IBM's brand name may still evoke images of giant mainframes from the 1960s and 1970s, but software and solutions have defined the company's role in corporate IT over the past decade. Software accounts for more than two-thirds of Big Blue's annual revenue, and its attractive price point has lured large companies away from competitors like Oracle and Microsoft. IBM WebSphere has helped the company's clients embrace Web-based operations during the past 10 years, especially as business users demand easy access to custom applications in the office and on the road.
Although longtime users often focus on the IBM WebSphere Application Server, the term WebSphere now refers to an entire ecosystem of middleware tools that has sprung up around the original WAS. The family of tools enables developers to quickly build and deploy custom applications that can interact with each other while dipping into shared company databases. While some companies use IBM WebSphere to power their e-commerce operations, many businesses now leverage the platform to develop complex business intelligence tools that incorporate customer relationships, supply chain data, and real-time network management.
Top IBM WebSphere Employers
As IBM WebSphere applications move from the desktop to mobile devices, employers now seek developers and system administrators who understand how to make apps and databases share information quickly and securely. Although the cost of running a WAS prohibits most small and medium businesses from hiring WebSphere certified IT professionals, major employers hiring WebSphere programmers and administrators include Fortune 500 companies such as banks, retailers, and manufacturers.
Types of IBM WebSphere Certifications
IBM offers three broad certification tracks to information technology professionals who want to administer WebSphere on their networks or develop applications for the WAS:
- Application Server Management
- Application Connectivity and Integration
- Business Process Management
In addition, IBM's Commerce and Information Management certifications include modules on WebSphere integration and deployment. Finally, IBM maintains Application Integration Middleware Level 1 Support exclusively for its own employees.
Taking the IBM WebSphere Certification Exams
IBM WebSphere certification requires applicants to complete a series of rigorous exams at a certified testing center under the watch of a proctor. According to representatives of IBM's education team, prospective test-takers earn higher scores and faster certifications when they take pre-exam assessments and sample tests.
Colleges, universities, and career training centers all offer programs that can prepare students for IBM WebSphere certification. Online courses leverage the networked nature of IBM's software, while hybrid courses and classroom-based training programs can help students learn how to build stronger team-building skills. Members of IBM's Academic Initiative qualify for free test-taking, making certification even more affordable.
Students who don't need full certification can sit for "mastery tests" that measure broad competencies without the rigor of a full exam. Research conducted by industry analysts at Global Knowledge found that IT professionals with IBM WebSphere certifications earned significantly higher salaries than peers with less focused expertise. However, quarterly salary surveys by Foote Partners discovered that many hiring managers will accept documentation of WebSphere training and mastery tests along with solid industry experience in lieu of a full certification.