What's hot in IT contractor training in 2014-15

Even self-taught contractors we’ve converted admit that an IT certification offers much more than just technical knowledge, writes Steve Linney, a director at the Learning People.

Whether you’re looking to master a new technology or just hoping to unlock more of your client’s cash, a certification can be the key because on top of new expertise, you’ll also get to hone soft skills such as time-keeping, communication, dedication and attention to detail.

These are competencies we regard as essential to excelling in 2014-2015 in the UK technology industry, where the following IT certifications are currently hot or are heating up.

Hot in 2014

1 - MCSA Windows 8

At the beginning of this year, Microsoft released Windows 8.1, an updated version of Windows 8, which was released in 2012.

Windows 8 is being increasingly used across the globe, with enterprises starting to adopt it across many industries, and the usage of the system on desktops being 12.26% (according to a September reading by NetMarketShare).

MCSA Windows 8 focuses on installing, configuring and maintaining clients who are using Windows 8; this includes application support and accessing networks.

This is a good qualification for help desk professionals, so is a highly demanded credential across most industries – especially larger companies with computer networks.

The average rate a contractor could expect with this certification is £325 per day.

2 - C# .NET

Covering Visual Studio, Visual Basic, web applications development, Windows communication and workflow foundations, ADO .NET and presentation application development, a certification in C# .NET is ideal for application developers, .NET programmers, web developers and analysts.

At a time when websites are evolving everyday in modernism and style, it’s no longer enough to only have had experience building a personal website.

A certification proves you have what it takes to keep a company’s website ahead of their competitors, so a certified individual could find themselves working for companies of varying sizes, but more likely, contracting with a web design agency creating and designing websites for different clients around the world.

The average rate a contractor could expect with this certification is £350 per day.

3 - Oracle

Oracle certifications primarily secure a candidate’s knowledge of databases, including SQL, security, performance tuning and administration.

Companies seek Oracle certified candidates due to the CRM solutions offering best value and broadest capabilities, which drive marketing, service effectiveness and sales.

An Oracle certification provides an individual with a competitive advantage by developing skills that are in demand worldwide.

As well as this, 80% of Oracle certification holders report a promotion, pay increase and other career improvements once they become certified.

Specific industries where Oracle is necessary range from aerospace and defense, communications, automotive, engineering, construction, finance, oil and gas, travel and wholesale distribution.

The average rate a contractor could expect with this certification is £425 per day.

4 - CCNA Security

This associate level of Cisco certification starts directly with network installation, operations and troubleshooting.

Gaining a certification demonstrates that you have the skills required to develop a security infrastructure, recognise threats and vulnerabilities on networks and can mitigate security risks.

With 44 million cyber security attacks each year against personal, business and government computers, security experts are in high demand across most industries.

The average rate a contractor could expect with this certification is £338 per day.

5 - CompTIA Linux +

A CompTIA Linux + certification develops your skills in installing, operating, administering and troubleshooting Linux systems.

CompTIA is a worldwide recognised authority in the IT industry, with an elected board of professionals and more than 2,000 members and 2,000 business partners.

For this certification, CompTIA has partnered with LPI – Linux Professional Institute – which has thousands of candidates and exercises cert clout for entry level roles.

Companies where this certification is used include Dell, Boeing, Google and IBM.

The average rate a contractor could expect with this certification is £415 per day.

Heating up in 2015

1 - CompTIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification is held by over one million IT professionals and is internationally sought-after for the hiring of computer technicians.

It helps a candidate learn the skills required to install, configure, upgrade and maintain PC workstations and the Windows OS and SOHO networks.

This certification is a requirement for Dell, Intel and Lenovo service techs, and is also recognised by the US Department of Defense.

With the increasing number of specialties in IT, a CompTIA A+ certification quantifies existing technical skills and ensures a candidate understands jargon inherent to consulting technical resources.

The average rate a contractor can currently expect with this certification is £126 per day.

2 - CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker

EC-Council is the world leader in IT security courses, and delivers the CEH in over 92 countries around the globe.

The institution is currently the undisputed world leading and most trusted source for vendor neutral training across the cyber security industry.

The CEH covers hacking and penetration testing, network scanning, social engineering, malware and more.

Highly valued, it sets the standard for what the world has come to expect from ethical hacking IT security courses and, with 90% of businesses suffering a computer hack in the past twelve months, this is an issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

The average rate a contractor can currently expect with this certification is £410 per day.

3 - CCNA

CCNA certifications provide candidates with foundation knowledge for route and switching, security, networking, voice and wireless.

Essentially an entry level certification with a low starting wage, the CCNA is one of the most recognised certifications in the IT industry.

It’s popular because once it’s been achieved a candidate can advance in their career by moving onto other Cisco qualifications such as the CCNP – Cisco Certified Network Professional.

CCNA qualifications are required across the vast majority of industries with job opportunities as network and systems administrators, network engineers and security professionals.

The average rate a contractor can currently expect with this certification is £338 per day.

4 - MCSA Server 2012

Aimed at IT administrators and junior level admins, the MCSA training route is so popular that Microsoft brought the original course out of retirement in 2012, and revamped it!

This certification is now the cornerstone for all IT administration career paths, with Windows Server being the backbone for other Windows programs such as SharePoint and Exchange.

This certification is required across all industries, with 87% of desktops still being run on a Windows OS – it’s essential for companies to invest in professionals who have skills across multiple solution areas.

The average rate a contractor can currently expect with this certification is £338 per day.

5 - Web design

The world is increasingly going ‘digital,’ with people accessing the web on a constant basis and almost every business across the globe using a website as a shop window.

Never before has an audience been so reachable 24x7, but never before have there been so many competitors a business has to stand out from.

Consumers are used to instant gratification and another website is just a click away, which means it’s never been more important for web designers to help a company’s website succeed.

It’s worth noting that a good web design package includes MCSD certifications, which validates a candidate’s ability to design and build application solutions.

The average rate a contractor can currently expect with this certification is £388 per day.

Hotter if you’re certified

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and demand for contractors who can keep up with its momentum is a growing concern across all industries. Getting an IT certification under your belt makes the investment you will eventually ask a client to make more secure, because the end-user will know for certain that you have the firm foundation of knowledge, and competencies, that certification instills.
Editor's Note: Further Reading -
Wednesday 12th Nov 2014
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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.
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