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The 11 cloud certifications employers are looking for

Where and how can savvy IT pros distinguish themselves in a crowded cloud? Where are the best opportunities to be found? Here are the platforms worth betting your paycheck on.

The cloud has turned “pay as you go” computing from a pipe dream into a daily reality. Gartner uses the term “Cloud Shift” to describe how companies and organizations of all sizes are switching from on-premises computing and services to cloud-based computing and services, in addition to balancing that transition with existing data centers.

Just how big is the cloud? Last year Gartner estimated that the so-called Cloud Shift in IT will affect more than $1 trillion in related spending. With this much at stake, there will be many opportunities for IT pros. Indeed, demand for qualified, cloud-savvy IT professionals is likely to exceed supply for the foreseeable future. 

Cloud and distributed computing led LinkedIn's 2016 list of the Top 10 Skills, according to LinkedIn spokesperson Sophie Sieck. "Employers need employees with cloud and distributed computing, statistical analysis, and data mining skills to stay competitive," Sieck says. She notes that cloud and distributed computing has remained in the No. 1 spot for the past two years and is the top skill on almost every list—including in France, Germany, India, Ireland, Singapore, the United States, and Spain. Statistical analysis and data mining ranked second last year and first in 2014.

Read on to learn what IT skills are most likely to result in cloud-related employment.

In-demand cloud computing certifications

I started my research where the jobs are, checking with a select list of job sites. I focused on four sites: SimplyHired, Indeed, LinkedIn Jobs, and TechCareers. I started with a list of more than 70 cloud-related IT certifications. For each certification, I compiled job counts on three sampling days. I summed the day’s totals across all four sites and averaged the totals to learn which credentials are mentioned most in current job postings.

The results of my search appear in Table 1, which lists the top 11 cloud-related IT certifications. I listed 11 because one of the entries is a basic skills cert from CompTIA. Listing the top 11 certifications lets you see where the CompTIA cert sits (at No. 7), but it also shows you 10 credentials that can directly enhance your earning power. As a purely foundational cert, I don’t think CompTIA Cloud Essentials makes that cut.

How the right infrastructure can prepare your data center for business disruptors

Table 1: Certification facts

Certification

Number of exams

Total cost

Time to complete

(months)

Job counts: Raw numbers

Certified Cloud Professional

2

$300

6

9,378

Certified Cloud Architect

5

$775

24

6,735

AWS CSA–Professional

2

$450

24

6,464

OCA–Java Cloud Service

1

$245

2

6,404

CCNA–Cloud

2

$600

6

5,070

Certified Cloud Technology Professional 

3

$460

9

4,208

CompTIA Cloud Essentials

1

$115

6

3,979

Certified OpenStack Administrator

1

$300

6

3,925

Dell EMC EMCCA

2

$400

12

3,294

EMCCAe

3

$600

18

2,997

RHCA-Cloud

7

$3,800

24

2,881

CCSP

1

$549

60

2,862

1. Certified Cloud Professional (CCP), Arcitura Cloud School

A leader in cloud computing technology certifications, the Arcitura Cloud School offers several cloud credentials, including the CCP rating. The CCP validates basic skills in virtualization, cloud characteristics, administration, software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), cloud deployment models (public, private, hybrid, and community), and more. Candidates must pass two CCP exams to earn this credential.

2. Certified Cloud Architect (CCA), Arcitura Cloud School

The CCA certification is designed for senior IT pros. Candidates need expert-level knowledge and skills related to design, support, and management of cloud-based solutions and platforms. Five exams are required to earn the credential. Exam topics include cloud computing fundamentals, cloud technology concepts, and cloud architecture (including advanced cloud architecture). Successful completion of a cloud architecture lab is also required.

3. Certified Solutions Architect (CSA)–Professional, Amazon Web Services

The Amazon Web Services CSA–Professional cert is useful for cloud pros who support clients that use AWS. It validates the skills and expertise necessary to support an AWS client environment, including design, deployment, implementation of best practices, and management of AWS applications. Additional required skills include a thorough understanding of concepts such as hybrid architectures, security, storage, cloud migration, business continuity, and scalability. To earn this credential, candidates must first obtain the AWS CSA–Associate credential (one exam required) and then pass the AWS CSA–Professional exam.

4. Oracle Java Cloud Service Certified Associate (OCA-Java Cloud Service), Oracle

One of the most popular Oracle cloud certifications is OCA–Java Cloud Service. As with most Oracle certs, a single exam is required to earn this credential. This certification validates a candidate’s skills in six key areas: Java Caching System (JCS), Development and Deployment, User and Instance Management, Co-existence and Extensions, Monitoring and Troubleshooting, and Security. As with all Oracle certs, training is available but not mandatory.

5. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)–Cloud, Cisco

The CCNA–Cloud cert is a must-have for IT professionals who support Cisco cloud products. CCNA–Cloud validates skills such as cloud provisioning, support, networking, and system administration and management. Two exams are required to earn this credential.

6. Certified Cloud Technology Professional (CCTP), Arcitura Cloud School

To earn the CCTP cert, candidates need a thorough understanding of cloud terminology and computing concepts, as well as the risks, advantages, and disadvantages of various cloud computing mechanisms and security issues. Candidates must also demonstrate the ability to implement and deploy on common cloud platforms that use IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS models. The certification process includes three exams covering cloud computing fundamentals, cloud technology concepts, and a cloud technology lab, respectively. 

7. Cloud Essentials, CompTIA 

The CompTIA Cloud Essentials certification is an entry-level certification geared toward nontechnical staff members such as business professionals, managers, and other decision-makers who need to understand the fundamentals of cloud computing for business reasons. Candidates are tested on their understanding of cloud principles such as risk, contingency preparedness, security threats and threat response, and ability to apply technical information in a real-world environment. A single exam is required.

8. Certified OpenStack Administrator (COA), OpenStack Foundation

The COA has the distinction of being the first—and only—certification offered by the OpenStack Foundation. A midlevel credential, the COA targets professionals who manage and operate OpenStack cloud environments on a daily basis. Candidates must pass one exam that tests basic knowledge of OpenStack, identity management, the OpenStack Dashboard, computing, object and block storage, networking, heat and orchestration, troubleshooting, and image management.

9. Dell EMC Cloud Architect (EMCCA), Dell EMC

The EMCCA credential is available at two levels: Specialist and Expert. The EMCCA Specialist credential is focused on cloud infrastructure, planning, and design. The Expert-level cert (EMCCAe) targets cloud services. Both require either the Dell EMC Information Storage Associate (EMCISA) or Cloud Infrastructure and Services Associate (EMCCIS) credential as a prerequisite. EMCCAe candidates must also obtain the EMCCA before attempting the EMCCAe exam.

 10. Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)–Cloud, Red Hat

The RHCA cert is Red Hat’s highest and most prestigious credential. To earn the RHCA–Cloud designation, candidates must first obtain either the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) designation or the Red Hat Certified JBoss Developer (RHCJD) certification. They then need to obtain a minimum of five additional cloud-based certifications. RHCA–Cloud cert holders can perform advanced tasks such as using CloudForms to manage cloud infrastructures (private, virtual, and hybrid), use hybrid or on-premises cloud to create storage solutions, manage cloud applications with OpenShift Enterprise (create, configure, and manage), and use Satellite Server to manage multiple systems. Note that Red Hat is also heavily invested in OpenStack and endorses its COA credential as well.

11. Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP), (ISC)2 

Offered by (ISC)2, the CCSP is an advanced-level credential targeting IT professionals actively engaged in cloud information security. The CCSP validates a candidate’s skills and knowledge in key security areas including information security design, daily operations, security risk identification and mitigation, auditing, governance, compliance, and security architecture. Candidates must have at least five years of experience before attempting the exam.

As you can see from the number of mentions in the chart, several of these certifications are actively in demand. A job description may not say a certification is required, but if it’s mentioned, it will likely help you land the job.

So how do you get the knowledge necessary to take those certification tests? That leads me to the opportunities and outlets for certification and other cloud-related training, including several popular—and free—Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Hewlett Packard Enterprise cloud certifications

HPE currently offers five cloud-focused certifications across two career ladders: Data Center and Cloud, and IT Management. All five are designed for experienced practitioners who possess skills at the professional (Accredited Technical Professional, or ATP) or expert (Accredited Solutions Expert, or ASE) level. While not required, training is strongly recommended for most HPE certifications. Candidates must secure an HPE Learner ID to register.

  • HPE ATP Data Center and Cloud V2: A professional-level credential, the HPE ATP Data Center and Cloud certification targets data center professionals who need to upgrade their systems to include cloud solutions. Successful candidates possess at least three years’ experience and should be able to manage, plan, and design data center solutions. Foundation-level skills in HPE Helion or third-party cloud technologies such as OpenStack are also a plus. A single exam, Navigating the Journey to the Cloud (HPE0-D33), is required to earn the credential. This certification is a prerequisite for the more advanced HPE ASE Data Center and Cloud Architect credential.
  • HPE ASE Data Center and Cloud Architect V3: Targets sales engineers, pre-sales technical architects, and consultants working with HPE CloudSystem and HPE Helion who are able to evaluate technical and business requirements, design and describe proposed data center solutions, and implement the transformation to a cloud solution. An expert-level credential, candidates must first obtain the HPE ATP Data Center and Cloud V2 or V1 credentials, plus pass the Designing HPE Data Center and Cloud Solutions (HPE0-D34) exam.
  • HP ATP Cloud Service Automation V4: This credential focuses on IT professionals working with HPE Cloud Service Automation (CSA). Candidates should be able to use and deploy on CSA, as well as describe CSA concepts, startup and deployment processes, and startup components, and how to extend and configure CSA. In addition, cert seekers should know how to use the Marketplace Portal and Management Console, and be able to implement them with supervision. To earn the credential, candidates must pass the HPE Cloud Service Automation 4.x Software (HP0-M100) exam. The HPE ATP CSA cert serves as a prerequisite for the HPE ASE Software for Cloud Management credential.
  • HP ASE Software for Cloud Management V2: This credential targets HPE employees, customers, and technical partners who possess expert-level cloud management and automation (data center and business service) skills. Typical candidates possess at least one year of experience and must hold the HPE ATP CSA certification. In addition to the prereq skills, candidates should be able to manage virtualization, describe how global file system and global shell are used to explore servers, execute and manage scripts in SA, and recognize configuration management (package, patch, and application) tasks. Candidates must either pass the Advanced Operations Orchestration 10.x Software exam (HP0-M2015) or Advanced Server Automation 10.x Software exam (HP0-M209) to earn the credential. This certification is a prerequisite for the HPE Master ASE Software for Cloud Management V2 credential.
  • HP Master ASE Software for Cloud Management V2: This master-level certification targets technical professionals, configuration management engineers, and CMS administrators who are experts in business service and cloud management software. To earn the designation, candidates must possess the HPE ASE Software for Cloud Management V2 credential and pass two exams: the Advanced Operations Orchestration 10.x Software exam (HP0-M205) and the Advanced Server Automation 10.x Software exam (HP0-M209). In addition to all prerequisite skills, successful candidates are also able to demonstrate proofs of concepts, implement HPE SA and Operations Orchestration, discuss the installation process and Operations Orchestration architecture, and configure, manage, and implement CMS with supervision.

In addition to professional certifications, HPE offers a series of Partner Restricted certs, which are available only to HPE employees and partners. HPE offers a single cert in this category, the HPE Technical Certified II Software for Cloud Automation in SME (2014) credential. It requires a single hands-on exam, the Implementing Cloud Services Automation Hands-On Assessment (HP0-M206P). Professionals should understand the impacts of design on implementation, plan for and implement integrated implementation flows (including SAVA, OO, and CSA), and manage and automate a cloud services lifecycle.

HPE Education Services also offers comprehensive cloud training courses for OpenStack and HPE Helion.

How do those certifications stack up in terms of job demand? This table shows how much HPE certification can make a difference.

Table 2: Job board search results

Certification

SimplyHired

Indeed

LinkedIn Jobs

TechCareers

Total

HPE ATP: Data Center and Cloud

13

13

24

12

62

HPE ASE: Data Center and Cloud Architect

4

4

0

20

28

HP ATP: Cloud Service Automation

0

0

0

0

0

HP ASE: Software for Cloud Management

17

20

1

0

38

HP Master ASE: Software for Cloud Management

14

14

24

0

52

Certification training

The other cloud certification providers also offer comprehensive training, including self-study, traditional instructor-led learning, virtual learning, and everything in-between. Many providers also offer hybrid learning solutions, access to mentors, communities, blogs, documentation, white papers, and other learning events. Sometimes you can get a subscription that enables access to courseware across multiple certifications, which makes it easier to maximize an educational investment.

Training on cloud computing is easy to find. A simple Internet search reveals literally hundreds of opportunities worth consideration, as well as DevOps- and cloud-related conferences worth attending. With so many options to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

To help you get started, I pulled together information from a few of the many choices available. The tables below organize information about learning opportunities offered by certification providers and a few select third-party training providers. Note: ILO stands for instructor-led online training, and ILT stands for instructor-led training in a physical classroom.

Table 3: Cloud training options by certification provider

Provider

Featured Cloud Cert

Online Training

Offline Training

CompTIA

Cloud Essentials

ILO (through partners and third parties), e-learning, virtual labs, self-assessments, ebooks, and practice tests

ILT (through partners and third parties), labs, books, practice tests, more

Cloud School

Certified Cloud Professional, Certified Cloud Architect, Certified Cloud Technology Professional

Virtual public and private instructor-led workshops

Self-study kits, public and private instructor-led workshops

(ISC)2

CCSP

ILO, e-learning, virtual labs, self-assessments

Official ILT, textbooks, courseware, onsite training

AWS

AWS CSA–Professional

Online classroom, virtual labs, Learning Quest labs, instructional videos

Instructor-led classes and workshops

Oracle University

OCAJava Cloud Service

ILO, e-learning, on-demand

ILT, self-paced materials, custom courses

Cisco Learning/Cisco Learning Network

CCNACloud

Practice exams, videos, virtual labs, learning materials, study groups, study questions, self-study options, Cisco Training Partners

Practice exams, books, virtual labs, courseware

OpenStack Training Marketplace

Certified OpenStack Administrator

Online documentation and guides, virtual courses

ILT

Dell Education Services

EMCCA, EMCCAe

E-learning, online training libraries, ILO, virtual labs

ILT (at Dell or on-site)

Red Hat

RHCACloud

ILO, e-learning, virtual labs, videos, video-conferencing, webinars

ILT, on-site, printed materials, practice tests

But you don’t need to look only at training provided by featured certification providers. Numerous third-party vendors offer training for the featured certs, along with general training on cloud-related issues or their own platform-specific certifications. For example, Google has several courses specific to its platforms, including fundamentals and system operations as well as its own Google-specific Cloud Architect credential.

Table 4: Third-party cloud training providers

Provider

Cloud Training

Online Training

Offline Training

ExecuTrain

Cisco OpenStack, vCloud, (ISC)2

E-learning, virtual labs, online mentoring, ILO

ILT, self-paced courseware, custom materials

Firebrand

(ISC)2, AWS, Cisco, CompTIA, Oracle

Supplementary e-learning

ILT, boot camps, courseware, ebooks, practice labs & tests, apprenticeships

Global Knowledge

Red Hat, AWS, Cisco

ILO, virtual labs, blended learning

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

New Age Technologies

(ISC)2, Cisco, Red Hat, AWS

E-learning, blended learning, virtual labs, ILO

ILT

New Horizons

Cisco, CompTIA, Red Hat

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

ILT, blended learning, on-site training

Pluralsight

Cisco, AWS

E-learning

Online and offline viewing

Skillsoft

Cisco, AWS, (ISC)2, CompTIA, Oracle, Red Hat

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

Courseware, ebooks, virtual labs, mobile

College certificate or degree programs

Cloud training isn’t limited to certification or third-party training providers. Many colleges and universities are jumping on the cloud bandwagon with certificate or degree programs designed for undergraduates, graduate students, and practicing IT professionals. Some of these options (in no particular order or preference) include:

  • Full Sail University: Bachelor of science in Cloud Technologies; online and campus classes
  • ECPI University: Bachelor of science in Computer and Information Science with a major in Cyber- and Network Security, cloud computing track; online and campus classes; a Stem Jobs Approved college; 2016 most affordable online degree in cybersecurity
  • Tidewater Community College: Cloud Computing Career Studies certificate; prepares candidates to sit for the CompTIA Cloud Essentials, CompTIA Cloud+, VMware Certified Professional, and the EMC Proven Professional Cloud Infrastructure and Services, Backup Recovery Systems and Architecture, and Information Storage and Management certifications
  • American Military University: Cloud Computing undergraduate certification (one year, 18 credit hours)
  • Lambton College: Cloud Computing for Big Data, Ontario College graduate certificate; college diploma or degree in electronics, computer science, information technology, or engineering/technology required

In addition, you may want to check out Coursera for a number of cloud computing courses from institutions such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Yonsei University. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Docurated’s list of the top 50 cloud computing degrees worldwide is another excellent resource. As with all things cloud-related, there’s an embarrassment of riches here, too.

MOOC courses for… did you say free?!

MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) training is extremely popular, and why shouldn’t it be? MOOCs offer learners the opportunity to study at some of the finest universities and institutions worldwide from the comfort of their own homes, or in the office or learning environments of their choice. All MOOCs are free to learners, which removes financial constraints, enabling everyone open access to quality education. Some organizations charge fees for "added value" services, such as certificates of completion; look at the paperwork carefully.

Plenty of MOOC lists are available, but I particularly like the MOOC Search Engine. MOOCSE is a robust site with links to almost 43,000 MOOC learning opportunities. Naturally, that includes an abundance of cloud topics, ranging from introductory courses for the merely curious to advanced, specialized courses. Readily available courses cover topics such as mobile and cloud computing, cloud infrastructure technologies, cloud TV, Google cloud, OpenStack, and much more.

One pleasant surprise is the sheer variety of MOOC providers. Allison and edX are featured prominently with a number of cloud computing MOOC offerings. A number of cloud industry leaders are leveraging the power of social media with established YouTube channels where learners can find an endless stream of cloud training videos. Some interesting channels with cloud media include IBM InterConnect 2017, Edureka, ProfitBricks (cloud computing TV), and Oracle Cloud. Of course, you don’t want to miss the Club Cloud Computing.com channel, which is dedicated to all things cloud (as the name implies). IT professionals with limited time to devote to video learning may want to check out iTunes. Apple offers a number of cloud computing related podcasts, such as Ingram Micro’s "Cloud Computing: The Power of the Cloud."

Microsoft, Cisco, and Dell EMC are also in the MOOC game: Each of them offers at least one or two MOOCs on cloud computing or related topics (big data, data science, data analytics, and more). Chris Roy, director of learning services at Microsoft Learning, told me his company already has an extensive curriculum of Azure MOOCs, with many more on the way. HPE just began a MOOC pilot program for application security and big data; you can sign up to be included in its next round.

With so many MOOC opportunities available, you’re certain to find one that meets your areas of interest and focus.

Where to next? Into the cloud, of course!

As you work your way through this material, be smart and careful about how you spend your time and energy. With so many options to choose from, and a dizzying array of channels for learning, study, and practice, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds.

I suggest you look at the certs and training here, and then cast about to see which ones interest you. Put together a short list of candidates worth investing in, and then the real work begins. Ask around in your personal networks. Look around online to get reactions and ratings from former students or practicing professionals who’ve already done what you’re thinking about doing. Only then will you be ready to make your final choices, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. Enjoy!

Related link:

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.