Hiring managers, too, want to see more than just technical chops from job candidates. "They're looking for people who are good thinkers, have a feel for what goes on in other parts of the business, and understand how IT can be integrated," says Jerry Luftman, vice president at the Society for Information Management. "They want people with a holistic view." (Luftman is also associate dean of graduate information systems at Stevens Institute of Technology, which offers a dozen credentialed IT-business programs, such as IT for financial services, IT for health care, and IT for outsourcing.)
Project and process management certs are also in demand
Certifications that command some of the highest pay have close ties to revenue, such as those that involve improved project management, process efficiency, increased productivity, and better budgeting. Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, has seen an uptick in demand for people with ITIL certification -- most notably, the ITIL v3 Master -- which can help an organization save money.
The oft-ballyhooed PMP (Project Management Professional) certificate and its related certificates from the Project Management Institute (PMI), for instance, ride on the process-improvement wave. "When companies are hiring project managers, they like to see the PMI certification," Schlocker says. "Often, the hiring manager is PMI-certified."
Most tech certifications are no longer so valuable
Conversely, technical certifications aren't faring as well, with the exception of security. "During a study of IT services firms, I asked if their client cared about [technical] certifications," says Foote, "and pretty much all of them said, 'Not really.'" The vast majority of certification categories showed a decline in value. Web development certifications, in particular, plummeted.
Of course, that's not to say technical skills in areas such as networking, databases, systems administration, and programming aren't in demand. Indeed, there are hot IT jobs out there, as well as recession-proof ones. What's happened is that the technical certifications in these areas are no longer as important in the hiring process.
The big exception to this trend away from technical certifications' value is security certification, says Foote. For starters, banking, financial services, and similarly regulated industries often require a security certification, so you often won't get a job in these industries without one. Security also is very specialized, so certifications can help clarify exactly what skills an employee or job candidate brings to the table. "Security is heavily technical, with so many facets and niches," Foote notes.
According to Foote Partners, security skills in demand include e-discovery, penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, security auditing, and ethical hacking. Banks also need anti-money-laundering pros who have prevention, detection, and investigation skills.