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Best Big Data Certifications

best big data certifications
Credit: Mikko Lemola/Shutterstock

Today's organizations are looking for more and better ways to pull out the information they need from the massive volume of data available to them. Big data system administrators store, manage and transfer large sets of data, making them amenable to analysis. Data analytics is the practice of examining the raw data to identify patterns and draw conclusions. Business intelligence involves the collection and organization of information to report on business activities, often pulling data from those very sets.

Along with the surge in big data interest has come a growing number of certifications, which seek to recognize the skills needed to work with enormous data sets. The target audience is IT professionals with a background in analytics, data mining, business intelligence or data management, along with a knack for and interest in mathematics and statistics. Big data engineers are in reasonably high demand and usually command salaries of $101,000 or more (according to Glassdoor), where data scientists average about $128,500 in salary.

We took a detailed look at certifications from Microsoft, MongoDB, Oracle, SAS and INFORMS. Check out the results from our informal search of various job boards to see which certifications employers want. These results are a snapshot in time from a day, time and geography and may not reflect actual job demands in your locality when you search for yourself.

Certification

SimplyHired

Indeed

LinkedIn

LinkUp

Total

CAP (INFORMS)

23

23

50

24

120

MCSE: Data Management and Analytics (Microsoft)

163

180

33

275

651

MongoDB Certified DBA

33

35

29

22

119

MongoDB Certified Developer

127

132

148

40

447

Oracle Business Intelligence

410

553

379

578

2,020

SAS Certified Data Scientist

79

89

4

20

192

INFORMS is a membership-based association aimed at practitioners, researchers and instructors in analytics, as well as operations research and management sciences. The association reports about 12,500 members from nearly 90 countries, some or all of whom participate in a variety of educational and networking opportunities.

The organization also sponsors the vendor-neutral Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) certification. CAP focuses on seven domains of the analytics process:

  • Business problem framing
  • Analytics problem framing
  • Data
  • Methodology selection
  • Model building
  • Deployment
  • Model lifecycle management

Candidates must meet rigorous education and experience requirements, obtain confirmation from a supervisor (current or former) of acceptable soft skills, agree to a code of ethics, and pass one computer-based exam.

The credential must be renewed every three years by earning 30 professional development units (PDUs). INFORMS also requires a $100 annual maintenance fee beginning in the fourth year of certification.

Certification Name

Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Eligibility to sit for exam:

  • A BA/BS degree or MA/MS degree in an analytics-related area (as approved by INFORMS)
  • A minimum of 3 years of professional analytics-related experience with an MA/MS degree related to analytics OR 5 years with a related BA/BS degree related OR 7 years with a BA/BS degree or higher that's not related to analytics
  • Supervisory confirmation of demonstration of acceptable soft skills
  • Agree to code of ethics

Number of Exams

1 exam (100 multiple-choice questions, 3 hours)

Cost per Exam

Exam: $495 member, $695 nonmember
Re-examination fee: $300 member, $400 nonmember
Exams administered by Kryterion. Candidates must be approved by INFORMS and pay for the exam before registering with an exam site.

URL

https://www.certifiedanalytics.org/

Self-Study Materials

The Certified Analytics Professional Candidate Handbook includes exam topics (the 7 domains), sample test questions and a list of self-study resources. A study guide is available on the CAP website (membership or registration required).

Microsoft is part of the big data mix with its MCSE: Data Management and Analytics certification, which leans heavily toward SQL Server 2016 and emphasizes cloud environments and reporting. This credential replaces the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Business Intelligence, which retired on March 31, 2017.

The MCSE: Data Management and Analytics requires candidates to earn an MCSA certification and then pass an elective exam. The MCSA certifications to choose from are MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014, MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration, MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development, MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development, MCSA: Machine Learning, MCSA: BI Reporting, and MCSA: Data Engineering with Azure. There are 12 MCSE elective exams, which focus on a variety of cloud, big data analytics and BI topics, with machine learning now making a presence.

To maintain this certification, you must pass an additional elective exam each year. Doing so adds an entry to your transcript that indicates your commitment to staying current on technologies and expanding your skillset.

Certification Name

MCSE: Data Management and Analytics

Prerequisites & Required Courses

Prerequisites (1 required):

  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development
  • MCSA: Machine Learning
  • MCSA: BI Reporting
  • MCSA: Data Engineering with Azure

Training courses available and recommended for all certifications but not required.

Number of Exams

One of the following:

  • 70-473: Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solution
  • 70-475: Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions
  • 70-464: Developing Microsoft SQL Server Databases
  • 70-465: Designing Database Solutions for Microsoft SQL Server
  • 70-466: Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server
  • 70-467: Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server
  • 70-762: Developing SQL Databases
  • 70-767: Implementing a Data Warehouse Using SQL
  • 70-768: Developing SQL Data Models
  • 70-773: Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R
  • 70-774: Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning
  • 70-775: Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure HDInsight

Cost per Exam

$165, administered by Pearson VUE.

URL

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcse-data-management-analytics.aspx

Self-Study Materials

Each exam page has links to instructor-led training, exam prep videos, self-paced training, practice tests and books.

MongoDB is both an open source, NoSQL document-oriented database and the name of the company providing that technology. Because of its document-oriented NoSQL model, MongoDB is well-suited for managing large amounts of loosely structured data, as is so often the case in big data projects.

MongoDB was deemed a leader in Forrester Wave: Big Data NoSQL, Q3 2016, and Gartner selected MongoDB as a challenger in its 2016 Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems. The database ranks fifth in overall database engine popularity as of October 2017.

The MongoDB NoSQL certification program recognizes developers and operations professionals who can create and run applications on MongoDB. The program offers two associate-level credentials: MongoDB Certified DBA and MongoDB Certified Developer. The company plans to eventually roll out higher-level certifications. The current exams are based on MongoDB V3.4.

MongoDB offers private, instructor-led classroom training as well as free online video training through MongoDB University. Each online course typically runs for three to seven weeks and features video lectures, quizzes, weekly assignments and a final exam or project. Students may use the forums to interact and address each other's questions; instructors and teaching assistants monitor forums and jump in when needed.

For database professionals interested in venturing into big data projects and NoSQL databases, the MongoDB certification is certainly worth pursuing.

Certification Name

MongoDB Certified DBA, Associate Level

MongoDB Certified Developer, Associate Level

Prerequisites & Required Courses

None; training recommended but not required

Number of Exams

1 exam per credential (multiple-choice questions, 90 minutes; delivered online through MongoDB’s proctoring partner)
C100DBA: MongoDB Certified DBA Associate Exam
C100DEV: MongoDB Certified Developer Associate Exam

Cost per Exam

$150 (or local currency equivalent)

URL

https://university.mongodb.com/certification

Self-Study Materials

MongoDB University offers public and private training, as well as free online courses. Each exam webpage includes a study guide and links to documentation, presentations and exam study sessions (if available).

Oracle has one of the largest certification programs in the world, and it has granted more than 1 million Oracle and Sun certifications.

Oracle's Business Intelligence (BI) certifications fall under the company's Java and Middleware certification track. The BI certifications are offered across several applications and platforms, such as Business Intelligence Applications 7 for CRM, Business Intelligence Applications 7 for ERP, and Business Intelligence Foundation 10 and 11g. To narrow down the field, we focused on the Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11g Certified Implementation Specialist credential.

Candidates for this certification are intermediate-level professionals (architects, analysts, developers and administrators) who work with Oracle Business Intelligence Suite solutions, performing tasks such as installing, building, querying, configuring and managing the platform and BI dashboards.

Although anyone can attempt the exam, the certification is designed for members of the Oracle Partner Network who sell and deploy the technology.

The Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation 10 Certified Implementation Specialist is also available; it is based on a slightly older version of Business Intelligence Foundation but is still relevant in today's market.

Certification Name

Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11g Certified Implementation Specialist

Prerequisites & Required Courses

None.

Recommended:

Number of Exams

1 exam, 1Z0-591 Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11g Essentials (75 multiple-choice questions, 120 minutes, 63 percent passing score)

Cost per Exam

$245, administered by Pearson VUE. Exam vouchers may be purchased from Oracle University or Pearson VUE; Oracle Testing ID required to register; Oracle Partner Network members also need their OPN Company ID

URL

education.oracle.com/pls/web_prod-plq-dad/db_pages.getpage?page_id=458&get_params=p_track_id:OBIFS11gOPN

Self-Study Materials

Training, including classroom, live virtual class, training on demand, self-study, learning streams and practice exams, is available. Additional exam preparation materials are listed on the exam webpage.

SAS is a multibillion-dollar global corporation that specializes in business analytics software and services. The company's well-honed certification program offers nine credentials across programming, information and data management, advanced analytics, and business intelligence.

Three noteworthy SAS certifications are the SAS Certified Data Scientist, SAS Certified Predictive Modeler Using SAS Enterprise Miner 13, SAS Certified Statistical Business Analyst Using SAS 9: Regression and Modeling, Business Intelligence Content Developer for SAS 9, and SAS Certified Big Data Professional Using SAS 9. We concentrated on the SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9.

Candidates for the Data Scientist certification should have deep knowledge of and skills in manipulating big data using SAS and open source tools, using complex machine learning models, making business recommendations, and deploying models. Candidates must pass five exams to earn the SAS Certified Data Scientist credential.

SAS doesn't require candidates to take certification courses as a prerequisite for exams, but the company offers an official curriculum for those who have the budget and need the extra preparation.

SAS "versioned" credentials, such as the SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9, do not expire. However, SAS may retire exams as new or enhanced software is released.

Certification Name

SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9

Prerequisites & Required Courses

SAS Certified Big Data Professional Using SAS 9

SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional Using SAS 9

See list of courses that support Big Data and Advanced Analytics on the SAS Academy for Data Science webpage. Recommended Data Scientist training: SAS Certified Data Scientist (e-learning, $4,400; live instructor-led in Cary, North Carolina; 12 weeks, $16,000)

Number of Exams

5 exams:

  • SAS Certified Big Data Professional Using SAS:
    • SAS Big Data Preparation, Statistics and Visual Exploration
    • SAS Big Data Programming and Loading
  • SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional Using SAS:
    • Predictive Modeling Using SAS Enterprise Miner 13 or 14
    • SAS Advanced Predictive Modeling
    • SAS Text Analytics, Time Series, Experimentation and Optimization

Exams include multiple-choice, short-answer and interactive questions (interactives are in simulated SAS environment). Exams available through Pearson VUE.

Cost per Exam

$180; Predictive Modeling exam is $250

See the Certification Discount Packages webpage for discounts for faculty, staff, students, veterans and others.

URL

https://www.sas.com/en_us/certification/credentials/advanced-analytics/data-scientist.html

Self-Study Materials

List of exam preparation training and materials available on individual exam pages. Free sample questions available on the Sample Questions page. Practice exams ($500) available through SAS and Pearson VUE.

It was a real challenge to whittle down the list of popular big data certifications. The Cloudera Certified Professional Data Engineer (CCP Data Engineer) missed a top-five spot by a small margin. The company also offers CCA Spark and Hadoop Developer and CCA Data Analyst certifications. Given the company's leadership status in software and services based on Hadoop, the CCP Data Engineer certification is worth your time and consideration.

Other notable certifications include the IBM Big Data portfolio of certifications, the EMC: Data Science Associate (EMCDSA), and those from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Hortonworks, MapR and Teradata.

Check out Stanford's Data Mining and Applications graduate certificate. Although it's not a vendor-neutral or vendor-specific certification (it's a college certificate), TechExams.net forum members like it in terms of popularity and job prospects. The certificate requires completion of three courses (nine college units) at a cost of $11,340 to $12,600. The Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) currently offers four tracks for online education with course completion certificates, including two relevant tracks: one on data science, the other on big data. These are worth checking into as well, and significantly cheaper than the Stanford certificate program.

And there are many more. A quick Google search every month or two should reveal a growing list of big data, data analytics and BI certifications, and we think one or more of these is a smart way to spend your certification dollars.

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