Vendor-Neutral vs Vendor-Specific Certifications: What is Best for Me?

Feroze Ashraff
December 1, 2021

There are a plethora of IT certifications that are competing for your time and money. Each promise that achieving their specific certification will catapult your IT career to the next level and will have hiring managers knocking at your door.

So, the question remains: What certification should I choose?
Firstly, we need to understand that IT certs are categorised into 2 broad categories: Vendor specific and Vendor neutral.

Vendor-specific certifications

Vendor specific certifications cover specific developer technologies, products, or software platforms and are focused on giving expertise in a specific tool such as Cisco, Microsoft or AWS. A cert from the likes of Cisco and Microsoft show potential employers that you are serious about your career in IT and that you’re knowledgeable on those specific technologies.

However, the main con with vendor-specific certs is that your skills do not necessarily translate to other, similar products from different vendors. For example, if you have an AWS cert (while the concepts of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS are the same) you don’t necessarily have the skills to implement an Azure cloud infrastructure. Additionally, the specific product you are trained in could become obsolete, and reskilling with other vendor-specific certs can be costly and time-consuming.

Vendor-neutral certifications

Vendor-neutral certifications deal with best practices and concepts in a particular area of development such as security or project management. In today’s world, it is more practical to prioritize vendor-neutral certifications since it showcases you’ve master different technologies. This not only makes you highly employable across companies but also more adaptable as your career goals change.

Which neutral certification is best?

CompTIA is the number one Vendor Neutral certification provider. CompTIA is one of the most trusted associations that offers vendor-neutral certifications, many of which meet industry-standard requirements for hiring practices, including those for most IT jobs in government agencies.

What’s best if I want to be a cyber security superstar?

  • SANS GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF) (entry level)
    - The GISF is an entry level certification, designed to provide an overview of risk management and defence in depth techniques.
  • EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) (intermediate)
    - The CEH certification is an intermediate-level certification designed for ITsec pros who are well on their way to an information security career.
  • (ISC)2 Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SCCP) (intermediate)
    - The SSCP certification is for established ITsec pros who have solid experience working in information security and have a strong familiarity with policies and procedures that ensure data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
  • (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) (advanced)
    - CISSP is an advanced certification designed for ITsec pros with at least five years of experience in the field

Final thoughts

Which type of certification is best for you depends on your career goals - one size does not fit all. You need to consider the cost in terms of both money and time, as well as how valuable and impressive the certification will be to current and potential employers.