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10 big data certifications with big bucks potential

Investing in big data and other data analytics technologies is clearly a good career bet. But what's the best way to get a job in these fields? Here's what employers are looking for.

If there's one technology field shaping how people and organizations create, consume, and use digital information, it's got to be data science. The technology is known by many names, including big data, business intelligence, and data analytics, among others. Whatever you call it, this field puts data to work by extracting insights and information to help companies improve productivity and gain a competitive edge.

With the whole world going digital, and petabytes of data being generated daily, mining data for value is the hallmark of well-run, productive organizations. In short, there's plenty of gold in them data hills—for those who know how to find their way around it.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Certainly, there's no shortage of big data jobs and certifications. Where to begin? I started my efforts with four popular job board sites (SimplyHired, Indeed, LinkedIn Jobs, and TechCareers) and a list of 24 big data certs. Next, I ran a job search for each of those certifications over three sampling days. Finally, I compiled the results and averaged the totals. The credentials with the highest average numbers are those featured in this article. Partial results from my search appear in Table 1, which lists the top 10 certs related to big data.

The end result is a ranking that identifies the big data certifications that turn up most frequently in job ads, accompanied by the time and money it takes to earn them.

Table 1: Certification facts

Oracle Business Intelligence

Foundation

Certification

Number of exams

Total cost

Time to complete (months)

Job counts (raw numbers)

 
   
 Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation

1

$245

6

7,520

 

ASE  Records Manager

1

$200

24

4,204

SAS Predictive Modeler

1

$250

6

2,976

CCA Administrator

1

$295

6

2,052

IBM Data Architect – Big Data

1

$200

36

2,304

IBM Data Engineer – Big Data

1

$200

24

2,012

MCSE: Data Management & Analysis

1

$165

18

2,123

MongoDB Certified Developer

1

$150

6

2,292

SAS Certified Big Data Professional

2

$360

12

1,077

HPE IDOL

1

$200

6

336

In the section that follows, I present these 10 certifications in ranking order.

1. Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation

Oracle boasts a robust certification portfolio designed to meet the needs of Oracle and Sun professionals. Currently, there are more than 1 million Oracle certification holders worldwide. The Oracle Business Intelligence (OBI) Foundation Suite 11 Certified Implementation Specialist targets professionals with intermediate-level skills who implement OBI software. While anyone may obtain the credential, this cert specifically focuses on Oracle Partner Network members. A single exam is required to earn this credential. As with most Oracle credentials, this certification requires training.

2. HPE Records Manager

When it comes to big data and analytics solutions, IT professionals can't go wrong with one of Hewlett Packard Enterprise's big data certifications. HPE currently offers big data credentials for professionals working with structured data, the Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL), data protection, and records management. In fact, HPE offers two records management credentials: the HPE Accredited Solutions Expert (ASE) Records Manager Administrator V8 and HPE Accredited Technical Professional (ATP) Records Manager. Both credentials are primarily for professionals who use the HPE Records Manager solution to manage and maintain large amounts of data on an enterprisewide or global basis. A single exam is required to obtain the HPE ATP Records Manager cert. To earn the HPE ASE Records Manager cert, candidates must possess the ATP Records Manager credential and pass an additional exam. Training is recommended for both certs.

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3. SAS Predictive Modeler

Since 1999, SAS has certified more than 100,000 SAS professionals in 121 countries. SAS certifications are offered in six focus areas: foundation tools, advanced analytics, business intelligence and analytics, data management, administration, and partner-focused certs. The SAS Predictive Modeler Using SAS Enterprise Miner 14 is part of the SAS Advanced Analytics certification portfolio. Other credentials in this category include Data Scientist, Advanced Analytics Professional, and Statistical Business Analyst. To earn the Predictive Modeler cert, candidates must pass a rigorous performance-based exam that validates a candidate's skill in data preparation, building, assessing and implementing models, and analyzing data sets and data patterns.

4. Cloudera Certified Associate Administrator

A relative newcomer on the big data scene, Cloudera has grown significantly since its humble beginnings in 2008. Today, Cloudera is involved in Apache Hadoop and hybrid cloud open source software solutions, certifications, and training. The Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Administrator targets professionals who can configure, install, test, and troubleshoot using Cloudera Manager. Candidates should also possess an understanding of Linux environments and Hadoop utilities and the command line. A single performance-based exam is required to earn this credential.

5. IBM Certified Data Architect, Big Data

IBM is certainly no stranger to big data. IBM's Certified Data Architect  Big Data targets experienced professionals who are big data experts. Big data architects define customer requirements as well as recommend, design, and implement big data solutions. One exam is required to earn this credential. Training is recommended but not required.

6. IBM Certified Data Engineer, Big Data

A professional-level certification, the IBM Certified Data Engineer – Big Data credential is for engineers working with big data technologies and enterprise data processing systems. Functioning as technical gurus, big data engineers work closely with big data architects to turn ideas into working, real-world big data solutions. A single exam is required to earn this credential. Training is recommended but not required.

7. Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Data Management and Analytics

A newcomer to the company's wide certification portfolio, the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Data Management and Analytics replaces the MCSE: Business Intelligence credential that retired on March 31. That precursor credential (MCSE: Business Intelligence) will probably continue to appear in job postings for the near term, at least until prospective employers become familiar with the replacement cert. The MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential validates a candidate's knowledge in SQL administration and in developing business intelligence and other data-centric software for enterprise environments. Interested candidates must pass the associated MCSE exam and possess an MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 or SQL 2016 Database Administration, Database Development, BI Development, or Machine Learning. Here again, training is recommended but not required.

8. MongoDB Certified Developer Associate

A mere 10 years old, MongoDB has offices in 18 countries across North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe. Its premier product is MongoDB, an open source NoSQL document-oriented database. MongoDB currently offers two credentials: the MongoDB Certified Developer Associate and the MongoDB Certified DBA Associate. Both certifications are administered by MongoDB University, which offers several learning options. The Certified Developer Associate is geared toward professionals who create, implement, and run MongoDB application solutions. A single exam is required to earn the credential.

9. SAS Certified Big Data Professional Using SAS 9

The SAS Certified Big Data Professional Using SAS 9 cert targets professionals who work with SAS data management tools. Two exams are required to earn this credential. Candidates are expected to have experience with SAS, Hadoop, Hive, data quality, statistics fundamentals, SAS programming, big data best practices and challenges, and data manipulation and transformation.

10. HPE IDOL

IDOL stands for Intelligent Data Operating Layer and is HPE's premium platform that supports unified data analytics, machine learning, over 1,000 data formats, deep neural networks, and much more. As with HPE's Records Manager certs, there are two IDOL credentials: the HP ATP IDOL Server V10 and the HP ASE IDOL V10. The former is for professionals who configure, install, and deploy the IDOL platform, perform data indexing, and tend to other administrative tasks. A single exam is required. The ASE IDOL cert is an expert-level credential focused on professionals working with the platform's advanced processes and procedures. To earn the ASE IDOL certification, candidates must first earn the ATP IDOL Server cert and then pass one additional exam. Training plus experience is highly recommended for both certs.

Other interesting big data certifications

While their job board numbers weren't quite high enough to earn them a slot in the top 10, we found several other big data certifications worthy of mention. These certs enjoyed solid, albeit slightly lower, numbers in the job board results that informed Table 1 above.

Here are the certifications, followed by their job board results (see Table 2):

  • HPE ATP – Structured Data Manager V7: A professional-level certification, this credential targets professionals who work with HPE Structured Data Manager. Successful candidates install, configure, and administer structured data manager environments, understand database modeling, and troubleshoot related issues. Training is highly recommended but not required. A single exam is required to earn the credential. HPE also offers another big data cert: the ATP Data Protector. While I chose not to feature the Data Protector in this year's list, its job board numbers were certainly within striking distance, and it bears watching in the future.
  • CCP Data Engineer: The CCP Data Engineer certification is an expert-level credential for IT professionals. The people who should consider this credential are those who use Cloudera's CDH cluster environment to create and execute linear, branching, and time-dependent workflows with interdependencies; create complex data sets and queries; convert data set values; and transfer data between clusters and external systems. There are no prerequisites, but Cloudera recommends real-world experience and completion of the Hadoop Developer training course. A practical, hands-on exam is required to earn the credential.
  • CCA Data Analyst: This Cloudera credential targets SQL developers using Hive and Impala in Cloudera's CDH environment to create reports. The credential validates a candidate's ability to analyze cluster data using Query Language statements in Impala and Hive; to create, modify, and alter tables using Data Definition Language statements; import and export data from MySQL databases to HDFS using Sqoop; and prepare data for queries. (If those make you say, “Oh, sure, that's easy!” you're probably the right person to take this test.) While not required, Cloudera recommends that candidates complete the Data Analyst Training course. To earn the credential, candidates must pass a hands-on practical exam using CDH 5 cluster.
  • SAS Certified Statistical Business Analyst Using SAS9 – Regression and Modeling: This credential targets professionals using STAT and SAS software. Interested professionals should be experienced with model performance measurement, predictive model input preparations, logistic and linear regression, and variance analysis. There are no prerequisites, but training is beneficial. One exam is required to earn the credential.

Table 2: Job board search results

Certification

SimplyHired

Indeed

LinkedIn Jobs

TechCareers

Total

HPE Structured Data Manager

165

168

34

4

371

CCP Data Engineer

253

266

19

18

556

CCA Data Analyst

181

192

28

33

413

SAS Certified Statistical Business Analyst

95

101

252

131

579

Keep your eyes on these certs in the future. They might just show up on next year's leader board!

Big data opportunities abounding

You don't have to earn a certification to get a big data job. While the job board numbers indicate that many prospective employers are actively hiring certified professionals, many more companies simply seek techies who know big data technologies.

To that end, a generic job search using the search string "big data" had pretty impressive results. For example, on SimplyHired, I found more than 43,000 job postings, while Indeed featured nearly 49,000 big data jobs. That's a lot of employers looking for this expertise!

While job descriptions may not specifically require certification to qualify candidates for employment, possessing the right certification can provide a competitive edge to help you snag a coveted new position.

Certification and big data training

OK, there's good money to be made in this area of IT. How do you learn what you need to get a job in the field and, more important, to do that job well?

While most big data certs don't require formal training, training is not only for the financial benefit of the educational institution. Classes, in one form or another, prepare you for the certification exam and impart a breadth of domain knowledge (not to mention that your coursework proves that breadth to a would-be employer).

Most certification providers offer interested parties a comprehensive training portfolio that includes self-study materials, classroom and online instructor-led training, virtual learning, and in some cases, hybrid learning. Many providers also offer subscriptions to online learning materials so candidates can study on their own schedules. In addition to formal training, many certification providers also offer supplemental learning and exam prep support in the form of webinars, conferences, white papers, mentors, study groups, courseware, e-books, and more.

Table 3 lists some of the training types offered by certification providers for our featured certs. There are, of course, many other options available, but this table aims to give you an overview of what to expect to see from certification sponsors or providers.

Table 3: Big data training options by certification provider

Provider

Featured cert

Online training

Offline training

Oracle

Business Intelligence Foundation

VILT, e-learning, on-demand

Study guides, ILT, self-paced materials, custom courses

HPE

Records Manager, IDOL

Web-based, self-paced, virtual instructor led, virtual lab, virtual class (recorded), Adoption Readiness tool, Training Analysis tool

Instructor-led training

SAS

Predictive Modeler, Certified Big Data Professional

ILO, e-learning, virtual labs, self-assessments, how-to videos, tutorials, live events

ILT, workshops, on-site training, textbooks

Cloudera

CCA Administrator

VILT, on-demand, sample questions

ILT

IBM

Architect – Big Data, Data Engineer – Big Data

IBM Knowledge Center, web-based training, assessment/sample exams

ILT

Microsoft

MCSE: Data Management & Analysis

Exam prep videos, practice, certification study groups, on-demand exams, videos, virtual labs, learning materials, study groups, study questions, self-study options, Cisco Training Partners

ILT, books, courseware

MongoDB

MongoDB Certified Developer Associate

Online classes and training

Public and private training, self-study materials

Note: ILO stands for instructor-led online training, and ILT stands for instructor-led training in a physical classroom.

You don't have to go to the certification providers. Third-party vendors typically offer training that targets a specific certification or more generic training by topic category, such as big data, business intelligence, or data analytics.

Table 4: Third-party big data training providers

   

Provider

Big data training

Online training

Offline training

Global Knowledge

SAS, IBM, Microsoft

ILO, virtual labs, blended learning

ILT, blended learning, managed programs, student assessments, custom materials

New Age Technologies

Cloudera, Microsoft

E-learning, blended learning, virtual labs, ILO

ILT

New Horizons

IBM, Microsoft

ILO, e-learning, virtual labs, blended learning, online mentoring

ILT, blended learning, on-site training

Pluralsight

Cloudera, Microsoft (SQL), Hadoop

E-learning

Online and offline viewing

Skillsoft

Microsoft

ILO, e-learning, e-books, virtual labs, online mentoring

Courseware, e-books, virtual labs, mobile

Simplilearn

MongoDB, SAS, Spark/Hadoop, Big Data & Analytics

VILT, e-learning, on-demand e-learning

Articles, e-books

Intellipaat

IBM, SAS, Oracle, MongoDB, Hadoop/Spark, Big Data & Business Intelligence courses

Self-paced training, ILO, 24/7 email support

On-site training (by request)

Koenig Solutions

Cloudera, Oracle, Data Analyst, Hadoop, Big Data courses

ILO, flip classroom (assisted self-study), on-demand, labs, Koenig edX, webinars

Classroom, one-on-one training, Theater Experience (on Koenig Dubai site), on-site training

College certificate or degree programs

In addition to third-party and certification training providers, many colleges and universities also offer big data (undergraduate and graduate) degree or certificate programs. Many of these are specifically geared to IT professionals who work in the field. They include:

  • American Military University: This program confers a master of science in applied business analytics and focuses on analytics and business cases with an emphasis on purchasing, procurement, and supply chain logistics.
  • Jacksonville University: This master of science in applied business analytics is a 100 percent online course.
  • Lambton College: This college offers a graduate certificate in big data applied science  (Ontario College). A college diploma or degree in computers, mathematics, engineering, statistics, or a related field is required.
  • PennState World Campus: A three-course graduate certificate in business analytics allows candidates to transition to the Master of Professional Studies in Data Analytics – Business Analytics option degree; 30 credit hours are required.
  • Stanford Data Mining and Applications: This is a graduate-level certification program focused on topics such as data mining, machine learning, analytics and predictive modeling, and statistical methods of data extraction. Admission standards are rigorous and competitive.
  • Rasmussen College: Here you can earn a data analytics bachelor's degree with a complete online curriculum; it takes a minimum of 18 months to complete.
  • University of Arizona: The business intelligence and analytics graduate-level certificate, offered by the University of Arizona's Management Information Systems department, requires nine credit hours.

In addition, you may want to check out Coursera for big data courses from institutions such as the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; and Yonsei University.

MOOC courses for… free?!

Preparing for a certification exam can be time-consuming and, in some cases, costly. One interesting training opportunity to explore comes in the form of massive open online courses (MOOCs). As the term indicates, MOOCs are delivered online, so you can study on your own time and schedule.

Some of the world's leading universities, institutions, and business providers offer MOOCs in data science. Thanks to modern technology, you don't have to go to California to study at Stanford, for example. If the Stanford course you want is a MOOC, you need only enroll and then log in from the comfort of your home or office.

The best part about MOOCs is the price tag. Unless you need college credit toward a degree or some kind of official certificate, most MOOCs are free! That said, some institutions charge additional fees to issue certifications upon course completion, so be sure to read the fine print if you need a certificate or academic credit.

While there are many MOOC lists to ponder and peruse, our favorite is the MOOC Search Engine. A search for "big data" yields more than 800,000 hits (including lots of duplicate listings), including everything from foundational and introductory courses to advanced topics, such as implementing with Hadoop, web intelligence and big data, machine learning, and even the role of big data in genomic data science. With so many courses to choose from, you're sure to find something that piques your interest.

There is a wide variety of MOOC providers and plenty of course choices. For example, training providers such as Allison, Coursera, and edX all offer many big data MOOCs. You can also find vendor presentations on their YouTube channels with an endless stream of big data training videos. If video learning is too time consuming, consider big data podcasts, such as Kirill Eremenko's SuperData Science.

What now? What's next?

If you make the decision to make the career leap into the realm of big data, congratulations! Your next step is to chase down the training and certifications you need to snag your dream job. With so many learning choices available, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Don't be. With careful planning, you'll be on your way to certification in no time at all.

(See also our overviews of the most valuable certifications for infrastructure pros and the most in-demand cloud certifications, if you're still considering the best career path.)

If you're serious about a career in big data, take a closer look at the certs featured in this article. See how they line up with your career aspirations. Be sure to review the various types of training available so you can find options to fit your budget, work schedule, and personal learning style. Talk with former students or other professionals about their experiences with certs that interest you. Once you've done your homework, you can select one or more that are right for you. The next thing you know, you'll be on your way to an exciting career in big data. Good luck!

Related links:

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How dirty clothes and connectivity training will propel your sales engagements

All You Need to Know about HPE Partner Ready Certifications and Learning

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.