Five IT contractor certifications tipped for a hot 2018

It’s always been the case that when adopting and responding to new technologies and threats, businesses value contractor tech talent. But this was made even clearer in the second half of last year when more than a quarter of IT hiring managers told agency TEK Systems of their intent to increase their contractor headcount in the future by 26 per cent.

And we know that experienced IT contractors will always be on the look-out for new niches in technology that provide the opportunity to learn in-demand skills and command higher daily rates, writes Alex Bennett of Firebrand Training.

But to prove the expertise required to meet the demands of new technology, contractors are incentivised to achieve industry-standard qualifications. For end-clients, certifications provide a quality benchmark; for contractors, certifications are a way to learn new skills and increase earnings.

Combining the latest rate data (from ITJobsWatch) with our company’s insider training industry knowledge, these are the five up-and-coming IT certifications for contractors in 2018.

1. Certified Data Protection Officer (CDPO)

There are huge changes coming to European data protection law when the EU General Data Protection Regulation is introduced on May 25th 2018.

Tens of thousands of businesses across the EU will soon be legally required to appoint Data Protection Officers (DPOs). This is a massive opportunity for contractors to support organisations in meeting the strict requirements of GDPR. This may also include contingent workers training and upskilling existing employees to become DPOs.

The DPOs appointed by their organisations are required have experience and knowledge of data protection law, proportionate to the type of processing the organisation carries out.

This is an ideal opportunity for contractors to certify their data protection knowledge, setting themselves apart as qualified experts in the eyes of their clients. Contingent workers may be crucial in preparing DPOs for their roles, as well as ensuring general GDPR compliance.

While there are no Data Protection Officer certifications officially accredited by GDPR, global certification bodies, like PECB, do provide and regulate Certified Data Protection Officer (CDPO) certifications.

It’s also worth noting that, as GDPR applies to all businesses that process the data of EU citizens, the UK’s departure does not exempt UK-based businesses from meeting the requirements of GDPR.

Demand for data protection training and knowledge is already booming in the run-up to the introduction of GDPR; it’s unlikely to cease after the legislation’s introduction as businesses must continue to prioritise data protection, or face fines.

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

By 2020, 41% of enterprises will be running their critical IT services in the cloud, according to data from Traditional IT. But when adopting a cloud computing strategy, the vast majority of professionals cite security as their greatest concern.

Because of this, the cloud security market is expected to reach £7billion by 2019 and certifications built to prove cloud security expertise, like (ISC)2’s CCSP, are becoming increasingly popular.

A result of the unique partnership between (ISC)2 and the Cloud Security Alliance, the CCSP (Cloud Certified Security Professional) certification will appeal to contractors looking to build and prove expert knowledge of cloud security.

This certification will prove your expert knowledge of cloud application, platform and data infrastructure security. You’ll also build skills in cloud compliance, legality, audit processes and privacy – which will be particularly relevant with the introduction of GDPR in May 2018.

This high-level qualification builds on knowledge gained from the renowned CISSP certification – the gold-standard for IT security managers and C-suite security roles.

CISSP holders are prequalified to sit the CCSP exam but it is not essential to achieve the CCSP. Instead, you’ll need to satisfy the prerequisites, including a minimum of five years full-time work experience in IT.

With more organisations moving to the cloud, demand for the CCSP is and daily rates rose by 10% in 2017 to £525.

3. Microsoft MCSE Cloud Platform and Infrastructure

Microsoft’s MCSE Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification proves your ability to manage data centres and builds knowledge of networking, storage, virtualisation and cloud technologies.

As Microsoft’s pinnacle cloud certification, this should be considered among the top achievements of any cloud professional’s career -- making it an ideal target for seasoned cloud and networking contractors.

Introduced in 2017, the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure can be achieved by passing a single elective exam after achieving one of the following MCSA certifications:

MCSA: Windows Server 2016

MCSA: Cloud Platform

MCSA: Linux on Azure

MCSA: Windows Server 2012

With so many elective exams introduced in 2017, there are dozens of routes to achieve this certification. Given the emerging and increasing market share of Azure, we predict Azure exams (and associated courses) to be the most popular for IT contractors.

Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, continues to grow in popularity; the fourth quarter of 2017 saw Azure boost its market share from 16 to 20%, according to data from CNBC. We predict the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure will be a valuable asset for contractors in 2018.

4. EC-Council Certified Network Defender (CND)

The business network is the first line of defence against cyber attack and data breaches. Set up incorrectly and poorly maintained, networks are an open door to cybercriminals.

As Michael Brown, CEO at Symantec puts it: “While there will be over 1.5 million cyber security jobs that remain unfilled by 2019, millions of IT and network administrators remain untrained on network defence techniques.”

Launched by EC-Council at the end of 2016, the Certified Network Defender (CND) is designed to address this skills gap. The CND addresses the current demands of businesses by providing contractors and professionals with a way to build and prove their knowledge of network security.

You’ll study a common body of knowledge made up of 14 modern network security domains and get the knowledge and skills needed to protect, detect and respond to threats. Plus, the CND is vendor-neutral, making the skills gained valuable to contractors regardless of the technology used by their end-client.

5. Google Professional Cloud Architect

Hot on the heels of cloud platform mainstays, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is growing quickly, with usage climbing from 10% to 15% in 2017.

With a reputation for openness that appeals to SMEs, GCP is an increasingly attractive offering to many businesses. And with the weight of Google behind the platform, market share is only expected to grow.

Knowledge of Google Cloud Platform is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for cloud contractors; day rates for roles citing GCP grew by 7.7% in 2017 to £500.

To enable professionals to build and prove their knowledge of GCP, Google maintains an official certification portfolio. The most popular within the portfolio, the Professional Cloud Architect, will prove your ability to incorporate the GCP platform within any organisation.

By becoming a Professional Cloud Architect, you’ll gain and prove your in-depth knowledge of cloud architecture as you develop and manage GCP solutions. The certification will also make you stand out as a contractor in possession of skills benchmarked by Google themselves.

With the massive investment power of Google behind GCP, this cloud platform is set to continue expanding in 2018. Contractors that certify their GCP skills may find it pays dividends in 2018.

Wednesday 25th Jan 2017
Profile picture for user Simon Moore

Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
Printer Friendly, PDF & Email

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive weekly contractor news, advice and updates.

Every sign up will be entered into a draw to WIN £100 Amazon Vouchers.

* indicates required