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The Open Group Certification Guide: Overview And Career Paths

The Open Group Certification Guide: Overview And Career Paths
By , Mary Kyle

If enterprise architecture and IT business processes are the focus of your current career, or figure predominantly in your future career goals, it may be worth your while to pursue an Open Group certification.


The Open Group is a global IT industry consortium that boasts more than 500 member organizations and companies of all sizes from all over the world. Platinum members include IBM, Capgemini, Huawei, Philips, Oracle and HPE. Member organizations and companies hail from all sectors of the IT spectrum, including tech start-ups, universities, software/hardware developers, consultants, integrators, training providers and customers.

This organization has developed a comprehensive set of standards on enterprise architecture, security and risk, trusted technology and several other categories that are relevant to IT in general. The group is also responsible for the TOGAF framework (for enterprise architecture), the ArchiMate modeling language and the IT4IT Reference Architecture (for managing the business of IT). To support these initiatives, the Open Group offers an IT certification program along with relevant training options.

The Open Group Certification Program Overview

The Open Group's IT certification program includes vendor-neutral certifications on enterprise IT management, enterprise IT architecture, ArchiMate, TOGAF and risk analysis. The overall Open Group certification program has five subprograms, each of which has two or three certifications:

  • The Open Certified IT Specialist Program
  • The Open Certified Architect Program Program
  • The Open Group ArchiMate Certification Program
  • The Open Group Architecture Framework Certification Program
  • The Open Group Factor Analysis of Information Risk Certification Program

Two of the subprograms are experience-based (the Certified IT Specialist and the Certified Architect), whereas the other three are knowledge-based. Let's take a look at each subprogram and its certifications in more detail.

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Open CITS: Certified IT Specialist Program

The holder of a Certified IT Specialist (Open CITS) certification has passed a rigorous, vendor-neutral verification process based on real-world IT experience and technical knowledge. Prospective applicants achieve the Open CITS certification via written applications and interviews with the Open Group's Certification Board. No training classes or exams are required. You just have to know your stuff! Currently, there are more than 3,000 Open CITS credential holders in more than 50 countries.

To obtain the credential, candidates must possess at least five years of IT experience in the preceding eight years, plus three years of technical experience within the past five years. Candidates should also demonstrate knowledge regarding current industry trends and training in technical and project management, and show professional contribution back to the community.

The Open CITS certification also requires applicants to demonstrate skills and knowledge in each of the following three areas:

  • Core Foundation Skills: Exhibiting acumen in all four foundation skills: people (communication, negotiation, dispute resolution, for example) business, architecture and project management
  • Client Focus Skills: Exhibiting acumen in at least one of the following client-focused areas: Services, Sales, Support and Training
  • Technical Focus Area: Exhibiting acumen in at least one technical area including: application development, business analysis, packaged application implementation, data integration, testing, infrastructure and application development, systems and hardware products, infrastructure design, software, security and IT service management.

Three Open CITS certification levels are available:

  • Level 1 -- Certified IT Specialist: Able to perform and contribute with supervision or assistance
  • Level 2 -- Master Certified IT Specialist: Able to perform independently and assume leadership roles as well as drive solution delivery
  • Level 3 -- Distinguished IT Specialist: Performs in a leadership capacity

The Open Group refers to IT professionals who achieve Open CITS certification as "T-shaped people" because they have a broad range of experience in IT environments and technologies, represented by the horizontal portion of the T. The vertical portion of the T represents a single technical focus area that the Open CITS applicant has mastered.

Open CITS certification exams cost $1,250 USD. Annual renewal fees of $175 USD are required to maintain the credential.

Open CA: Certified Architect Program

The Open Group's Certified Architect (Open CA) program administers, trains and bestows certifications on applicants who have industry experience and can prove mastery of the knowledge and skills required of an enterprise or business IT architect. The Open CA certification is based on the real-world experience and knowledge exhibited by prospective applicants via written applications and interviews with the Open Group's Certification Board. No training classes or exams are required to achieve this certification.

There are three levels to the Open CA certification:

  • Level 1 -- Certified: Able to perform with architecture tasks with assistance or supervision.
  • Level 2 -- Master: Able to independently perform architecture tasks and deliver relevant solutions as a lead architect.
  • Level 3 -- Distinguished: Able to lead complex projects from inception to analysis to implementation, including accommodations for business as well as technical requirements and impact. The Distinguished certification applies to applicants on one of three career paths: Chief/Lead Architect, Enterprise Architect or IT Architect Profession Leader.

Established as a certification based on open standards, the Open CA certification enjoys worldwide recognition as a vendor-neutral endorsement of your skills, knowledge and experience. There are currently more than 4,000 Open CA's worldwide representing more than 180 companies.

The Open CA credential has only one track available at the present time -- IT Architecture. However, candidates interested in business or enterprise architecture should take heart. The Open Group indicates that both a Business Architecture and Enterprise Architecture track will be added to the Open CA credential. No firm plans or dates have yet been announced, so candidates interested in these tracks should check The Open Group website frequently for updates.

ArchiMate Certification Program

ArchiMate is a business-focused modeling language that enables enterprise and business architects to accurately design, describe, analyze and document business processes that include or are impacted by IT components, services, and projects. ArchiMate has been incorporated into many architecture design tools and is also supported by third-party consulting organizations.

The Open Group offers certification both to individuals and to tools vendors who can demonstrate implementation of the ArchiMate principles in their tools:

  • The ArchiMate 2 Certification for People Program is based on the ArchiMate modeling language and ensures that certification holders are fluent in ArchiMate.
  • The ArchiMate 2 Tool Certification Program ensures that tools meet the mandatory requirements to support the ArchiMate modeling language.

Two certification levels are offered: ArchiMate 2 Foundation (Level 1) and ArchiMate 2 Certified (Level 2).

There are ArchiMate 2 training courses offered by numerous accredited training providers to ensure that certified individuals and organizations meet the ArchiMate requirements.

TOGAF: The Open Group Architecture Framework 9 Certification Program

TOGAF 9 is a standards-based enterprise architecture framework that is used by tens of thousands of IT professionals world-wide to define, document and manage their projects. Training for the TOGAF 9 certification can be acquired via self-study, classroom or distance learning courses, and TOGAF 9 certification is achieved by passing a two-part written exam. Exams and training are based on the TOGAF 9.1 Standard.

There are two levels of certification under the TOGAF 9:                                             

  • TOGAF 9 Foundation: includes basic concepts, terminology and core principles for using the TOGAF 9 framework.
  • TOGAF 9 Certified: includes the Foundation content plus the knowledge and comprehension required to apply the TOGAF 9 framework to enterprise architecture projects.

TOGAF 9 is a great follow-up for Open CA or Open CITS certification holders to demonstrate a desire for continuing education and expanding their expertise in enterprise architecture.

Open Group FAIR Certification Program

The first Open Group certification that does not focus entirely on IT is the Open Group FAIR (Factor Analysis of Information Risk). FAIR is a methodology­­­ that gives structure and standard processes to the risk analysis process. This certification is specifically for risk analysts and offers two areas of specialization: the Open Risk Taxonomy Standard (O-RT) and the Open Risk Analysis Standard (O-RA).

Training And Study Materials

The Open Group provides a regularly updated calendar of accredited third-party training courses for TOGAF and ArchiMate, as well as supplemental training to fill in gaps for other Open Group certifications. These three- to five-day courses cost from $1,100 to $2,300 USD, and exam fees (where applicable) are included in the course fee. Candidates may also visit the online Open Group Store to purchase study guides, practice tests and other prep materials.

The Open Group Means Open Standards

The Open Group has refined its standards creation and certification processes to the point that they also consult with other consortia on how to best implement similar programs for specialties that are outside the current purview of the Open Group.

It's one thing to be great at what you do, but the Open Group takes their expertise one step further by helping other industry organizations to implement similar standards development and certification programs. That's one sure-fire way to recognize a standards organization that is doing things right: other organizations want to replicate your standards-based success!

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