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SNIA Certification Guide: Overview And Career Paths

SNIA Certification Guide: Overview And Career Paths
By , Mary Kyle

The membership-driven SNIA organization offers some of the industry's most highly recognized storage certifications. Find out how these certs can advance your career in networking storage administration and design.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is a non-profit consortium of storage vendors with a mission to educate and certify IT professionals interested in pursuing a career in the storage arts and sciences. SNIA is the preeminent provider of vendor-neutral storage education and certification.

The SNIA certification ladder offers challenging and informative education and certifications for all levels of storage knowledge and experience. You can leverage SNIA certifications to help you achieve your career goals in the storage space or you can simply use the certification training and exam process to learn more about this critical area of IT.

SNIA Certification Program Overview

The SNIA Storage Networking Certification Program (SNCP) offers vendor-agnostic credentials in storage and data management that provide an excellent base upon which you can build your knowledge and expertise. SNCP credentials fall into three primary domains, each featuring various SNIA certifications at the Professional, Engineer, Architect and Expert levels:

  • Concepts: SNIA Certified Storage Professional (SCSP)
  • Standards: SNIA Certified Storage Engineer (SCSE)
  • Solutions: SNIA Certified Storage Architect (SCSA) and SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSN-E)

SNIA also offers the SNIA Qualified Storage Sales Professional (SQSSP), geared toward sales and marketing professionals who need to understand storage concepts and perform customer need assessments for complex data centers. With this information in mind, let's look at the storage certifications offered by SNIA and where each might fit into a training and certification portfolio.

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SCSP: SNIA Certified Storage Professional

The SNIA Certified Storage Professional (SCSP) was introduced in early 2016 to replace the CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA certification. The vendor-neutral, professional-level SCSP validates a candidate's knowledge of storage protocols, disaster recovery techniques and basic storage networking concepts. The credential is geared toward IT pros working in various storage-related roles, such as:

  • Storage, cloud, network, data management and backup administrators
  • Storage, sales and systems engineers
  • Storage analysts
  • Implementation specialists

To obtain the SCSP certification, candidates must pass the Storage Networking Foundations Exam (S10-110). The exam costs $220 and is available through Kryterion testing centers.

CompTIA Storage+ Powered By SNIA

After a successful partnership that spanned five years, CompTIA and SNIA discontinued the Storage+ credential. Professionals who already hold the certification need not worry as it remains valid for three years from the exam pass date. However, the Storage+ certification expires on Dec. 31, 2018, so certification holders are encouraged to refresh the credential with the SNIA Foundations exam instead.

SCSE: SNIA Certified Storage Engineer

The SNIA Certified Storage Engineer (SCSE) certification is the next logical rung on the SNIA storage ladder. This certification gets into the technical meat of storage principles, and students will analyze more real-world storage scenarios while preparing for the SCSE exam than in SCSP certification training.

SCSE topics include monitoring and configuring storage networks, best practices, standards and backup and restore activities. The certification covers the core responsibilities and essential knowledge required to be a hands-on storage engineer or a sales engineer who specializes in storage solutions.

Successfully passing the Foundations exam is a prerequisite for attaining the SCSE certification. You must also pass the new SNIA Storage Networking Management & Administration exam (S10-210) to complete the SCSE. (SCSE credentials earned on the older Storage Networking Management & Administration exam S10-201 remain valid for three years from the exam pass date. Any credential earned on this exam expires on Aug. 31, 2017.)

Note: Candidates may still find references to the CompTIA Storage+ Powered by SNIA certification as a prerequisite for the SCSE credential. The Storage+ credential was withdrawn by SNIA in early 2016 and is no longer available. Until it expires in 2018, it remains valid to meet pre-requisites, though.

SCSA: SNIA Certified Storage Architect

Once you have your SCSE certification and some real-world experience in installing and administering SANs, the SNIA Certified Storage Architect (SCSA) certification allows you to take your storage knowledge and expertise to a whole new level. SCSAs assess project or infrastructure storage requirements from both a technical and a business perspective. Once the business and technical drivers are identified and documented, a storage architect then plans and designs storage implementations to meet those requirements.

This certification dives more deeply into storage networking theory and best practices than similar certifications, including ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and ITSM (IT Service Management) principles relating to storage design and implementation.

Candidates must pass both the Foundations exam and the current Storage Networking Assessment Planning and Design exam (S10-310) to earn the SCSA credential.

SCSN-E: SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert

Achieving your SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSN-E) certification gives you elite status in the storage arena. The SCSN-E designation is the crème de la crème of the SNIA certification ladder, which means it's a challenging certification to complete.

This level of the SCSN-E certification isn't so much an additional certification as it is recognition by SNIA that certain SCSN-Es have mastered all the knowledge areas for the other SNIA certifications, and that they've put that knowledge to practical use solving real-world storage problems. They also have demonstrated strong ability to design and implement storage solutions using storage devices and software from multiple storage vendors.

Prerequisites for the SCSN-E include the three exams for the SCSP, SCSE and SCSA certifications. Instead of being required to pass a dedicated test, SCSN-E candidates must complete a minimum of two SNIA partner storage certifications to be chosen at the discretion of the SCSN-E candidate. Those partner storage certifications include offerings from Brocade, Cisco, Dell, EMC, Hitachi, HP and NetApp.

Note: These are the only vendor-specific requirements in the SNIA certification program. You can review all applicable partner certifications and their details on the SCSN-E certification page.

Only 385 professionals have achieved the SCSN-E worldwide, so this is an exclusive club and a goal to which you should aspire if storage is your chosen career field. SNIA maintains the entire current list of SCSN-E Expert Level Achievers Worldwide on the certification page.

SQSSP: SNIA Qualified Storage Sales Professional

Sales people need love too and the SNIA Qualified Storage Sales Professional (SQSSP) certification shows them the storage love. The SQSSP credential is an excellent way for storage sales people to become familiar with common terms and basic components for storage technology. This certification can also be beneficial to sales engineers who are new to storage and want to learn the sales side of the business along with the technical side of storage they can learn from technical certification. SQSSP topics include the basics of storage concepts, virtualization, storage networking technologies (Fibre Channel and IP iSCSI), data management, backup and recovery methods and business continuity concepts.

Once you pass the SQSSP test, you are then authorized by SNIA to add the SQSSP logo to your business card and email signature. There is an eLearning online course available for this certification as well as self-study materials that can help you pass the test. The exam costs $100 and is available from Prometric.

Related Jobs and Resources

Most SNIA credentials target IT professionals working as storage administrators or engineers, storage network administrators, system engineers or analysts, and storage or sales engineers. To get a sense of what type of jobs are available, we conducted an informal job search on for storage engineers and found almost 15,000 job posts. In a separate search for employers specifically seeking SNIA-certified professionals, we found various roles including:

  • The Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, DC is seeking a SNIA certified IT engineer.
  • A major-medical center in Salinas, CA is seeking a SNIA-certified professional to manage their security storage and database administration.
  • An IT company in Washington, DC is looking for a SNIA Certified Storage Engineer to fulfil the role of system architect in charge of engineering and operations.
  • A New Mexico company is looking for a SNIA-certified storage area network administrator.

Regardless of your specific area of interest, storage professionals are in high demand, and SNIA certification provides the extra edge to help you snag that perfect job.

If you’re looking for training materials, SNIA makes your search easy. From the individual certification page, you’ll find links to study guides as well as practice exams to help you prepare for exam day.

Still need more help? Take a test drive around the SNIA Education web page. Here you’ll find a plethora of exam support options, including recommended reading, whitepapers, webcasts, blogs, training videos and more.

If you’re looking to connect with other SNIA professionals, be sure to check out the various SNIA communities. SNIA technology communities are organized by subject matter and include topics such as Cloud Storage, Data Protection, Solid State Storage, Long Term Retention and many more! 

For candidates who prefer a more formal academic learning environment, SNIA has partnered with numerous training providers, such as Converged Solutions and Infinity IO (IIO), to provide comprehensive training solutions. Check out SNIA’s Worldwide Training Partners for a complete list of current training partners and information on current offerings.

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