 percent of the overall market covered, though, which makes its results noteworthy and close enough to representative of the whole certification world to speak eloquently about what that world is like and what's going on in it.


Second, while testing is an important aspect of earning most certifications, for at least some of them — including the most senior and prestigious credentials — there's more to getting certified than passing one or more required tests. This includes such things as documenting work history, obtaining referrals, writing reports or design documents or proposals, providing proof of educational background and attainment, and so forth and so on.


Third, I myself have worked for Pearson Education (a sister company to Pearson View) over the years, and have written books and articles for them (since the mid-1990s), blogged for them for 5 years, and continue to work with and for them on a variety of certification-related projects. I cheerfully confess I might not be the most unbiased observer of or reported on their activities, though I always do my best to be objective and accurate.


About the Survey


The survey under discussion is called The 2015 Value of Certification Survey (PDF format). It was conducted online from Aug. 3 to Sept. 13, 2015, and involved contacting 400,000-plus individuals who had taken a Pearson VUE exam over the previous 12-month period.


Pearson VUE received 26,603 responses from test-takers around the world, and used those responses to tabulate the results and generate the afore-cited report. Pearson describes the objectives driving the survey as follows:


? To learn more about study habits, reasons for taking training and obtaining a certification, purchasing behaviors and intentions for future training and/or testing.
? To gain insight into the value of IT certification for candidates.


The company offered a small incentive to participants, in that the first 100 participants in each of three geographic areas received a $10 (USD or local equivalent) gift certificate from Amazon for providing their responses. Those areas were: The Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), and Asia-Pacific.


Overall, the entire survey is pretty interesting and informative, and very much worth skimming over, if not reading in complete detail. If this sort of thing interests you it's definitely worth downloading and reading.


About the Question and Its Answers


With all this preliminaries and disclaimers behind us, take a look at the graphic included with this blog post. The question it raises and whose answers it graphs out reads "In the past 12 months, have you taken a certification exam for any of the following programs? Please select all that apply."


Ed Tittel Pearson VUE Survey graphic


The graphic goes on to depict a histogram for the top 10 responses in alphabetic order by sponsor name. I've reordered the top ten programs by level of participation here:


1. Microsoft: 36.33 percent 2. Cisco: 23.61 percent 3. VMware: 11.54 percent 4. HP: 10.29 percent 5. CompTIA: 8.54 percent 6. Oracle: 8.15 percent 7. IBM: 2.68 percent 8. LPI: 2.04 percent 9. EMC: 1.84 percent 10. EXIN: 1.52 percent


First, some observations. While I'm not at all surprised to see two of the three 800-pound gorillas take first and second place here (Microsoft and Cisco), I'm more than a little surprised to see CompTIA in fifth place, behind both VMware and HP.


Second, the total of all participants who responded to this question that fell in the top 10 was 106.54 percent. (I don't have access to the number of respondents who did take a certification exam that year right now, nor do I know how many of the respondents took more than one certification exam in the same period. I've contacted Pearson VUE to see if I can get these numbers).


It is clear that some respondents took more than one certification exam, some from multiple exam sponsors (or it wouldn't have produced a total participation rate of more than 100 percent).


Other cert sponsors that registered on this radar included (in alphabetical order): Adobe, Alcatel Lucent, Apple, Appsense, Arista, ASQ, Atlassian, Autodesk, Avaloq, BCS, Brocade, Citrix, CIW, Dassault, Dell, EC Council, Ericsson, Facebook, Filemaker, Google, IIBA, IIST, ISACA, (ISC)2, ISQI, ISTQB, Juniper Networks, Lenovo, LinkeIn, Nokia, Palo Alto, PeopleCert, PMI, Puppet Labs, QAI, Ruijie Networks, SAP, SAS, Siemens, SQE, Symantec, Teradata, and Tibco.


By my count, this makes for a total of 54 organizations overall. Many of these have well-known and -recognized global certification programs – for example, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Brocade, Citrix, EC Council, ISACA and (ISC)2, to identify just a few – while many more serve more limited geographical markets or technology niches.


It does seem to capture an interest cross section of the entire certification landscape, however, and shows how broad and varied IT professionals' certficiation interests truly are.


I'm still chewing on the significance of VMware and HP upstaging CompTIA. So far, I believe that VMware's position at No. 3 shows just how important virtualization is to modern IT operations and, by extension, how important the cloud has become as well.


HP's presence in fourth place shows that this sometimes underappreciated technology company has some marketplace heft, as well as enough partner drawing power (certification for partner companies' technical staff is a common hallmark for many vendors' cert programs, including HP's).


It will be interesting to see if the split into HP Enterprise (commercial computer systems, software an tech services) and HP Inc. (personal computers and printers) produces some equivalent splits in numbers for the next Pearson VUE survey. I'm guessing probably not, because most of the HP certifications cover products and platforms that are now part of HPE.


For me the only real surprise in the Top 10 was EXIN, a company that offers certifications in the ITIL and business processes and governance areas. I guess that makes it a pleasant surprise, in fact, because while those disciplines are important to conducting formal and proper IT operations, many companies and organizations have been slow to embrace them.


Even showing up at the bottom of the top 10 seems to indicate this stuff is finally on the radar, and enjoying increasing uptake. Good news!


There's a lot of interesting information to be gleaned from this report, so I'll probably return to it another time or two. In the meantime, take a look for yourself, and see what you think.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.