How to Investigate Relevant Certifications for You

    Author: Dan Young, CCIE, PMP and VP of Operations at StormWind

Pursuing any certification is good for you, personally and professionally. It gets you energized, reengaged, and arms you with a measure of knowledge. However, you likely want to get the most out of your effort, because your time is precious. And not getting a good return on your investment of time will demotivate you if you look back at your accomplishment and don’t see it being worth the effort. I’m going to give you an approach that should help you decide what certifications are worth your time.

#1 Speak with Multiple Experts

Firstly, seek out and find some experts who you can get input from. They will need to know your current situation. If you came to me, I’d personally dig deeper into where you are in your career. I’d likely ask you the following:

        • What is your current position?
        • What position are you working towards?
        • What are your responsibilities?
        • What are your strengths in these responsibilities?
        • What are your weaknesses in these responsibilities?
        • What certifications are valued in your organization?
        • What certifications do you currently have?
        • What certifications are you currently considering?

An expert will give you their opinion. And it is usually an honor to be asked to provide guidance, so don’t feel like you are putting the expert out. They will then respond with a bit of direction. If you talk face to face, take notes, because you want to remember everything they say. After the discussion, evaluate the guidance that you have been given. Although experts are likely to be compelling and energetic, don’t be overly swayed by their passion. You might talk to the first expert and be immediately convinced of a certification to pursue, only to talk to a second expert who convinces you of a totally different certification. You’ll get whiplash if you don’t take their advice with a grain of salt. Add copious salt. It tastes good and free of calories.

#2 Do Your Own Research

Secondly, you should familiarize yourself with the key vendors in IT certifications. They are:

        • CompTIA
        • ISC2
        • EC-Council
        • Microsoft
        • Amazon
        • Cisco

If you don’t see a vendor here that you’d expect, that doesn’t surprise me. I’ve limited to the most portable and mainstream certifications. At your discretion, you may include other certifications beyond this, though. For instance, if you know that your organization and role value VMware certifications such as VCP, you’d want to include that too. That said, the five vendors above are pillars of the certification world. I’ll write a little bit about each so that you can get their slant and know which certifications matter the most.

CompTIA – Vendor-neutral certifications.

        • A+: Great help-desk cert covering computer, software, and operating system support.
        • Network+: Great entry-level IT networking certification.
        • Security+: Great entry-level IT cybersec cert.

ISC2 – Cybersecurity Certs

        • CISSP: Massively recognized manager-level cybersec cert.

EC-Council – Cybersecurity Certs

        • CEH: Highly recognized entry-level red-team cybsersec cert.

Microsoft – Microsoft Related Certs

        • MCSA (Server 2016): A certification that is being retired in 2021 (but still has value).
        • MCSE (Server 2016): Another certification that is being retired in 2021 (but still has value).

Cisco – Cisco-related certs

        • CCNA: Cisco’s entry-level networking certification.
        • CCNP Enterprise: Cisco’s follow-up to CCNA.

The certifications listed should be among what you consider. That said, you may find something more impactful based on the recommendations of experts, or experts might steer you here. But your opportunity cost should be measured against these certifications.

You should now have 2-5 options that you find appropriate. In my next entry, I’ll explain how you can evaluate the top choices you establish in this effort. And don’t ever hesitate to reach out to our team at We help people every day with where to go next.