26 big data certifications that will pay off

Data scientists, data analysts and data engineers are in high demand. Here are the big data and data analytics certifications that will give your career an edge.

Thor Olavsrud Sep 21st 2018 A-A+
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Data and big data analytics are the lifeblood of any successful business. Getting the technology right can be challenging but building the right team with the right skills to undertake big data initiatives can be even harder. Not surprisingly, that challenge is reflected in the rising demand for big data skills and certifications. 

If you're looking for a way to get an edge, big data certification is a great option. Certifications measure your knowledge and skills against industry- and vendor-specific benchmarks to prove to employers that you have the right skillset. The number of big data certs is expanding rapidly.

Below is our guide to the most sought after big data certifications to help you decide which cert is right for you.

Is big data certification worth pursuing?

Organizations are on the hunt for data scientists and analysts with expertise in dealing with big data. They also need big data architects to translate requirements into systems, data engineers to build data pipelines, developers who know their way around Hadoop and other technologies, and systems administrators and managers to tie everything together.

These skills are in high demand and are relatively rare. Individuals with the right mix of experience and skills can demand high salaries. The right certifications can help.

According to recent research by tech analyst firm Foote Partners, the explosion of interest in the internet of things (IoT) is creating large staffing deficits. IDC is predicting a 30 percent CAGR over the next five years, while McKinsey is expecting IoT to have a $4 trillion to $11 trillion global economic impact by 2025 as businesses look to IoT technologies to provide more insight.

Foote Partners believes advanced data analytics will be a major force driving the IoT. Foote notes that key advanced analytics skills in the IoT area include:

  • Apache Hadoop and related modules (HDFS, HBase, Flume, Oozie, Hive, Pig, YARN)
  • NoSQL and NewSQL
  • Apache Spark
  • Machine learning and data mining

"Advanced data analytics capabilities are just too critical for staying competitive," says David Foote, co-founder, chief analyst and chief research officer of Foote Partners. "They've expanded in popularity from a few industries to nearly every industry and market."

The top 26 big data and data analytics certifications

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Big Data - Specialty
  • Analytics: Optimizing Big Data Certificate
  • Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences
  • Certified Analytics Professional
  • Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Administrator
  • Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Data Analyst
  • Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Spark and Hadoop Developer
  • Cloudera Certified Professional (CCP): Data Engineer
  • EMC Proven Professional Data Scientist Associate (EMCDSA)
  • HDP Apache Spark Developer
  • HDP Certified Developer Big Data Hadoop
  • Hortonworks Certified Associate (HCA)
  • IBM Certified Data Architect – Big Data
  • IBM Certified Data Engineer – Big Data
  • MapR Certified Data Analyst 1.9
  • MapR Certified Hadoop Developer 1.0
  • MapR Certified Spark Developer 2.1
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Data Management and Analytics
  • Mining Massive Data Sets Graduate Certificate
  • MongoDB Certified DBA Associate
  • MongoDB Certified Developer Associate
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11 Certified Implementation Specialist
  • Post Graduate Program (PGP) in Big Data Analytics
  • SAS Certified Big Data Professional
  • SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9
  • Stanford Data Mining and Applications Graduate Certificate

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Big Data – Specialty

The AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification validates technical skills and experience in designing and implementing AWS services to derive value from data. It is intended to validate the ability to:

  • Implement core AWS big data services according to basic architecture practices
  • Design and maintain big data
  • Leverage tools to automate data analysis

Organization: Amazon Web Services

Price: $300 registration fee for exam

How to prepare: Eligible candidates should have the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner or current Associate-level certification (AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, AWS Certified Developer – Associate, or AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate). In addition, candidates should have a minimum of five years hands-on experience in a data analytics field, a background in defining and architecting AWS Big Data services, and experience in designing a scalable, cost-effective architecture to process data.

Analytics: Optimizing Big Data Certificate

The Analytics: Optimizing Big Data Certificate is an undergraduate-level program intended for business, marketing and operations managers, data analyst and professionals, financial industry professionals, and small business owners. The program brings together statistics, analysis, and written and oral communications skills. It introduces students to the tools needed to analyze large datasets, covering topics including importing data into an analytics software package, exploratory graphical and data analysis, building analytics models, finding the best model to explore correlation among variables and more.

Organization: University of Delaware

Price: $2,895 course fee

How to prepare: A basic background in statistics and some prior college coursework is recommended.

Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences

The Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences is a non-degree program intended to develop facility with foundational data science skills. The program consists of four courses: Algorithms for Data Science, Probability & Statistics, Machine Learning for Data Science, and Exploratory Data Analysis and Visualization.

Organization: Columbia University

Price: $1,936 per credit (a minimum of 12 credits, including the four courses, are required to complete the program). In addition, there is an $85 non-refundable application fee for the on-campus program and $150 for the online program. The online program also includes an additional non-refundable technology fee of $395 per course.

How to prepare: An undergraduate degree and prior quantitative and introductory to computer programming coursework are required.

Certified Analytics Professional

The Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) credential is a general analytics certification that certifies end-to-end understanding of the analytics process, from framing business and analytic problems to acquiring data, methodology, model building, deployment and model lifecycle management. It requires completion of the CAP exam and adherence to the CAP Code of Ethics.

Organization: INFORMS

Price: $495 if you are an INFORMS member, or $695 if you're not. Team pricing is available for organizations. 

How to prepare: A list of study courses and a series of webinars are available through registration.

Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Administrator

The CCA Administrator credential certifies an individual has demonstrated the core systems and cluster administrator skills required by organizations deploying Cloudera in the enterprise, including:

  • An understanding of the installation process for Cloudera Manager, Cloudera Hadoop (CDH), and the ecosystem projects
  • The ability to perform basic and advanced configuration needed to effectively administer a Hadoop cluster
  • The ability to maintain and modify the cluster to support day-to-day operations in the enterprise
  • An understanding of how to enable relevant services and configure the cluster to meet goals defined by security policy, as well as knowledge of basic security practices
  • The ability to benchmark the cluster operational metrics, and test system configuration for operation and efficiency
  • The ability to troubleshoot, including finding the root cause of a problem, optimize inefficient execution, and resolve resource contention scenarios

The credential requires passing the remote-proctored CCA Administrator Exam (CCA131), which consists of eight to 12 performance-based, hands-on tasks on a pre-configured Cloudera Enterprise cluster. Each question requires the candidate to solve a particular scenario. Some require making configuration and service changes via Cloudera Manager, while others demand knowledge of command line Hadoop utilities and basic competence with the Linux environment. Candidates have 120 minutes to complete the exam.

Organization: Cloudera

Price: $295

How to prepare: There are no prerequisites required, but Cloudera says the exam follows the same objectives as the Cloudera Administrator Training, making it excellent preparation for the exam.

Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Data Analyst

A SQL developer who earns the CCA Data Analyst certification demonstrates core analyst skills to load, transform and model Hadoop data to define relationships and extract meaningful results from the raw output. It requires passing the CCA Data Analyst Exam (CCA159), a remote-proctored set of eight to 12 performance-based, hands-on tasks on a CDH 5 cluster. Candidates have 120 minutes to implement a technical solution for each task. They must analyze the problem and arrive at an optimal approach in the time allowed.

Organization: Cloudera

Price: $295

How to prepare: Cloudera recommends candidates take the Cloudera Data Analyst Training course, which has the same objectives as the exam.

Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Spark and Hadoop Developer

The CCA Spark and Hadoop Developer credential certifies a professional has proven their core skills to ingest, transform and process data using Apache Spark and core Cloudera enterprise tools. It requires passing the remote-proctored CCA Spark and Hadoop Developer Exam (CCA175), which consists of eight to 12 performance-based, hands-on tasks on a Cloudera Enterprise cluster. Each question requires the candidate to solve a particular scenario. Some cases may require a tool such as Impala or Hive, others may require coding. Candidates have 120 minutes to complete the exam.

Organization: Cloudera

Price: $295

How to prepare: There are no prerequisites required, but Cloudera says the exam follows the same objectives as the Cloudera Developer Training for Spark and Hadoop course, making it excellent preparation for the exam.

Cloudera Certified Professional (CCP): Data Engineer

The CCP: Data Engineer credential certifies the ability to perform core competencies required to ingest, transform, store and analyze data in Cloudera's CDH environment. It requires passing the remote-proctored CCP: Data Engineer Exam (DE575), a hands-on, practical exam in which each user is given five to eight customer problems each with a unique, large data set, a CDH cluster and four hours. For each problem, the candidate must implement a technical solution with a high degree of precision that meets all the requirements.

Organization: Cloudera

Price: $400

How to prepare: Cloudera suggests professionals seeking this certification have hands-on experience in the field and take the Cloudera Developer Training for Spark and Hadoop course.

EMC Proven Professional Data Scientist Associate (EMCDSA)

The EMCDSA certification demonstrates an individual's ability to participate and contribute as a data science team member on big data projects. It includes deploying the data analytics lifecycle, reframing a business challenge as an analytics challenge, applying analytic techniques and tools to analyze big data and create statistical models, selecting the appropriate data visualizations and more.

Organization: Dell EMC Education Services

Price: $600 for video-ILT streaming; $5,000 for instructor-led

How to prepare: EMC offers a training course, available as either a video or an instructor-led course.

HDP Apache Spark Developer

The HDP Apache Spark Developer certification is intended to validate an individual's understanding of Spark Core and Spark SQL applications in Scala or Python. The exam consists of a series of tasks that must be performed successfully on a live cluster.

Organization: Hortonworks

Price: $250 for exam

How to prepare: Hortonworks offers courses on its website with options that include live training, self-paced e-learning or a blended experience.

HDP Certified Developer Big Data Hadoop

The HDP Certified Developer Big Data Hadoop certification validates a developer's proficiency in Pig, Hive, Sqoop and Flume. The exam consists of a series of data ingestion, data transformation and data analysis tasks that must be performed on an HDP 2.4 cluster.

Organization: Hortonworks

Price: $250 for exam

How to prepare: Hortonworks offers courses on its website with options that include live training, self-paced e-learning or a blended experience.

Hortonworks Certified Associate (HCA)

The Hortonworks Certified Associate (HCA) certification is a foundational credential that validates that an individual understands the technologies and can recognize the business use cases for Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) frameworks. Candidates must pass a multiple-choice exam that consists of questions from the following five categories:

  • Data access (including Pig, Hive HCatalog, Tez, Storm, HBase, Spark and Solr)
  • Data management (including HDFS and YARN)
  • Data governance and workflow (including Falcon, Atlas, Sqoop, Flume, Kafka and Hortonworks DataFlow)
  • Operations (including Ambari, CloudBreak, ZooKeeper and Oozie)
  • Security (including Ranger and Knox)

Organization: Hortonworks

Price: $100 for exam

How to prepare: Hortonworks offers courses on its website with options that include live training, self-paced e-learning or a blended experience.

IBM Certified Data Architect – Big Data

Designed for data architects, the IBM Certified Data Architect – Big Data certification requires passing a test that consists of five sections containing a total of 55 multiple-choice questions. It demonstrates a data architect can work closely with customers and solutions architects to translate customers' business requirements into a big data solution.

Organization: IBM Professional Certification Program

Price: $200

How to prepare: IBM recommends a series of seven multi-day courses on SPSS Modeler to InfoSphere BigInsights to prepare for the test.

IBM Certified Data Engineer – Big Data

The IBM Certified Data Engineer – Big Data certification is intended for big data engineers, who work directly with data architects and hands-on developers to convert an architect's big data vision into reality. Data engineers understand how to apply technologies to solve big data problems and have the ability to build large-scale data processing systems for the enterprise. They develop, maintain, test and evaluate big data solutions within organizations, providing architects with input on needed hardware and software. This certification requires passing a test that consists of five sections containing a total of 53 multiple-choice questions.

Organization: IBM Professional Certification Program

Price: $200

How to prepare: IBM recommends a series of nine multi-day courses to prepare for the test.

MapR Certified Data Analyst 1.9

The MapR Certified Data Analyst credential validates an individual's ability to perform analytics on large datasets using a variety of tools, including Apache Hive, Apache Pig and Apache Drill. The exam tests the ability to perform typical ETL tasks to manipulate data to perform queries. Questions touch on existing SQL queries, including debugging malformed queries from a given code snippet, choosing the correct query functions to produce a desired result, and typical troubleshooting tasks. The exam consists of 50-60 questions in a two-hour proctored session.

Organization: MapR Technologies

Price: $250 for the exam

How to prepare: MapR recommends candidates prepare with four of its courses: Introduction to SQL Analytics with Apache Drill, Apache Drill Performance and Debugging, Apache Hive Essentials, and Apache Pig Essentials. MapR also offers an MCDA Study Guide.

MapR Certified Hadoop Developer 1.0

The MapR Certified Hadoop Developer credential validates a developer's ability to design and develop MapReduce programs in Java and use them to solve typical problems with large data sets. The exam focuses on the use of MapReduce to solve typical data analysis problems using the MapReduce API, managing, monitoring, and testing MapReduce programs and workflows. The exam consists of 50-60 questions in a two-hour proctored session.

Organization: MapR Technologies

Price: $250 for the exam

How to prepare: MapR recommends candidates prepare with three of its courses: Build Hadoop MapReduce Applications, Manage and Test Hadoop MapReduce Applications, and Launch Jobs and Advanced Hadoop MapReduce. MapR also offers an MCHD Study Guide.

MapR Certified Spark Developer 2.1

The MapR Certified Spark v2.1 Developer credential validates a developer's ability to use Spark to work with large datasets to perform analytics on streaming data. It measures the developer's understanding of the Spark API to perform basic machine learning or SQL tasks on given datasets. The exam consists of 50-60 questions in a two-hour proctored session.

Organization: MapR Technologies

Price: $250 for the exam

How to prepare: MapR recommends candidates prepare with three of its courses: Introduction to Apache Spark, Build and Monitor Apache Spark Applications, and Advanced Apache Spark. MapR also offers an MCSD v2 Study Guide.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Data Management and Analytics

The MCSE: Data Management and Analytics credential demonstrates broad skill sets in SQL administration, building enterprise-scale data solutions, and leveraging business intelligence (BI) data in both on-premises and cloud environments. To earn the certification, candidates must pass one of 12 exams.

Organization: Microsoft

Price: $165 per exam

How to prepare: To pursue this credential, you must first earn one of seven Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MSCA) Certifications: MSCA 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; or MCSA: Data Engineering with Azure. Additionally, Microsoft offers preparation tools for each of the 12 exams that lead to the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics certification.

Mining Massive Data Sets Graduate Certificate

Designed for software engineers, statisticians, predictive modelers, market researchers, analytics professionals, and data miners, the Mining Massive Data Sets Graduate Certificate requires four courses and demonstrates mastery of efficient, powerful techniques and algorithms for extracting information from large datasets like the Web, social network graphs and large document repositories. The certificate usually takes one to two years to complete.

Organization: Stanford Center for Professional Development

Price: $18,900 tuition

How to prepare: A Bachelor's degree with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better is required. Applicants should have knowledge of basic computer science principles and skills, at a level sufficient to write a reasonably non-trivial computer program.

MongoDB Certified DBA Associate

The MongoDB Certified DBA Associate credential is intended to demonstrate that operations professionals understand the concepts and mechanics required to administrate MongoDB. It requires a 90 minute, multiple choice exam.

Organization: MongoDB University

Price: $150

How to prepare: There are no prerequisites, but MongoDB suggests candidates complete an in-person training or one of its online courses (M102: MongoDB for DBAs; M202: MongoDB Advanced Deployment Operations). MongoDB also provides the MongoDB Certification Exam Study Guide, available to those who have registered for a certification exam.

MongoDB Certified Developer Associate

The MongoDB Certified Developer Associate credential is intended for software engineers who want to demonstrate a solid understanding of the fundamentals of designing and building applications using MongoDB. It requires a 90 minute, multiple choice exam.

Organization: MongoDB University

Price: $150

How to prepare: There are no prerequisites, but MongoDB suggests candidates complete an in-person training or one of its online courses (M101J: MongoDB for Java Developers; M101JS: MongoDB for Node.js Developers; M101N: MongoDB for .NET Developers; M101P: MongoDB for Developers). MongoDB also provides the MongoDB Certification Exam Study Guide, available to those who have registered for a certification exam.

Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11 Certified Implementation Specialist

The Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11g Certified Implementation Specialist certification demonstrates skills in implementing solutions based on Oracle Business Intelligence Suite. It covers installing Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), building the BI Server metadata repository, building BI dashboards, constructing ad hoc queries, defining security settings, and configuring and managing cache files. The certification is intended for intermediate-level implementation team members with up-to-date training and field experience. Earning the certification requires passing the Oracle Business Intelligence (OBI) Foundation Suite 11g Essentials exam (1Z0-591). It's a multiple choice exam that consists of 75 questions. Candidates have 120 minutes to complete the exam.

Organization: Oracle University

Price: $245

How to prepare: Oracle recommends candidates complete one of two training courses: Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus Implementation Boot Camp (only available to partners), or Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation 11g Implementation Specialist.

Post Graduate Program (PGP) in Big Data Analytics

Offered in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, India, the PGP in Big Data Analytics is a 23-weekend program spread over six months that consists of classroom-based lecture and lab sessions. It focuses on statistics, machine learning, text analysis, AI and decision sciences, and big data.

It consists of 10 courses (lectures and labs) covering all aspects of analytics, including R and Hadoop skills, statistical modeling, data analytics, machine learning, text mining and optimization. Students are evaluated on a real-world capstone project and a series of tests and mini-projects.

Organization: International School of Engineering (INSOFE)

Price:₹3000 (INR) application fee and a program fee of ₹3,50,000 + 18 percent service tax.

How to prepare: INSOFE admits students based on performance on its entrance exam and prior academic background and work experience.

SAS Certified Big Data Professional

The SAS Certified Big Data Professional certification program is for individuals seeking to build on their basic programming knowledge by learning how to gather and analyze big data in SAS. The program focuses on SAS programming skills; accessing, transforming and manipulating data; improving data quality for reporting and analytics; fundamentals of statistics and analytics; working with Hadoop, Hive, Pig and SAS; and exploring and visualizing data. The program includes two certification exams, both of which the participants must pass.

Organization: SAS Academy for Data Science

Price: $9,000 for classroom (Cary, NC), $299/month or $2,250/year for self-paced e-learning.

How to prepare: At least six months of programming experience in SAS or another programming language is required to enroll.

SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9

The SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9 credential demonstrates that individuals can manipulate and gain insights from big data with a variety of SAS and open source tools, make business recommendations with complex learning models, and then deploy models at scale using the SAS environment. The certification requires passing five exams that include multiple choice, short answer, and interactive questions (in a simulated SAS environment). The exams include:

  • SAS Big Data Preparation, Statistics and Visual Exploration
  • SAS Big Data Programming and Loading
  • Predictive Modeling Using SAS Enterprise Miner 7, 13, or 14
  • SAS Advanced Predictive Modeling
  • SAS Text Analytics, Time Series, Experimentation and Optimazation

Organization: SAS

Price: $180 for each exam; $250 for Predictive Modeling Using SAS Enterprise Miner

How to prepare: SAS recommends candidates prepare using its SAS Data Science curriculum from SAS Academy for Data Science. It costs $4,400 for a self-paced e-Learning course, or $16,000 for a 12-week instructor-led program in Cary, N.C.

Stanford Data Mining and Applications Graduate Certificate

The Data Mining and Applications Graduate Certificate certifies the ability to:

  • Use statistical methods to extract meaning from large datasets
  • Develop and use predictive models and analytics
  • Understand and use strategic decision-making applications

Geared at strategy managers, scientific researchers, social sciences researchers, data analysts and consultants, and advertising and marketing executives, the certificate requires candidates complete three courses, starting with either Data Mining and Analysis or Introduction to Statistical Learning. The first course must be completed with a B+ or better and the other courses must be completed with a B or better to earn the certificate award. It takes an average of one to two years to complete the certificate.

Organization: Stanford Center for Professional Development

Price: $11,340 - $12,600 (9-10 units)

How to prepare: To pursue the graduate certificate, candidates must have taken introductory courses in statistics or probability, linear algebra, and computer programming. The candidate also requires a conferred Bachelor's degree with an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or better.