Our list of the best enterprise architect certifications for 2017 will help you reach the pinnacle of the IT certification pyramid, validating your skills and knowledge of IT, enterprise architecture and business needs.
Formerly known as the IT Architecture Certification (ITAC), the Open Group's Certified Architect (Open CA) certification seeks to identify those with strong IT architecture skills and knowledge. The Open Group is a well-known purveyor of open industry standards and technologies across the IT profession, so it stands to reason they'd be involved in IT architecture, because it seeks to integrate across many standards, tools and technologies.
Historically, this certification focused solely on information technology (IT), but the Open Group has worked to expand the Open CA credential to cover business architecture and enterprise architecture as well. Candidates are able to obtain the Open CA credential directly from the Open Group or from accredited third-party certification programs. These accredited certification programs (commonly referred to as ACPs) are accredited by The Open Group; they cover the same materials and meet the same standards as courses offered by the Open Group.
As is the case with many enterprise architect certifications, the Open CA is based both on skills and experience. The program is based on four key documents, each of which addresses the overall certification and its requirements:
- Certification Policy — which sets out policies and processes whereby an individual may become certified as an Open CA.
- Conformance Requirements* — which lay out the skills and experience that an Open CA must possess.
- Accreditation Policy — which establishes policies and processes whereby an organization may become an ACP to train individuals to become an Open CA.
- Accreditation Requirements — wherein the criteria that ACPs must meet are documented.
* ACPs may have additional or extended requirements for certification. As new career path categories are added, candidates can expect additional Conformance Requirements.
For individuals, the process consists of submitting a certification package for review by an evaluation board. Following initial review, a package may be declined and returned to the candidate for additional work, or be subjected to full-scale evaluation. After such evaluation, those candidates who get approval from the board earn the Open CA credential, while those who fail to get the approval are provided with feedback and given an opportunity to reapply. Those who earn the Open CA must also go through abbreviated board review every three years to maintain their certifications.
The Open CA certification is highly regarded and widely sought after, especially at its more advanced levels. Anyone already involved with the Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and its certification, the ArchiMate Certification program, or the foundational Open Group IT Specialist credential (Open CITS) may find themselves digging into the Open CA someday.
The group known as the International Association for all IT Architects, IASA operates a multi-level certification program known as the Certified IT Architect (CITA) that comes in Foundation, Associate, Specialist and Professional flavors.
The CITA certification model involves two sets of activities, each with an associated cost. First, candidates at any given level may register for and complete an associated course that costs between $2,000 and $3,000; some of these are self-study, others are classroom-based (courses are optional at the two most senior cert levels, required at the two most junior ones). Second, candidates must register for, and pass, an associated exam at each level that costs $300 at the CITA-F level and $2,000 at the CITA-P level (lower levels involve a written exam only. Higher levels involve written and oral components, including a "board defense," during which candidates must defend their professional success and accomplishments working as an IT architect).
The CITA-S specialist credential recognizes some experience with each of the five pillars of architecture: Business Technology Strategy, IT Environment, Design Skills, Human Dynamics and Quality Attributes. It involves a board certification process that includes written documentation in advance of review, a 30-minute presentation, and two 15-minute Q&A sessions, as well as an oral examination and defense during board review.
The CITA-P Professional credential involves a lengthy written submission in advance of review, a 30-minute presentation and an oral examination and defense during review from a three-person board that includes a moderator. CITA-P candidates will also be assigned a mentor in advance who will work with candidates to help them prepare for board review.
The CITA program presents a great opportunity for those seeking a well-defined certification ladder they can climb en route to IT architecture greatness. Though some of the other programs include their own ladders (such as the Open CA) they do not pick up from the foundational level and work their way up to senior architect status. This may make climbing aboard the IT architect bus easier for some, especially for those in search of an active membership and community culture to go with their certifications.
Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence (EACOE) is home to a four-tiered IT architecture certification program comprised of Enterprise Architect, Senior Enterprise Architect, Distinguished Enterprise Architect and Enterprise Architecture Fellow.
The EACOE is the latest incarnation of a sequence of professional organizations focused on "architecture and model driven business and technology planning, business process engineering, and application development," a statement that provides a fairly accurate assessment of what IT architects do. EACOE has been around for more than 30 years and claims more than "3,500 companies and 125,000 individuals educated and trained" in its techniques, methodologies and best practices.
Earning the initial Enterprise Architecture credential requires candidates to demonstrate performance and give presentations in the classroom in the course of completing an EACOE Certification Workshop and associated modeling activities. This credential is good for 2 years, after which the workshop must be repeated or retaken.
Candidates can advance to the Senior level once they have 3 years of ongoing Enterprise Architecture experience, and no less than 5 years of professional work experience. They must demonstrate their performance on an enterprise architecture development reviewed by EACOE, and obtain three recommendations from colleagues. The credential remains valid for 3 years after the development project is completed. To recertify, certification holders must submit another project for review or move up to the Distinguished level.
The Distinguished level adds 2 years of experience to the mix (5 years in Enterprise Architecture, seven years of professional experience), plus three enterprise architecture developments reviewed by EACOE. Candidates must have "accomplishments in, or impact on the Enterprise Architecture field," and obtain four to seven colleague recommendations, of which at least one must come from an EACOE member. The Distinguished certification is valid for 3 years from the most recently completed enterprise architecture development.
The Enterprise Architecture Fellow certification ups the ante on developments to five, and asks for "outstanding accomplishments" in the field, plus eight recommendations, with three from EACOE members. It stays valid for 5 years from the completion of the most recent development.
EACOE's understanding and enthusiasm for the subject matter is clear, along with their insistence on continual recertification. This is a serious certification aimed at practicing enterprise architects interested in improving their skills, knowledge and craft. It also trades effort and elbow grease for keeping skills sharp and current against costs for training, exams and membership fees. It may be the bargain enterprise architect credential of the current era!
The Certified SOA Architect credential has a declared and definite emphasis on service-oriented architectures (SOAs), along with related technology solutions and infrastructures. It's not as general a credential as some others, but the certification has attracted considerable interest and traction in the industry nevertheless.
Earning the Certified SOA Architect requires passing five exams, each of which is backed by a supported course and for which a self-study kit is also available. The availability of Prometric exams, self-study and classroom training, workshops, and so forth, makes this a more mainstream IT certification than most of the other IT architect certs included in our list.
There are three primary elements of the Certified SOA Architect credential:
- Design of service oriented technology architectures, including both logical and physical design.
- Deployment and delivery of working technology solutions based on such designs, followed by typical post-delivery lifecycle management issues and concerns.
- Ability to integrate SOA solutions into general IT infrastructures, and to maintain and grow such infrastructures to accommodate change, growth, and introduction of new tools and technologies over time.
Certification requirements are reviewed on a quarterly basis to ensure that the credential meets current industry needs. Courseware is revised accordingly, so credential seekers should frequently revisit the official website to ensure they have the latest requirements.
Compared to the other enterprise architect certifications on this list, the Certified SOA Architect credential:
- Is the only one that comes with no definite, clearly stated work history or experience criteria.
- Does not require extensive documentation of architecture experience, nor prior design and implementation of architecture projects.
- Primarily targets individuals charged with designing and building service-oriented software architectures, and thus also has a profound development emphasis and focus.
Of all the credentials on this list, the Certified SOA Architect qualifies as the most narrow and also the most junior cert. This may make it a good stepping stone for those advancing into IT architecture by way of a career on the development side of IT. In other words, it's a great first step into the world of enterprise architecture.
SOA School also offers other Certified SOA credentials including:
If you're not quite certain whether or not you're ready to tackle an SOA credential, then check out the IBM Certified SOA Associate. This entry-level credential targets IT professionals who work in various aspects of the IT realm (project managers, sales, developers, system integrators and so forth) who regularly work on SOA projects. This credential documents basic SOA-related skills (understanding of web services, business requirements, SOA) and provides a foundation that may serve as a springboard for more advanced SOA credentials.
The FEAC Institute is an interesting organization with an interesting focus aimed at a variety of enterprise-level communities: commercial/business, government and branches of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), as well as the contractors who support them. This can make finding your way around the organization's website occasionally challenging, as its credentials are categorized and compartmentalized along these lines.
We include the Enterprise Architecture Certification (CEA), but also cover the organization's 10-week certification program that includes both this credential and the Federal Enterprise Architect (FEA), along with the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF), which defines a special structure for visualizing, understanding and assimilating architecture descriptions through a variety of different models and means.
The FEAC program includes various workshops and training classes, as well as custom course content or related short courses (taught at colleges or universities around the U.S., including UVA in northern Virginia and California State University- East Bay).
In general, there are four core courses involved in pursuing the CEA, along with a practicum project in which the goal is to help students gain practice and to produce actual work product for their parent employers or home organizations. Core content may be covered in individual modules or in a 5-day workshop (priced at $11,000, with a $1,000 discount for government employees). The practicum is scheduled over a 3- to 6-month period. John Zachman, represented on the company site as "the father of Enterprise Architecture and author of numerous EA publications," is a keystone member of the faculty, along with other notables in the field.
This credential (and its companion federal government and DoD equivalents) is aimed at teaching a specific methodology for practicing enterprise architecture and creating projects in this subject area. Technical coverage is supplemented with ties into organizational budgeting processes, developing realistic statements of work (SOWs), internal promotion and approval, implementing and integrating program elements and capabilities, and measuring progress. For government projects, specific mandates, deliverables and milestones are covered to ensure compliance with OMB initiatives or departmental or legislative requirements.
This is clearly a certification program with strong government and defense connections, but given the size and scope of the work this embraces, many IT professionals will want to (or be required to) follow this path toward developing appropriate enterprise architecture skills and knowledge.