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To no one’s surprise, Cisco’s high-level CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) garnered the most interest from IT certification seekers for 2005. Microsoft’s MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) with a sub-specialization in security came in a close second. put this list together from a recent reader survey. In it, the organization asked both which certification titles IT professionals hold and which ones they plan to get within the next 12 months. The difference between these two statistics is turned into a “reader interest score” for each title.

Linux and open-source certifications claimed a record four spots on the 2005 top-10 list, with credentials from Red Hat Inc., the LPI (Linux Professional Institute), Novell Inc. and MySQL AB making strong showings. Several security-related credentials also made the cut, as did one project management certification.

In order, the certificates that most IT workers were interested in getting were:

1) Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
2) Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: Security (MCSE: Security)
3) Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE)
4) Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
5) Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP).

Tim Sosbe, editorial director of Certification Magazine, also has issued the results of his magazine’s annual salary survey.

Certification Magazine found that the CCIE credential gave its possessors the highest salary, with an average annual salary of $105,140 for senior-level experts.

After this, however, the ranking of the two organizations split up.

1) Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE): $105,140
2) EMC Proven Professional: $93,470
3) Project Management Institute‘s credentials: $89,630
4) (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $85,960
5) Cisco Qualified Specialist: IP Telephony: $84,620.

“We definitely had some surprises this year, with Linux and open-source credentials performing particularly well,” editor Becky Nagel said in a statement.

“As a majority of our readers are Microsoft-centric professionals, the many Linux certifications on this year’s list seem to indicate a strong interest in open-source credentials by these professionals,” Nagel said.

Just falling off the top five list were the LPI (Linux Professional Institute) Level 2 (LPIC 2) followed by Novell’s CLP (Certified Linux Professional). In the Certification Magazine 2004 survey, certified Linux professionals didn’t reach the heights of salaries, but they weren’t doing too badly either.

RHCEs made an average of $73,200, followed by holders of LPI certifications making $71,350. At the technician level, RHCTs (Red Hat Certified Technicians) made $69,080, while holders of the CompTIA Linux+ certification averaged $56,020. By comparison, IT staffers with the extremely popular MCSE made $67,390.

The Novell Linux certification didn’t make Certification Magazine’s list, but IT workers are clearly interested in it. “As little as a year ago, you might have thought it’d be a cold day in hell before a Novell credential would once again be considered a ‘hot cert,’” Nagel wrote. “Well, it’s time to start knitting Satan that sweater, because the company’s new Certified Linux Professional title has firmly landed itself at No. 7 on this year’s list.”

“Next year will be an interesting one for IT certifications,” said Henry Allain, CertCities’ group publisher. “As the eclectic mix on this year’s hot cert list shows, Cisco, Microsoft and security certifications will continue to do well, but 2005 may be anything but typical. This diversity can only be good for the industry as well as for individual IT professionals.”