Enterprise IT architect certifications appear most often at the apex of certification programs, where less than 1% of IT professionals ultimately ascend. Even so, many IT architect certifications are available, and you don’t need to invest in one certification sponsor’s vision to reach the top.
Many IT certifications in this area fall outside vendor umbrellas, which means they are vendor-neutral or vendor-agnostic. Nevertheless, the number of vendor-specific IT certifications exceeds vendor-neutral ones by a factor of more than 2 to 1. That’s why we devote the last section of this article to all such credentials, as we encountered them in search of the best enterprise architect certifications.
For IT pros who’ve already invested in vendor-specific certification programs, credentials at the architect level may indeed be worth pursuing. Enterprise architects are among the highest-paid employees and consultants in the tech industry.
What do enterprise architects do?
Enterprise architects are technical experts who are able to analyze and assess organizational needs, make recommendations regarding technology changes, and design and implement those changes across the organization.
How much does an enterprise architect earn?
The national average salary per SimplyHired is $130,150, in a range from $91,400 to a whopping $185,330. Glassdoor reports $133,433 as the average. Ultimately, the value of any IT certification depends on how long the individual has worked and in what part of the IT patch.
How do I become an enterprise architect?
Becoming an enterprise architect is not easy. While the requirements may vary by employer, most enterprise architects have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a computer-related field along with 5-10 years of professional work experience. Many enterprise architects obtain additional certifications past graduation.
Why should I get certified?
Certifications are a great way to demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the experience and technical skills necessary to do the job and give you a competitive edge in the hiring process. Certification holders also frequently earn more than their uncertified counterparts, making certifications a valuable career-building tool.
Which certifications are the best?
Below, you’ll find our top five certification picks. Before you peruse our best picks, check out the results of our informal job board survey. Data indicates the number of job posts in which our featured certifications were mentioned on a given day. The data should give you an idea of the relative popularity of each of these certifications.
Job board search results (in alphabetical order, by certification)
|AWS Certified Solution Architect (Amazon Web Services)||1,035||464||2,672||240||4,411|
|ITIL Master (Axelos)||641||848||1,218||1,119||3,826|
|TOGAF 9 (The Open Group)||443||730||271||358||1,802|
|Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect (Zachman)||86||107||631||252||1,076|
AWS Certified Solution Architect
Making its first appearance on the leaderboard is the Certified Solutions Architect credential from Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS, an Amazon subsidiary, is the global leader in on-demand cloud computing. AWS offers numerous products and services to support its customers, including the popular Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS also offers numerous cloud applications and developer tools, including Amazon Comprehend, Amazon SageMaker Batch Transform and Amazon Lightsail.
AWS offers certifications at the foundation, associate and professional levels across five role-based categories: architect, developer, operations, cloud and specialty certifications. Foundation-level certifications validate a candidate’s understanding of the AWS Cloud and serve as a prerequisite to AWS specialty certifications. Foundation certifications are a recommended starting place for those seeking higher-level credentials.
Associate credentials typically have no prerequisites and focus on technical skills. They are required to obtain professional-level certifications, which are the highest level of technical certification available. Specialty certs, meanwhile, focus on skills in targeted areas.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate 2019
AWS currently offers the following credentials:
- Foundation credentials: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- Associate credentials: AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate, AWS Certified Developer and AWS Certified SysOps Administrator
- Professional: AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer
- Specialty: AWS Certified Advanced Networking, AWS Certified Big Data and AWS Certified Security
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect credential is available at the associate and professional levels. The associate credential targets candidates with at least one year of experience architecting and implementing solutions based on AWS applications and technologies. AWS updated the associate-level exam in February 2018 to include architecture best practices and new services.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification targets senior AWS architects who can architect, design, implement and manage complex enterprise-level AWS solutions based on defined organizational requirements. Candidates should have a minimum of two years’ direct experience deploying and designing on the AWS cloud and be able to translate organizational requirements into solutions and recommend best practices. The associate credential is a mandatory prerequisite.
AWS Certified Solution Architect facts and figures
|Certification name||Certified Solution Architect – Associate
Certified Solution Architect – Professional
|Prerequisites and required courses||Associate: One year of hands-on experience recommended, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
Professional: Certified Solution Architect – Associate credential plus a minimum of two years of hands-on experience
|Number of exams||Associate: One exam (65 questions, 130 minutes to complete)
Professional: One exam (170 minutes to complete)
|Certification fees||Associate: $150 (practice exam $20)
Professional: $300 (practice exam $40)
|Self-study materials||AWS makes sample questions, practice exams, exam guides, whitepapers and more available on the certification home page.|
CTA: Certified Technical Architect
In 1999, Salesforce revolutionized the world of CRM when it introduced the concept of using the cloud to provide top-notch CRM software. Today, Salesforce has more than 150,000 customers, making it the industry leader for CRM enterprise cloud platforms. Currently, Salesforce offers solutions for various focus areas, including sales, service, marketing, commerce, engagement, community, productivity (Quip), platform and ecosystem, integration, analytics, enablement, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, mobility, and industry (financial and health).
To meet industry needs for qualified and experienced professionals with the skills necessary to support its growing customer base, Salesforce developed and maintains a top-tier certification program. It offers many paths to candidates, including for administration, app building, architecture and marketing.
Salesforce Architect certifications are hierarchical, with most (but not all) lower-level credentials serving as prerequisites for more advanced credentials. At the top of the certification pyramid is the highest credential a Salesforce professional can earn – the Certified Technical Architect (CTA), which is our featured Salesforce certification.
The Salesforce Architect certification pyramid has three levels:
- Specializations: These form the bottom tier of the pyramid. Salesforce offers eight specializations, four of which support application solutions, while the other four support system solutions. Application specializations include certifications for Data Architecture and Management Designer, Sharing and Visibility Designer, Platform Developer I, and Platform App Builder. System specializations include Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer, Identity and Access Management Designer, Integration Architecture Designer, and Platform Developer I credentials.
- Domain Architect: There are two Salesforce Domain Architect credentials: the Certified Application Architect and the Certified System Architect. The Certified Application Architect designation targets professionals with expert-level knowledge in Salesforce product functionality and features, while the Certified System Architect credential focuses on governance, integration and testing. Both credentials require the candidate to first earn their corresponding specialization certifications in addition to meeting other requirements.
- Technical Architect: The Certified Technical Architect (CTA) is the highest Salesforce credential available. CTAs are experts in all Salesforce domains and possess skills necessary to design, build and implement Salesforce platform solutions. To earn the CTA, candidates must first obtain both the Certified Application Architect and Certified System Architect credentials or pass a single exam. Candidates must meet experience requirements and pass a rigorous board review, which validates their knowledge and skills in Salesforce competency areas, such as communication, development lifecycle and deployment planning, integration, solution architecture, data, security, and systems architecture.
Salesforce requires CTAs to maintain current skills. Credential holders must pass maintenance module exams with each new product release cycle (typically in summer, winter and spring). While challenging to earn, the CTA is important for IT professionals who are serious about a Salesforce technologies career.
CTA facts and figures
|Certification name||Certified Technical Architect (CTA)|
|Prerequisites and required courses||Salesforce Certified Application Architect and Salesforce Certified System Architect credential:
|Number of exams||One exam (four hours to complete; candidates must formulate, justify and present recommendations based on a hypothetical scenario to a review board)|
Retake fee: $3,000
|Self-study materials||Salesforce maintains links on the certification webpage to numerous review materials, including the online documentation, tip sheets, user guides, exam guide and outline, Architect Journey e-books, Trailhead trails, and the Salesforce Certification Guide.|
ITIL Master Certificate – IT Service Management
One of our favorite credential sets (and for employers as well, judging by job board numbers) is the ITIL for IT Service Management credentials from Axelos. Axelos is a global provider of standards designed to drive best practices and quality throughout organizations. ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) joined the Axelos family in 2013.
Axelos manages ITIL credentialing requirements and updates, provides accreditation to Examination Institutes (EIs), and licenses organizations seeking to use ITIL. In addition to ITIL certifications, Axelos offers credentials for Prince2 2017 (which includes Foundation, Practitioner and Agile qualifications), Prince2 Agile, Resilia, MSP, MoP, M_o_R, P30, MoV, P3M3 and AgileSHIFT.
ITIL is a set of well-defined and well-respected best practices that specifically target the area of IT service management. There are more than 2 million ITIL-certified practitioners worldwide. ITIL is perhaps the most widely known and globally adopted set of best practices and management tools for IT service management and support.
ITIL Foundation (2011): Complete course and 2 practice exams
Axelos maintains a robust ITIL certification portfolio consisting of five ITIL credentials:
- ITIL Foundation: An entry-level credential that validates general ITIL knowledge, including terminology, concepts, elements, services lifecycle and ITIL processes
- ITIL Practitioner: A steppingstone credential for the Intermediate credential that tests a candidate’s ability to use ITIL principles within their business organization
- ITIL Intermediate: An industry-recognized qualification with a modular structure, each module focusing on a different aspect of IT service management
- ITIL Expert: An expert-level credential for candidates who possess broad ITIL knowledge that covers the entire ITIL scheme
- ITIL Master: The highest ITIL credential from Axelos, targeting professionals who recommend and implement ITIL best practices
Axelos introduced ITIL 4 in early 2019. ITIL 3 practitioners should check the Axelos website frequently for updates about the transition to ITIL 4 and availability of the ITIL 4 transition modules.
The ITIL Master is the pinnacle ITIL certification, requiring experience, dedication, and a thorough understanding of ITIL principles, practices, and techniques. To gain the ITIL Master designation, candidates must have at least five years of managerial, advisory or other leadership experience in the field of IT service management. They must also possess the ITIL Expert certification. Once the skill and certification requirements are met, the real certification work begins.
Upon completing the prerequisites, candidates must register with PeopleCert, the sole approved Axelos Examination Institute, and submit an application. Next, candidates prepare and submit a proposal for a business improvement to implement within their organization. The proposal submission is followed by a “work package,” which documents a real-world project that encompasses multiple ITIL areas.
The work package (1) validates how the candidate applied ITIL principles, practices, and techniques to the project; and (2) documents the effectiveness of the solution and the ultimate benefit the business received as a result of the ITIL solution. Finally, candidates must pass an interview with an assessment panel where they defend their solution.
Axelos will soon be sponsoring 50 lucky people in their quest to obtain the ITIL 4 Master certification. You can register your interest in the program here.
ITIL Master facts and figures
|Certification name||ITIL Master Certificate – IT Service Management|
|Prerequisites and required courses||ITIL Expert Certificate: Five years of IT service experience in managerial, leadership or advisory roles|
|Number of exams||No exam required, but candidates must complete the following steps:
|Certification fees||$4,440 if all ITIL credits obtained through PeopleCert
$5,225 if some ITIL credits were obtained from other institutes
|Self-study materials||Axelos provides documentation to guide candidates in the preparation of proposal and work package submissions. Available documents include ITIL Master FAQs, ITIL Master Proposal Requirements and Scope, and ITIL Master Work Package Requirements and Scope.|
A leader in enterprise architecture, The Open Group’s standards and certifications are globally recognized. The TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) standard for enterprise architecture is popular among leading enterprise-level organizations. Currently, TOGAF is the development and architecture framework of choice for more than 80% of global enterprises.
TOGAF’s popularity reflects that the framework standard is specifically geared to all aspects of enterprise-level IT architectures, with an emphasis on building efficiency within an organization. The scope of the standard’s approach covers everything from design and planning stages to implementation, maintenance, and governance.
The Open Group offers several enterprise architect credentials, including TOGAF, Open CA, ArchiMate, IT4IT and the foundational Certified Technical Specialist (Open CTS).
The Open Group reports that there are more than 75,000 TOGAF-certified enterprise architects. At present, there are two TOGAF credentials: the TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1) and TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2). (The TOGAF framework is currently based on version 9.2, although the credential name still reflects version 9.)
The TOGAF 9 Foundation, or Level 1, credential targets architects who demonstrate an understanding of TOGAF principles and standards. A single exam is required to earn the Level 1 designation. The Level 1 exam focuses on TOGAF-related concepts such as TOGAF reference models, terminology, core concepts, standards, ADM, architectural governance and enterprise architecture. The Level 1 credential serves as a steppingstone to the more advanced TOGAF Level 2 certification.
The TOGAF 9 Certified, or Level 2, credential incorporates all requirements for Level 1. Level 2 TOGAF architects possess in-depth knowledge of TOGAF standards and principles and can apply them to organizational goals and enterprise-level infrastructure. To earn this designation, candidates must first earn the Level 1 credential and pass the Level 2 exam. The Level 2 exam covers TOGAF concepts such as ADM phases, governance, content framework, building blocks, stakeholder management, metamodels, TOGAF techniques, reference models and ADM iterations.
Candidates wanting a fast track to Level 2 certification may take a combination exam, which covers requirements for both Level 1 and 2. Training is not mandatory for either credential but is highly recommended. Training classes run 2-5 days, depending on the provider and whether you’re taking the combined or single-level course. The Open Group maintains a list of approved training providers and a schedule of current training opportunities on the certification webpage.
TOGAF 9 facts and figures
|Certification name||TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1)
TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2)
|Prerequisites and required courses||TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1): None
TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2): TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1) credential
|Number of exams||Level 1: One exam (40 questions, 60 minutes, 55% required to pass)
Level 2: One exam (eight questions, 90 minutes)
Level 1 and 2 combined exam (48 questions, 2.5 hours)
|Certification fees||$320 each for Level 1 and Level 2 exams
$495 for combined Level 1 and Level 2 exam
Exams are administered by Pearson VUE. Some training providers include the exam with the training course.
|Self-study materials||A number of resources are available from The Open Group, including whitepapers, webinars, publications, TOGAF standards, the TOGAF Foundation Study Guide ($29.95 for PDF; includes practice exam), practice test (99 cents for PDF) and the TOGAF 9 Certified Study Guide (a combined study guide is available for $59.95). The Open Group also maintains a list of accredited training course providers and a calendar of training events.|
Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect
Founded in 1990, Zachman International promotes education and research for enterprise architecture and the Zachman Framework. Rather than being a traditional process or methodology, the Zachman Framework is more accurately referred to as an “ontology.” Ontologies differ from a traditional methodology or process in that, rather than focusing on the process or implementation, they focus on the properties, types and interrelationships of entities that exist within a particular domain. The Zachman Framework ontology focuses on the structure, or definition, of the object and the enterprise. Developed by John Zachman, this framework sets a standard for enterprise architecture ontology.
Zachman International currently offers four enterprise architect credentials:
- Enterprise Architect Associate Certification (Level 1): Candidates must attend a four-day modeling workshop and pass a single exam. The workshop covers key concepts relating to enterprise architecture and the Zachman Framework, case studies, engineering vs. primitive models and manufacturing vs. composite models, and hands-on experience building Framework models. The workshop fee ($3,499) includes the exam and certification fees for Level 1 and Level 2.
- Enterprise Architect Practitioner Certification (Level 2): Architects must submit case studies of primitive and composite models that address specified management issues. Case studies must pass a referee review.
- Enterprise Architect Professional Certification (Level 3): Candidates must complete a case study demonstrating primitive (architectural) and composite (implementation) models and complete a referee review. Level 3 credential holders may advertise themselves as “Zachman consultants.”
- Enterprise Architect Educator Certification (Level 4): Designed for educators, this credential prepares candidates to develop and teach the Zachman Framework. To earn this credential, candidates should go through all educational materials related to the Zachman Framework, develop their own curricula and course materials, and present those materials for review and approval. While this is not required, Zachman recommends that Level 4 candidates obtain the Level 3 Professional designation.
Zachman credentials are valid for three years. To maintain these credentials, candidates must earn continuing education credits (referred to as EADUs). The total number of EADUs required varies by certification level.
Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect facts and figures
|Certification name||Enterprise Architect Associate Certification (Level 1)
Enterprise Architect Practitioner Certification (Level 2)
Enterprise Architect Professional Certification (Level 3)
Enterprise Architect Educator Certification (Level 4)
|Prerequisites and required courses||Level 1 Associate: Four-day Modeling Workshop ($3,499)
Level 2 Practitioner: None
Level 3 Professional: None
Level 4 Educator: Review all materials related to The Zachman Framework; Level 3 Professional recommended
|Number of exams||Level 1 Associate: One exam
Level 2 Practitioner: No exam; case studies and referee review required
Level 3 Professional: No exam; case studies and referee review required
Level 4 Educator: None; must develop and submit curriculum and course materials for review and validation
|Certification fees||Level 1 Associate: Exam fee included as part of required course
Level 2 Practitioner: None, included as part of Level 1 required course
Level 3 Professional: Not available
Level 4 Educator: Not available
|Self-study materials||Live classroom and distance learning opportunities are available. Zachman also offers webcasts, a glossary, the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture and reference articles.|
Beyond the top 5: More enterprise architect certifications
The Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) is a great credential, especially for professionals working with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from PMI continues to appear in many enterprise architect job descriptions. Although the PMP is not an enterprise architect certification per se, many employers look for this particular combination of skills.
Outside of our top five vendor-neutral enterprise architect certifications (which focus on more general, heterogeneous views of IT systems and solutions), there are plenty of architect-level certifications from a broad range of vendors and sponsors, most of which are vendor-specific.
The table below identifies those vendors and sponsors, names their architect-level credentials, and provides links to more information on those offerings. Choosing one or more of these certifications for research and possible pursuit will depend on where you work or where you’d like to work.
<td”>EMC Cloud Architect Expert (EMCCAe) <td”>GoCertify </td”></td”>
|Sponsor||Enterprise architect certification||More information|
|BCS||BCS Practitioner Certificate in Enterprise and Solutions Architecture||BCS homepage|
|Cisco||Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)||CCAr homepage|
|Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence (EACOE)||EACOE Enterprise Architect
EACOE Senior Enterprise Architect
EACOE Distinguished Enterprise Architect EACOE Enterprise Architect Fellow
|EACOE Architect homepage|
|FEAC Institute||Certified Enterprise Architect (CEA) Black Belt
Associate Certified Enterprise Architect (ACEA) Green Belt
|FEAC CEA homepage|
|Hitachi Vantara||Hitachi Architect (three tracks: Infrastructure, Data Protection, and Pentaho Solutions)
Hitachi Architect Specialist (two tracks: Infrastructure and Converged)
|Training & Certification homepage|
|IASA||Certified IT Architect – Foundation (CITA-F)
Certified IT Architect – Associate (CITA-A)
Certified IT Architect – Specialist (CITA-S)
Certified IT Architect – Professional (CITA-P)
|National Instruments||Certified LabVIEW Architect (CLA)||CLA homepage|
|Nokia||Nokia Service Routing Architect (SRA)||SRA homepage|
|Oracle||Oracle Certified Master, Java EE Enterprise Architect Certified Master||Java EE homepage|
|Red Hat||Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)||RHCA homepage|
|SOA (Arcitura)||Certified SOA Architect||SOA Architect homepage|
These architect credentials typically represent pinnacle certifications within the programs to which they belong, functioning as high-value capstones to those programs in many cases. The group of individuals who attain such credentials is often quite small but comes with tight sponsor relationships, high levels of sponsor support and information delivery, and stratospheric salaries and professional kudos.
Often, such certifications provide deliberately difficult and challenging targets for a small, highly select group of IT professionals. Earning one or more of these certifications is generally the culmination of a decade or more of professional growth, high levels of effort, and considerable expense. No wonder, then, that architect certifications are highly regarded by IT pros and highly valued by their employers.
Choosing the right IT architect credential
Enterprise architect credentials will often be dictated by choices that your employer (or industry sector, in the case of government or DoD-related work environments) have already made independent of your own efforts. Likewise, most of the vendor-specific architecture credentials make sense based on what’s deployed in your work environment or in a job you’d like to occupy.
Though there are lots of potential choices IT pros could make, the actual number they can or should make will be influenced by their circumstances.