In a survey of network professionals, it's not surprising that certifications on network technology were the most popular and deemed the most valuable. Some 67 percent of respondents had earned one, with Cisco certifications far and away the most popular. Forty-four percent of those making more than $110,000 had the ultra-hard (and expensive) CCIE. Among those with lower salaries, only 4 percent had earned it. Microsoft certs were held by 39 percent overall, and the CompTIA Network+ by almost one quarter.
Cisco certifications were named the most valuable - leading to more promotions, new jobs or pay raises than any other. But, oddly, Cisco certifications were also named among the least valuable.
"I do think networking certifications are the most valuable when coupled with some real-world experience. I wouldn't have gotten my last two positions without them," Norborg says. "It also depends on the cert itself. CCNA is OK. CCNP, CCDA and CCDP are better. I'm sure CCIE is even better, but once again, they'd be suspicious of a very young person with one."
Eddy adds: "The reason Cisco certs are seen as most valuable and least valuable is that it depends on the certification. The CCNA is entry-level and easy to get, but the CCIE is still hard and a lot of employers want it."
Security certifications also came in strong. Over one-third of respondents had one, with the CompTIA Security+ the most common. Among respondents making more than $110,000 annually, security certifications were held by 38 percent, particularly the CCSP, earned by 36 percent of this group. In comparison, only 9 percent of those making less than $110,000 had the CCSP but 32 percent had the CompTIA Security+.
The least popular certifications were for network management technology -- only 17 percent of our 700 respondents had one. While network management is often categorized as a mid-level job, surprisingly, those that earned the biggest salaries, over $110,000, were far more likely to have one (40 percent) than those under $110,000 (22 percent).
Least popular of all were certs involving virtualization technology from Citrix or Red Hat.
Beyond jobs and promotions, some certification holders felt that certs had other value. One said, "As I'm the only member of IT staff here, people have become aware of the more complicated jobs I perform here, having seen the certifications I've passed."
Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents said they chose to get a certification simply to learn about the technology, not to pocket more dough. While no one argues that a cert is more valuable than hands-on experience, "they can be helpful when implementing a new technology," Eddy says. "One of the things I like to negotiate with a new purchase order is that the vendor throws in the certification on their product."
He also says he gets the most value out of live classroom training. In a group setting, people will experience and troubleshoot a wider variety of problems as they learn. It will also help you build a network of other users to call on when you need it.
For more details on which certifications impact jobs and pay, see the full survey results.
Julie Bort is the editor of Network World's Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/1926 and Source Seeker http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/6116 blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.
Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.