• Big Data
  • Experfy Editor
  • MAR 06, 2015

Navigating Big Data Certification Programs

Why Certifications Programs in Big Data and Data Science?

In this very nascent field of big data where both HR and managers often don’t know what to look for in a candidate, it helps to acquire certifications in specific knowledge areas. The wide gap between academic programs in data science and industry practices makes it practically necessary for both industry and academia to come up with certification programs to bridge the gap between supply and demand. Much of the initiative toward certification has come from the industry, especially when it comes to big data technologies such as Hadoop.

 Who are big data certification programs aimed at?

If you are currently employed as IT manager, a business analyst, a data scientist, an architect, or a student aspiring for a data-analytics related career, there are several compelling certification programs available. The requirement for participating in any of these certification programs is a set of prerequisites that must be met in order to enroll in a program. 

Certification programs on big data or data science serve a variety of purposes: some certification program courses may provide an introduction to the background and theoretical principles, while others may directly take a student step by step, through hands-on training in big-data analytics, including technologies such as Hadoop. Some courses may expose you to both the basic and advanced methods of data analytics, while others may teach you to confront business challenges that leverage big data.

Whatever may be your training goals; you can explore the certification programs listed here, and select the one that exactly matches your learning needs. Here’s a snapshot of some of the most popular and credible certification programs offered by major universities and industry.



For starters, EMC offers an open courseware on Big Data: Open Course to Unleash the Power of Big Data.

The emphasis of this open courseware is on data science and data analytics. This training-cum-certification course facilitates real-world use cases, taking the student hands on through industry best practices and practical techniques exploited in basic and advanced data analytics. Most of the case examples used in this course is suitable for multi-vendor, multi-technology environments. With the skills and knowledge gained through this training and certification course, you can immediately apply the learning in big-data and analytics projects.

The Certification Program offered with this course is aligned to EMC Proven Professional Data Scientist Associate (EMCDSA) certification. You may download the course outline, the overview, the full-course description, or the EMCDSA Certification-exam description from the above link.


Harvard Extension School

Harvard Extension School offers a Certificate Course in Data Science, which you can access here:  Data Science Certificate Course.

This course focuses on teaching students on how to gain insights from business data for strategic decision-making. This certification program is broken down in four distinct courses, one of which is a required course, and the other three may be freely chosen from an exhaustive list of available courses. The required course is: CSCI E-109 Data Science.

You can select rest of the three courses from a list of many choices. This certificate course teaches many sophisticated concepts such as data wrangling, exploratory analysis, cleaning, sampling, regression and classification. Apart from data visualization, you will also learn many useful statistical methods used in data discovery. This course is ideally suited for individuals entering a data science career. For certification, you have to take graduate-level courses, and maintain a B average in all the courses. You also need to complete the courses within three years. An online Certificate Course Tracker will help your monitor your progress.

For earning the certificate, you can directly select the courses and register for graduate credit. All the required courses are offered every year, but the elective courses may or may not change from year to year due to instructor availability and new offerings.

A Master’s degree known as Information Technology Graduate Program is also offered, which may be partially fulfilled by the certification courses that you complete. You can visit the degree course search to find out how certificate courses apply toward the degree.

If you want to earn the master’s degree, apply to the degree program first, and earn the certificate along the way. The flexibility of these courses is that you can start out with one course, and then decide whether you want to work towards a Certification or a full Master’s degree.

 What follows below are courses by vendors promoting their own distribution of Hadoop.  Before you pick one, it is important to understand the differences.  See our comparison, Cloudera vs Hortonworks vs MapR: Comparing Hadoop Distributions.


Cloudera offers a certification program in big data applications:
Designing and Building Big Data Applications.

This four-day, instructor-led course provides a hands-on tour of data analysis and real-world problems. You will be exposed to Apache Hadoop technology in an “enterprise data hub” environment. During the course, you will get a chance to walk through the complete process of planning, designing, and building real-world solutions including data ingestion and data storage techniques. Additionally, you may use the additional elements of the enterprise data hub and develop converged applications. Through discussions, exercises, and interactive sessions, you will gain practical insights into the Hadoop ecosystem.

Prerequisites for this certification course are:

  1. Cloudera Developer Training for Apache Hadoop or equivalent practical experience
  2. Good knowledge of Java and
  3. Basic familiarity with Linux
  4. Experience with SQL

The useful skills that you develop through this program are using Kite SDK, managing a multi-stage workflow with Oozie, analyzing data with Crunch, writing user-defined functions for Hive andImpala among others.

Upon completion of the course, attendees are encouraged to continue their study and register for the Cloudera Certified Developer for Apache Hadoop (CCDH) exam.



Hortonworks offers Applying Data Science Using Apache Hadoop.  This is a 3-days course that includes instructions on the processes and practices of data science, including machine learning and natural-language processing.  Many practical analytics tools and programming languages make up this course. The target audience for this course is data architects, software developers, analysts, and data scientists ready to apply data science and machine learning on Hadoop. This course consists of 50% lecture sessions and 50% lab sessions.

Prerequisites for taking this course are:

  1. Experience with at least one programming or scripting language
  2. Knowledge of statistics and/or mathematics
  3. Basic understanding of big data and Hadoop principles.

Some of useful skills that you can hope to develop in the lecture sessions are recognizing use cases for data science, understanding the architecture of Hadoop and YARN, identifying machine-learning tasks, and using Mahout to run a machine-learning algorithm on Hadoop.

Some skills that you learn in the lab sessions are setting up a development environment, using HDFS Commands, using Mahout for Machine Learning, exploring data with Pig, and many more. If you want to get detailed information on course objectives or learning outcomes of both the lecture and lab sessions, then visit the above link.

MapR Academy

For a hands-on Hadoop training, the MapR Academy offers MapR Hadoop Certification.  A MapR Hadoop certification validates that you have demonstrated proficiency as a Hadoop Administrator, Developer, and Data Analyst.

MapR wants to promote the following benefits with their certification programs:

  • Industry recognition for big-data skills
  • Official designation and logo for business cards and individual profiles
  • Digitally verifiable MapR credential for employers and clients
  • An electronically delivered certificate

MapR Academy certification programs:

  • MCHA – MapR Certified Hadoop Administrator: This certification course validates practical expertise in the administration of Hadoop Clusters and MapR administration tools. Learn more
  • MCHD – MapR Certified Hadoop Developer: This certification course demonstrates proficiency in MapReduce/YARN programs. Learn more
  • MCHBD – MapR Certified HBase Developer: This certification course validates demonstrated ability in the development of HBase programs using HBase as a distributed NoSQL datastore. Learn more

Based on which version of the exam you pass, you will receive an appropriate certification, which remains permanently valid for that version. MapR will continue to release new versions each certification exams, covering new features and challenges in your chosen subject area. You can upgrade your certification anytime through multiple learning opportunities and delivery formats offered by MapR.  A soon-to-be launched, brand-new MapR Certified Hadoop Data Analyst (MCHDA) program will certify a high-level of expertise in data analysis.



Experfy, based in Harvard Innovation Lab, also offers online and instructor-led big data trainingWhat distinguishes Experfy from Hortonworks, Cloudera and MapR is its focus on industry use-cases using real industry data during the training sessions.  The lab components are integral to the structure of the courses. The following tracks are offered:

Hadoop Developer Training: This track trains developers to meet industry demands such as big data architecture design to real-time analytics. Apart from bid data applications training, you will also receive Spark and Hbase training.

Hadoop Administrator Training: This track prepares Hadoop Administrators to deal with migration issues, advanced security issues, governance issues, and other issues involved in data analytics in Hadoop.

Big Data Analyst Training: Here, analysts get hands-on training on Impala, Hive, and Pig for real-time analytics and business intelligence. This track also prepares analysts for critical analyses on multi-structured data in Hadoop using SQL and scripting languages.

In addition, Experfy offers instructor-led training on marketing analytics and Internet of Things (IoT).

Internet of Things Training: IOT presents a unique challenge to machine learning due to its data and compute complexity. In this course we will get hands on with open source packages uniquely suited for IOT-scale machine learning.

Marketing Analytics Training: Among other things, you will get to see how predictive modeling can be used to better understand campaign performance and optimize how, where and when to spend your marketing dollars.

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