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One common question is “which certification should I get?” or “which is the best one?”… As usual it depends and is not a simple “objective” choice because it also depends on your needs and on what is required (in the IT field), that could also depends year by year.
For the first question IMHO I really suggest to check your skills, think on what you would like to do and related to jobs offers. Which is the right certification could not be defined with a simple objective criteria. One criteria could simple choose a certification according on your kind of job.
There are some site with several lists, but again it depends by too much factors and also the region could be one of this. For Escotal make each year a top 10 (see 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012), but seems too much focused on the courses and training that they sell.
Much interesting is the second question, because the best certification could be defined with some objective criteria, like:
- how is “strong”: cheat the exam questions is one the biggest problem that can reduce the value of a exam… several solutions can be used to avoid it
- how is difficult: time required to prepare, number of tests and exams,
- how is selective: although is not public available, how is the pass rate
- how is elective: a few number of certified people could mean that is a good certification
Unfortunately there could also other criteria that can make a certification harder that another, like for example the costs (the MCM programs could be really interesting, but IMHO cost too much) or the language gap (at high level certifications are actually only in English, that could be another effort) or the geographic gap (not all Countries could be covered by exam and/or training).
One interesting post about the “best” certifications is this one from IT Certification Master: Become a Legend – The Hardest IT Certifications to Get. In this post the list of “top” certification, starting from the hardest (the difficult is evaluate with three criteria: requirements, preparations, exams), is:
- Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) – This is also one of the most expensive and really elective
- Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) Microsoft SQL Server 2008 – Still quite expensive, and too elective (seems that only 6 people have this certification)
- Oracle Certified Master (OCM) DBA 11g – The path seems simple (compared to the previous certifications), but seems to be quite hard
- Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) – Again, the path seems simple (only practicle exam to pass), but it does not mean that is simple
- Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Storage Networking – Quite selective (seems that only the 25% pass the final exam, but probably also less) and the “mentor week” is high recomanded
- VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) – Is the Master or Architect level of VMware certifications and is really selective (with a low pass rate) and elective (actually less than 70 people)
- Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE)
This is just a list and sound strange that no MCM certification of there, as also no mention on EMC and Citrix certifications (some of them are quite difficult). I could agree with the CCAr and MCA (not necessary on SQL, I think that Exchange or SharePoint could be more difficult) in the top position (but how much is the influence of the cost?), maybe less on the other position. A practical exam could be a “simple” lab environment or a full project with discussion… in this way I think that the RHCA and OCM could be “easier” than CCIE and VCDX.
For my point of view a good certification must have different criteria of evaluation of candidate’s knowledge: not only exams (also if they are practicle exams), but architectural and technical design, interview and like questions, … (like VCDX). But the real certification may also depend on how the market accept (and know) this certification… if is too elective maybe it will loose his value outside the vendor boundaries.