25 fastest growing tech certifications right now

Market values of these certifications increased the most in the second half of 2016.

In my recent blog listing the highest paying tech certifications reported in our firm’s long-running benchmark index of cash premiums for certified and noncertified skills, I explained the rationale for companies paying workers extra cash for tech certifications on top of their base salary. In a nutshell, HR departments trying to survive in today’s volatile labor marketplace with inflexible pay practices and aging HR systems will use skills premiums to compete with peer organizations that already have greater agility built into their salary and bonus programs.  

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But why do some employers require a certification and others don’t when it comes recognizing and rewarding special skills? And what about the hundreds of skills for which there are no certifications, such as C++, Ruby on Rails, and dozens of open-source software tools?   

It’s a local matter

Certifications have always been controversial. Two chief criticisms have been vendors that make it too easy for professionals to earn certification in their products and the idea that earning a certification by itself doesn’t necessarily translate to competence or success on the job.

There have been testing scandals involving third parties selling test answers. Vendors have fought back by adding real-time laboratories to demonstrate knowledge in practical terms, and some even began incorporating peer review panels for more advanced level certifications as the final step in deciding who gets awarded certification and who does not.

But the real issue is this: Are certified workers better qualified than noncertified workers to perform a job? Can a 90 question multiple choice test truly attest to competency when a passing score is 65%? It’s really a highly subjective local matter.

The fact is, tech skills knowledge and expertise is only one contributor to job success. Most employers have their own ways of interviewing and evaluating talent for quality and fit and ascertaining the value of a certification. Also important: "soft" skills and how well a person adapts to team culture and work environment, and how adept a person is at connecting their skills and aptitude to serving their employer’s customers and business strategies. There are countless moving parts for employers to consider in these equations.

Certifications are perhaps best suited for two situations: beginners entering the job market for the first time and established workers looking to change the direction of their career. Having a credential that maps to a target job when you’re just starting out helps establish a perception of commitment and credibility. For those already working -- say a network administrator with security responsibilities who wants to work in information security full time -- a certification is just the ticket to expand skills and make that shift.  

Our data sample

Extra pay awarded to 70,725 U.S. and Canadian IT professionals for 893 certified and noncertified IT and business skills has been tracked and updated every three months in the IT Skills and Certifications Pay IndexTM (ITSCPI) for seventeen years. Research partnerships with 3,018 employers yields data covering a total of 258,848 IT professionals at companies representing 44 industries plus the public and not-for-profit sectors.    

Fastest growing tech certifications, last six months  

The following certifications have recorded the highest gains in market value pay premiums in the six months ending on January 1, 2017. They've grown between 20 percent and 50 percent in value in this period and are shown in descending rank order of market value gain (including ties), arranged alphabetically within each rank.

  1. Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional  
  2. (Tie) Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT  
    GIAC Information Security Fundamentals  
  3. GIAC Certified Perimeter Protection Analyst
  4. (Tie) HP Accredited Technical Professional (all)
    Linux Professional Institute certification
  5. (Tie) Red Hat Certified System Administrator in Red Hat OpenStack
  6. (Tie) Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control
    GIAC Secure Software Programmer -- Java
  7. (Tie) EC-Council Certified Security Analyst
    GIAC Enterprise Defender
    GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester
    Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate
    Oracle Certified Associate -- WebLogic Server Administrator
    SAS Certified Advanced Programmer
  8. (Tie) EMC Storage Administrator -- Specialist
    GIAC Certified Penetration Tester
    GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester
    GIAC Systems and Network Auditor
    InfoSys Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP/CISSP)
    Juniper Networks Certified Internet Professional
    Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (all)
    Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: SQL Server 2008 (all)
    Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Business Intelligence
    Oracle Certified Professional -- Oracle Fusion Middleware11g Forms Developer

A word on pay vectors for certifications

Certifications that are displaying robust growth aren’t necessarily the newest, most popular hot skills in the marketplace.

Sometimes they're older certifications no longer in ample supply and spiking in short term demand because of market forces associated with a new product(s) -- or perhaps an event. Other times they may be getting a new boost from a certification extension by the vendor. In the list above are a few certifications that appear to be enjoying a bit of short term market "heat" that will likely abate in three to six months.  

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