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    Best Software Developer Certifications for 2021

    Software developers are in high demand, especially if they have special certifications. This year alone, companies are expected to spend approximately $517 billion collectively on enterprise applications, and software developers are a large part of that. However, as a software developer, it can be difficult to know which certifications will be most valuable in future positions or even in your current role. To make your decision easier, we’ve broken down some of the best certifications for software developers in 2021.  

    Choosing software development certifications

    With the rise in remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more organizations are undertaking digital business transformations, fueling the need for software developers. When deciding on software development certifications, keep these trends in mind to ensure you’re making valuable choices.

    Emphasis on cloud migrations

    Digital business transformation often requires that organizations move much of their data and software to the cloud. In 2021 alone, public cloud spending is expected to grow to $332.3 billion, a 23.1 percent increase from 2020. Gartner also estimates that public cloud spending will grow to almost $400 billion by the end of 2022. This emphasis on cloud migrations proves how valuable cloud-related certifications will be for software developers over the coming years. 

    Rise in ransomware and RaaS

    Ransomware attacks are becoming more common, promoted in part by ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) subscriptions that make the harmful software more widely available. Large, news-worthy ransomware attacks seem to be happening almost weekly, and government entities are urging businesses to take the matter seriously. We expect to see security spending skyrocket in the coming months and the need for security-focused developers along with it.

    Increase in AI use

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is growing at a rapid rate, especially as businesses discover different ways they can use it to optimize their operations and reduce costs. In fact, 86 percent of CEOs note that AI is commonplace in their office technology. With so many organizations implementing software and tools that use AI, having developers that know how to operate and manipulate it is essential for success. Consider AI-focused certifications to learn how to customize these platforms.

    3 types of software certifications to consider

    While there are hundreds of different software certifications available to new and experienced developers, consider looking at options that fall into the following categories.

    Security

    Cybercrime isn’t going away anytime soon, especially as a single breach costs businesses an average of $200,000. With the potential of such a large payday and low likelihood of getting caught, there’s very little incentive for current cybercriminals to stop. Instead, businesses have to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for security software to keep from falling victim to the next big attack. Those companies and vendors will need software developers with security expertise to build intelligent platforms to combat emerging threats, which developers can get from security certifications.

    Cloud applications

    When companies move applications to the cloud, the applications won’t just automatically work like they did on-premises. Businesses need software developers to refactor the applications to run on the cloud. Or, they need to buy a cloud-native version. Additionally, many vendors offer cloud-based software suites for large organizations that are highly customizable instead of working straight out of the box. Enterprises that purchase the suite need a developer with cloud expertise to help them format it for their business needs. Cloud-based certifications provide this expertise.

    Data and management

    Data and management certifications allow developers to help companies build and customize organized databases and data visualizations for better company insights. Even though data is hugely important to businesses, only 14 percent of organizations allow a majority of their employees to access it. As that number grows, organizations will need software developers to help them create and manage data applications to keep the information secure and organized.

    The best software developer certifications of 2021

    If you’re considering a software developer certification to increase your marketability, these are the best of 2021.

    Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

    The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is often touted as one of the best security certifications in the world, but it can also be difficult to achieve. It covers eight topics of security knowledge:

    • Security and risk management
    • Software development security
    • Security operations
    • Asset security
    • Communication and network security
    • Identity and access management
    • Security architecture and engineering
    • Security assessment and testing

    To be eligible for the CISSP examination, candidates must have a minimum of five years of experience in direct, full-time security work in at least two of the above domains. As such, it’s best for people who are already experienced in the cybersecurity field. However, a candidate can reduce that requirement by one year if they have a four-year degree or a master’s degree in Information Security, or if they have other related certifications. To earn the certification, the candidate must receive a passing score in all eight of the domains. 

    Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

    Catching cybercriminals often requires the same skill sets as hacking, which led to the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification. Professionals with a minimum of two years of experience in tech security can apply to take the exam. Those without experience can attend a training course offered by the certifying body, EC-Council, to be eligible for certification. The exam itself is administered over four hours and covers the following topics:

    • Introduction to ethical hacking
    • Cryptography
    • Cloud computing
    • Footprinting and reconnaissance
    • Evading honeypots, IDs, and firewalls
    • Enumeration
    • Scanning networks
    • Hacking mobile platforms
    • Hacking wireless networks
    • System hacking
    • Sniffing
    • Malware threats
    • Hacking web applications
    • Hacking web servers
    • Social engineering
    • SQL injection
    • Session hijacking
    • Denial of service

    Many security job postings require or prefer a CEH certification, making those who hold one extremely marketable in the industry. 

    Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

    Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification is similar to CISSP certification in that they both require several years of experience in the tech security field. However, CISM is generally geared towards individuals who are or want to be managers because it looks at security from a business perspective rather than just a technical one. The test covers four main areas:

    • Information security management
    • Information security incident management
    • Information security program development and management
    • Information risk management and compliance

    Like the CISSP certification, CISM also requires a minimum of five years of full-time experience in information security. These five years need to have been obtained over the last decade to count towards the total. The CISM certification also requires three years of management experience in at least three of the aforementioned areas. However, some lower-level certifications or education can replace some of the required time. One thing to note is that you don’t have to have all of the experience complete before you can take the test. You can take the test, and as long as you gain the needed experience within the next five years, you can then apply for the certification.

    AWS Certified Solutions Architect

    AWS offers two different levels of certification for Certified Solutions Architects: associate and professional. Both levels validate that you know how to: 

    • Create and deploy secure, robust applications on the AWS platform
    • Define a solution using architectural design principles and customer requirements
    • Provide implementation guidance based on best practices.

    The professional certification also confirms your ability to:

    • Design and deploy dynamically scalable, fault-tolerant, and reliable applications on AWS
    • Select appropriate AWS services for an application based on requirements
    • Migrate complex, multi-tier applications on AWS
    • Implement cost-control strategies.

    The associate certification is meant for solutions architects with at least one year of experience with AWS, and the professional certification is meant for solutions architects with two or more years. Amazon currently holds most of the market share for public cloud services, so these certifications are a good option if you want to work in the cloud space.

    Also read: Compare Top Cloud Computing Providers of 2021

    Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect

    Another leader in the public cloud space, most companies who don’t go with AWS choose Microsoft Azure for their cloud needs. The Microsoft Azure certification requires you to pass two separate exams to be considered an expert: one on architect design and one on architect technologies. The exams measure your ability to:

    • Implement and monitor Azure infrastructure
    • Implement management and security solutions
    • Design infrastructure and data storage
    • Design business continuity
    • Implement solutions for apps
    • Implement and manage data platforms
    • Design identity and security
    • Design monitoring

    Microsoft expects candidates for their certification to have expert knowledge of several areas of IT operations, including security, networking, governance, and business continuity as well as expert-level skills in Azure administration. However, they don’t require years of experience. 

    Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

    Offered by the same governing body that administers the CISSP certification, the Certified Cloud Security Professional certification denotes you as having advanced technical skills in designing, managing, and securing cloud applications. It’s a good option for information security leaders who are responsible in their organizations for applying best practices to cloud security design and operations. The exam covers the following six areas:

    • Cloud concepts, architecture and design
    • Legal, risk and compliance
    • Cloud platform and infrastructure security
    • Cloud security operations
    • Cloud data security
    • Cloud application security

    Like the CISSP, earning the CCSP certification requires candidates to have at least five years of experience in information technology. Three of those years need to be in information security, and one year must be in one of the six domains listed above. However, if you already possess your CISSP certification, those credentials can replace the experience requirements.

    Certified Data Professional (CDP)

    Getting a Certified Data Professional (CDP) certification requires two separate exams. One is on data management, and the other is an information systems core exam based on the area you’d like to specialize in. Certified Data Professionals can specialize in several different areas, including:

    The area you specialize in will depend on where your experience already lies and what your career goals are. Additionally, there are different levels of certification based on the number of years of experience you have. Educational achievements can replace some of the required years.

    Oracle Certified MySQL Database Administrator (CMDBA)

    MySQL is a very popular open source database that helps businesses organize and structure their data to make it more accessible. Obtaining an Oracle Certified MySQL Database Administrator (CMDBA) certification verifies your ability to use Oracle’s platform and MySQL in conjunction to effectively create and manage relational databases and applications. The examination covers:

    • The layout of an installed server
    • Database design and structure
    • Running and evaluating queries
    • Securing MySQL with privileges and roles
    • Client and server executables and their options

    There are no strict prerequisites, but Oracle does offer training courses to help prepare you for the exam.

    Project Management Professional (PMP)

    For those who prefer overseeing and managing projects rather than actually developing the software, consider a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Considered the gold standard of project management certifications, a PMP verifies your expertise in leading and directing teams and projects. The PMP certification exam covers three key methods of project management:

    • Agile
    • Waterfall (predictive)
    • Hybrid

    The exam also ensures that you are knowledgeable about:

    • People
    • Processes
    • Business environments

    To be eligible for the PMP exam, you must have a four-year degree, 36 months of experience leading projects, and 35 hours of project management training or education or CAPM certification. Alternatively, if you don’t have a four-year degree, you can substitute a high school diploma or associate’s degree, but you must have 60 months of experience leading projects along with 35 hours of training.

    Read next: Best Practices for Application Security

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    Jenn Fulmer
    Jenn Fulmer is a content writer for TechnologyAdvice, IT Business Edge, and Baseline currently based in Lexington, KY. Using detailed, research-based content, she aims to help businesses find the technology they need to maximize their success and protect their data.

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