Become a Legend – The Hardest IT Certifications to Get

by Mirek Burnejko

Become a Legend

What is the hardest IT certification to get?

We all know that to pass any IT certification we must do a lot of work, a lot of learning and have (sometimes) a lot of luck on the exam.

At the end of the day what employers want? They want people who do not afraid of hard work, can learn and have the luck.

IT certifications we can divide into two main categories: Entry-Level and Expert-Level. We can also find one more group.

The hardest to learn, the harder to pass, the ones that cost fortune, the elitist.

Let’s look at the list of top seven IT certifications.

The Hardest IT Certifications to Get

Our list consists of seven IT certifications. These that need a lot of preparation, many prerequisites and with the hardest exam.

7. Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE)

The last place on our list of the hardest IT Certifications to get. The greatest neutral wireless certification in the world – Certified Wireless Network Expert. Let’s look at the requirements. You must first pass 4┬áIT certifications from CWNP. Then present few documents to the CWNE program managers like enterprise Wi-Fi implementation experience, your three Wi-Fi projects, professional endorsements and other networking certifications. At the end you must simple test.

We can find 89 CWNE engineers around the world.
Let’s look at the number six on the list.

Requirements:4/5
Hard to Prepare:1/5
Hard to Pass:1/5
Summary: 2/5

6. VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)

VCDXLet’s look on the another IT certification in our Top 7 list. VMware, a few years ago, after good start with the VCP certification, added to its portfolio a new holly grail for all virtualization lovers. But lets start from the beginning. First you must pass three exams and attend one training. A piece of cake? Now you must submit your VCDX application and defend it. You must present your project to a Board Members (at least two with VCDX) and answer a lot of questions about the project and a lot of other topics.

No preparation materials, no information how design document should look like, a lot of learning and a lot of experience needed.

You can find less than 100 VCDX certified people in the world.

More about the VCDX certification.

Requirements:3/5
Hard to Prepare:1/5
Hard to Pass:3/5
Summary: 2.3/5

5. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Storage Networking

First Cisco’s certification on the list. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Storage Networking is not the hardest exam in the Cisco’s portfolio, but the road to this IT certification is not easy.

To become CCIE Storage you do not need any requirements. You must pass two exams. First one (written) which give you an access to lab reservation (4 places in the world). And the lab itself. 8-hour long configuration exam with Cisco’s storage networking devices (MDS). Looks simple?

Let’s talk about preparation. If you are not a Cisco employee or do not work for the biggest storage companies you must build the lab, a real fiber channel network with three or more Cisco MDSes, storage arrays, few servers and other storage devices. Cost of that equipment can be equal to tens of thousands of dollars. Of course you can buy remote access to the equipment. For example one week from ieMentor costs $1200. How many weeks we need to become an expert?

More about the CCIE Storage Networking certification.

In the storage networking industry you can find about 200 experts with this certification.
One of them has given an interview for us – Rick Mur CCIE#21946.

Requirements:1/5
Hard to Prepare:4/5
Hard to Pass:3/5
Summary: 2.7/5

4. Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)

Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) is the highest certification in all Linux-based certifications. You do not need sophisticated environment – a few virtual machines will be sufficient. To become RHCA you must first pass the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) practical lab exam. Then pass another 5 lab exams. Each is in length from 2 to 8 hours. Without any courses and preparation materials exams cost almost $5000.

Without any questions the best and the hardest to get Linux certification.

Requirements:1/5
Hard to Prepare:3/5
Hard to Pass:4/5
Summary: 2.7/5

3. Oracle Certified Master (OCM) DBA 11g

Top three list opens the legend. The legend in the database world. Let’s look at it deeper. To become OCM from zero you must pass three normal exams for OCA and OCP, take three official trainings ($2000 – $3000 each) and pass at the end 2-day practical lab. In these days preparation almost all topics you can train without physical machines, but if we start training with FC and InfiniBand topics then we need some more “real” stuff.

Of course all OCM certifications are hard to pass, but always the OCM DBA certification was the best of the best.
You can find 50-60 people with the actual version of the OCM certification.

Requirements: 4/5
Hard to Prepare: 2/5
Hard to Pass: 3/5
Summary: 3/5

More about the OCM DBA certification.

2. Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Let’s look at the another IT Certification legend – Microsoft Certified Architect from the most exclusive path – SQL Server. The way to get this certification is not the easiest. First you must to become Microsoft Certified Master (MCM). Easy? NO !!! You need for that two other certifications, 5-year of documented experience and you also must pass two additional exams: written and 6-hour long lab.

Then the hardest part. After registering, acceptance and payment ($7500) you must prepare you work history and a few high-level case study design documents. Next you must attend a few-hour review with the other MCAs.

Six people have the MCA certification for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and one of them is not from Microsoft.

We can find other MCA paths and also great and amazing hard exams to pass.
What can be harder? Let’s look at the number one.

Requirements:5/5
Hard to Prepare:4/5
Hard to Pass:5/5
Summary: 4.7/5

1. Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)

Without any questions, number one on the list. For some people achieving CCIE or even CCDE is the hardest part in their life. People are losing money, families, health for these IT certifications. Try to imagine another level.

Cisco Certified Architect is THE another level. The highest level in all IT certifications. Let’s look deeper. No preparation materials. You must be CCDE (Cisco Certified Design Expert – about 60 people). Also you must provide a resume of your professional experience (at least 10 years of the “real” experience) + $3750.

Let’s look at the exam itself. If the Cisco Team recognize that you are worthy, after paying $11250 you can start your exam. The exam is a live Board Review with Cisco Certified Architects and Distinguished Engineers. After a few hours of talking and solving many surrealistic, high-level problems you can be proud. You are CCAr.

It’s a Cisco’s version of MCA with one small difference. For this certification you must know and understand all Cisco’s technologies from the viewpoint of CIOs, CFOs and other business and technical people.

I have a big pleasure to live in this world with 8 Cisco Certified Architects. Most of them are from the best Cisco’s teams.

Requirements:5/5
Hard to Prepare:5/5
Hard to Pass:5/5
Summary: 5/5

So Do You Want To Be a Legend?

At the end ask yourself a question: How many people have two or more IT certifications from this list?