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IT Certification and Career Trends for 2004

Contributed by Jidaw Systems Limited

What are your IT Career and Certification expectations for year 2004? While certifications can give you an edge, going for just any certification doesn't help. What is your career focus? New Year, New ...? New Year, same old story? New or old activities, what is your focus? New does not always translate to good or wise. It makes sense to review and analyze trends that will affect your career in 2004.

Where are the opportunities - new or old? Growth areas? How do you intend to sharpen or expand your skills? Start your career planning for 2004 ( If certification is a solution, make sure you focus on certifications that will aid your career growth. Resources (time and money) are limited so you need to weigh the pros and cons of certification carefully.

While you concentrate on maintaining your core skills, you should observe technology trends and developments. Monitoring these trends in line with your career focus should help you in setting goals for the year. It can help in staying ahead of the crowd.

Let's look at some interesting career and certification expectations in 2004.

IT security is an area that is witnessing tremendous growth and interest. Security is a major with viruses, spam, denial-of-service attacks and privacy concerns. But security is more than a catchy IT trend. Security is to IT as a roof is to a house.

The ease with which computer crime is growing is alarming. More sophisticated and daring threats are expected from hackers and virus writers in 2004. The growing recognition of security management increases the value of security-related skills and certifications.

Recognized security certifications are: CompTIA's Security+, MCSE: Security, MCSA: Security, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information System Auditor (CISA) and Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP). More on Security Certifications.

Networking support and administration encompassing Network Design, Network Installation, and Network Security continues to attract attention. With businesses and individuals investing more in network infrastructure, there is always a need for professional and experienced Network administrators. All the new technologies can only perform on reliable, high-performance network infrastructure. Microsoft for example, has one of the highest installed user bases of any software manufacturer due in part to its popular network operating systems.

Networking is one of the most popular areas of IT that has also closely embraced certification. The trend is likely to continue. Indeed Cisco's CCIE is regarded as the toughest and one of the most respected certification programs in the IT industry. Certifications to be considered for the networking world are CompTIA’s Network+ (, Microsoft's MCSA/ MCSE ( and Cisco CCNA/CCNP/CCIE (

Can you ignore Linux? Advances in Linux adoption globally means you have to take note of Linux developments. The growing increase in Linux installed base means industry needs more pros with Linux skills. No wonder, Linux certifications are getting stronger. Despite Microsoft's attempt to protect its territory, IT manufacturing giants - IBM, Sun Microsystems and Novell - don't think Linux is a joke. They are all investing heavily in Linux. Certifications that validate Linux skills and knowledge are CompTIA's Linux+, Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) / Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) and Linux Professional Institute (LPI) certifications.

More on Linux Certifications.

The global trend towards outsourcing seems set to grow. But as many investors have found out, Project management makes the difference between wishful thinking and wise investments. Outsourcing requires effective project designing, scoping, scheduling, budgeting, and managing by all parties involved in the process.

And as IT professionals need to develop their business and non-tech skills, project management expertise is particularly useful in closing the soft skills gap. Project management certifications for IT professionals are CompTIA's IT Project+ and the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) Project Management Professional (PMP).

More on Project Management Certifications.

Offshore or onshore, Programming is still a major and essential activity required by the IT industry. With web developments and services growing, programmers are needed to build applications for the web, operating systems, new IT-driven products and services or for dedicated devices.

Top developer certifications are Microsoft's MCAD, MCSD and Sun Certified Java Developer. Again Microsoft certifications are to be considered because of its virtual dominance of the PC market.

Java developed by Sun Microsystems is no pushover. Java's platform independence can't be ignored. Additionally, there is a growing demand for wireless software programmers - mobile application development. Programming is required for applications on cell phones, PDAs and other handheld devices. Java and C are in fact the major programming languages supporting mobile programming.

More on Developer certifications.

As you develop and grow your career in 2004, an area you should take a close look at is Wireless Networking. It's no longer a question of whether business will accept wireless LANs or not. WLANs and WiFi hotspots should experience growth as standards mature. Already today, Network Administration refers to the administration of both wired and wireless networks.

The first and only vendor neutral exams to certify wireless networking knowledge are Planet3 Wireless Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) certifications.

The existing demand in the database market sustains the need for Database administrators (DBAs) who maintain the information the corporation needs to be successful. DBAs help to eliminate the inefficiencies and increasing management and administrative costs associated with business. DBA certifications are usually middle level to advanced level certifications. Relevant DBA certifications are Oracle's 8i/9i OCP (Oracle Certified Professional) DBA, Microsoft's Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) and IBM's DB2 Universal Database Certifications.

More on Database Certifications.

What are the trends for Beginners to IT? Getting experience is still a major mountain most newcomers encounter. Get tips for getting IT Job experience here ( Regrettably many newcomers get attracted to high-level certifications expecting immediate employment or multiple job options. Certification, even the most popular, does not guarantee a job. Newcomers need to become more creative in their job search efforts.

If certification is a route you must follow, it is wiser to start with entry-level certifications. CompTIA's A+ still leads the pack. It is globally accepted as the best certification for newcomers covering fundamental hardware and software skills. What is A+?

Other foundation level certifications are Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) - focus on Microsoft Network software and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) - focus on Cisco Network hardware. More on MCP and CCNA.

Other Trends

I have covered most of the major areas of IT that recognize certification. So how are you going to pursue these opportunities? How will you take advantage of these trends? The approach is not to start chasing all "hot" certifications. Keep your feet on the ground. Be realistic ( Certification is just a career tool. It cannot replace attitude, experience or guarantee jobs.

Certifications give you valuable knowledge and status. But in the highly competitive IT market, relying on the right technical skills is no longer enough for career growth. Build up your soft skills - business, communications, presentation, personal networking, leadership, teamwork, etc.

The trend towards learning will not change. Keep on learning. Stop learning and you become a dinosaur. ( Plan for new competences that are in line with your career focus. Stay in touch with IT developments. Attend Career forums to give you updates and a wider perspective of IT careers ( Assess imminent changes in business and information technology and be proactive. Use the Internet to keep tabs on new technologies and developments.

As you settle into 2004, are you taking time to reflect on certification and career trends of the past year? What are the implications for growth in the next twelve months? Analyze and review these trends with your long-term goals in mind.

Don't chase certification based on noise or popularity. Avoid the "can't hurt may help" mindset. Invest in certification that will help you move forward. Period! You need to be as efficient as possible and keep your focus on moving your career in the direction you want it to be going. Without a Plan this can be difficult and confusing.

Where are you? Where are you going? Planning is very important. "Plan your work and work your Plan". Making clear career choices and following through are critical. It will take time, effort and attitude; but you can do it.

Ready to reap the benefits of an information technology career in 2004? Stay on top of your game. Keep technically sharp. Be observant. Be wise. Invest in yourself.

All the best in 2004! All the best in your IT Career!