Top 30 IT Certifications To Advance Your Career

Top 30 IT Certifications To Advance Your Career

In today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving world of technology, the right skills and qualifications can make a big difference in advancing your IT career.

IT certifications are a great way to demonstrate your dedication, knowledge, and expertise in a particular area of technology and can make you stand out in a crowded job market.

We’ve curated a list of the top 30 programs to help you navigate the world of IT certifications. Whether you are interested in automation, cloud computing, or big data, there’s sure to be a certification that’s right for you.

Table of contents:

  1. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
  2. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
  3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  4. Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)
  5. ISACA Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
  6. Project Management Professional (PMP®)
  7. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  8. AWS Certified DevOps Engineer
  9. TOGAF 9 Certification – Foundation
  10. Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
  11. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  12. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
  13. VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization
  14. Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
  15. Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
  16. Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  17. AWS Certified Security – Specialty
  18. Nutanix Certified Professional – Multicloud Infrastructure (NCP-MCI)
  19. CCNP Enterprise
  20. Google Cloud – Cloud Digital Leader
  21. Citrix Certified Professional - Virtualization (CCP-V)
  22. Google Certified Professional Data Engineer
  23. Cloudera CCA Spark and Hadoop Developer
  24. Oracle Database Administrator
  25. CompTIA Network+
  26. Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)
  27. Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences
  28. Certified Ethical Hacker
  29. Linux Professional Institute LPIC-1 Certification
  30. CompTIA Security+ Certification

1. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

The Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect exam assesses your ability to design, develop, manage, and secure cloud solution architectures built on the Google Cloud platform. ‍

Cost: $200 to take the exam, no hard prerequisites, recommended 3+ years of industry experience, including 1+ years designing and managing solutions using GCP. ‍

Perks: Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect is the highest-paying certification, paying an average salary of $160,961.

Level: Advanced

2. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

Amazon’s AWS Certified Solutions Architect (Associate) exam tests professionals on their ability to architect and deploy cost-efficient, fault-tolerant, and scalable distributed software solutions on AWS.

Cost: $150 to take the exam, no hard prerequisites, recommended experience is to complete the training course material covered by the exam. ‍

Perks: The average salary of an AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate is $149,446.

Level: Intermediate

3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

ISACA’s CISM certification covers general information security governance, program management, incident management, and risk management. ‍

Cost: $575 for members and $760 for nonmembers, and an additional $50 to apply for certification (within five years of passing the exam). The CISM has a robust application process and requires relevant full-time work experience in the CISM Job Practice Areas at the time of certification.

Perks: According to ISACA, the average salary of CISM holders is $148,622.

Level: Advanced

4. Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)

The Linux Foundation offers the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) for IT professionals seeking proof of competency in the popular container orchestration tool. This exam certifies that Kubernetes (K8s) administrators can leverage Kubernetes for networking, storage, security, maintenance, logging and monitoring, application life cycle, troubleshooting, and API object primitives.‍

Cost: $395 exam fee, with a course bundle available for $595; no prerequisites. ‍

Perks: The average salary of a Kubernetes administrator is $130,327.

Level: Intermediate

5. ISACA Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

ISACA’s Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) qualification is for IT professionals specializing in IT risk management and information systems control.

Cost: The CRISC exam fee is $575 for members and $760 for nonmembers, and an additional $50 to apply for certification (within five years of passing the exam). The CRISC has a robust application process and requires relevant full-time work experience in the CRISC Job Practice Areas at the time of certification.

Perks: According to ISACA, the average salary of CRISC holders is $146,480.

Level: Advanced

6. Project Management Professional (PMP)

The Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification recognizes the ability to manage projects. It’s popular in the IT industry.

Cost: The PMP exam fee is $405 for members and $555 for nonmembers. The PMP exam requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, three years of project management experience, and 35 hours of formal project management education. Alternatively, you may qualify with a high school diploma or associate degree if you have 60 months of experience leading projects and 35 hours of formal project management education.

Perks: The average salary of a PMP holder is $123,000.

Level: Intermediate

7. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) qualification is for experienced cybersecurity professionals, such as CIOs, CISOs, and security managers.

Cost: The CISSP exam fee is $749 and requires at least five years of cumulative experience working in two or more of the eight domains listed under the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK).

Perks: The average annual salary for a CISSP holder is $118,684.

Level: Advanced

8. AWS Certified DevOps Engineer

The AWS Certified DevOps Engineer exam is for DevOps engineers with two or more years of experience provisioning, operating, and managing AWS environments.

Cost: The AWS Certified DevOps Engineer exam fee is $300.

Perks: The average salary of an AWS Certified DevOps engineer is $128,428.

Level: Advanced

9. TOGAF 9 Certification – Foundation

The TOGAF 9 Foundation certification validates your knowledge of TOGAF, an internationally recognized open enterprise architecture standard. The Foundation level covers TOGAF terminology, structure, and basic concepts of enterprise architecture.‍

Cost: The TOGAF 9 Foundation exam is divided into two parts, each with an exam fee of $360. Alternatively, you can take both at once for $550.

Perks: The average salary of TOGAF 9 certificate holders is $150,000.

Level: Intermediate

10. Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

The Certified Scrum Master (CSM) exam validates knowledge in Scrum—an Agile development methodology for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex projects.

Cost: CSM exam fees depend on when and where you take the Scrum course. Currently, ScrumAlliance has course listings ranging from $250 to $1,900, with the more expensive options including one-on-one tutoring.

Perks: The average salary of a CSM is $121,228.

Level: Beginner

11. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

ISACA’s Certified Systems Auditor (CISA) is an entry-level to mid-career IT certification that covers the auditing, governance, management, development, implementation, and protection of information systems and operations.

Cost: The CISA exam fee is $575 for members and $760 for nonmembers, and an additional $50 to apply for certification (within five years of passing). CISA candidates must have at least five years of professional information systems auditing, control, or security work experience within the last 10 years before applying for certification.

Perks: According to ISACA, the average annual salary of a CISA holder is $132,278.

Level: Intermediate

12. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner covers a generalized proficiency in AWS Cloud technologies independent of specific technical roles.

Cost: The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam fee is $100 with no prerequisites.

Perks: The average salary of an entry-level AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner is $85,866.‍

Level: Beginner

13. VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization

VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization validates your ability to implement and troubleshoot vSphere infrastructures.

Cost: The VCP 2023-DCV exam fee is $250 and has no hard prerequisites (minimum six months experience with vSphere V7.x or cSphere V8.x recommended).

Perks: The average salary of a VCP 2023-DCV certification holder is $102,000.

Level: Advanced

14. Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

Axelos’s Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL 4) Foundation qualification is the official certification for the popular IT management framework. Beyond fundamentals, the latest version also certifies professionals for knowledge in DevOps, Agile, and Lean IT.

Cost: Axelos doesn’t administer the exam, so prices depend on where you take the test. Currently, the ITIL 4 Foundation exam fee is $580 when administered online through PeopleCert.

Perks: The average salary of an ITIL Foundation holder is $88,420.

Level: Beginner

15. Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

The Azure Fundamentals certification covers foundational knowledge about cloud technologies and core Microsoft Azure services.

Cost: The Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam fee is $99. The exam has no prerequisites.

Perks: The average salary of an Azure Fundamentals certification holder is $101,730.‍

Level: Beginner

16. Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

The Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate certification covers the implementation, management, and monitoring of an organization’s cloud infrastructure via Microsoft Azure. ‍

Cost: The Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate exam fee is $165.

Perks: The average annual salary of an Azure Administrator Associate certification holder is $106,030.

Level: Intermediate

17. AWS Certified Security – Specialty

Amazon recommends at least five years of IT security experience for its AWS Certified Security – Specialty certification, which tests expertise in cloud computing and security. It validates your skills in key AWS technologies, including data classification and protection mechanisms.

Cost: Both online and in-person tests cost $300.

Perks: The average annual salary of an AWS Certified Security specialist is $101,592.

Level: Advanced

18. Nutanix Certified Professional – Multicloud Infrastructure (NCP-MCI)

The Nutanix Certified Professional – Multicloud Infrastructure (NCP-MCI) certification comes from a rapidly growing cloud solutions company. This certification validates your skills and abilities in deploying and administering Nutanix’s proprietary cloud solutions technology.

Cost: The test fee for NCP-MCI is $199 per attempt.

Perks: The average annual salary of a Nutanix Certified Professional is $137,576.

Level: Intermediate

19. CCNP Enterprise

Cisco’s Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Enterprise certification covers the planning, implementation, verification, and troubleshooting of local and wide-area enterprise networks.‍

Cost: The CCNP Enterprise exam fee is $300; it doesn’t have prerequisites, but three to five years of experience is a plus.

Perks: The average annual salary of a CCNP holder is $106,071.

Level: Intermediate

20. Google Cloud – Cloud Digital Leader

The Google Cloud Digital Leader certification focuses on Google Cloud’s core products and services. It addresses cloud computing basics and touches on using cloud solutions to support an enterprise.

Cost: The certification exam costs $99.

Perks: The average annual salary of a Cloud Digital Leader is $125,597.

Level: Advanced

21. Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V)

The Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V) qualification is for IT professionals who design, implement, and manage XenApp and XenDesktop provisioning environments and solutions.

Cost: The CCP-V exam fee is $300. Additionally, you must pass the CCA-V as a prerequisite for taking this exam.

Perks: The average salary of a CCP-V holder is $111,979.

Level: Intermediate

22. Google Certified Professional Data Engineer

The Google Certified Professional Data Engineer exam is for data engineers looking for proof of competency in designing, building, maintaining, and securing data processing systems.

Cost: The Google Certified Professional Data Engineer exam fee is $200, with a recommended three or more years of industry experience and one year managing solutions using GCP.

Perks: The average salary of a Google Certified Professional Data Engineer is $96,618 per year.

Level: Intermediate

23. Cloudera CCA Spark and Hadoop Developer

The Cloudera CCA Spark and Hadoop Developer exam tests your ability to use Spark SQL and HDFS to process data on a Cloudera Enterprise cluster.

Cost: The CCA175 exam fee is $295 with no hard prerequisites.

Perks: The average salary of a CCA175 holder is $76,500.

Level: Intermediate

24. Oracle Database Administrator

The Oracle Database Administrator exam validates your ability to configure and manage Oracle Databases. The first exam covers SQL programming, database management, and network administration.

Cost: The Oracle Database Administrator exam fee is $245 with no hard prerequisites.

Perks: The average salary of an OCP DBA holder is $114,000.

Level: Advanced

25. CompTIA Network+

The CompTIA Network+ certification exam validates your proficiency in configuring, managing, and troubleshooting networks.

Cost: The CompTIA Network+ Certification exam fee is $358.

Perks: The average salary of a CompTIA Network+ salary holder is $73,000.

Level: Beginner

26. Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)

The Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) exam certifies your skills as a system administrator and your familiarity with Red Hat products. This certification counts as a qualification for taking the Red Hat Certified Architect exam.

Cost: The RHCSA exam fee is $500. Applicants must possess valid work experience or one of the qualifying Red Hat Administration certifications to take the exam.

Perks: The average salary of an RHCSA certification holder is $99,000.

Level: Advanced

27. Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences

Columbia University’s Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences differs slightly from the other professional certificates on this list because it’s a graduate certificate program with curriculum and tuition. This certification is for professionals wanting to grow their knowledge and skills in statistics, data science, and machine learning in a graduate setting.

Cost: At $2,362 per credit, this certification is less an investment in your resume and more about expanding your skills and knowledge. Note the online certification program has an additional nonrefundable technology fee of $395 per course.

Perks: Numbers aren’t available for certification holders, but a certification from the University of Columbia should help you land higher-ticket projects.

Level: Advanced

28. Certified Ethical Hacker

EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker qualifications are for InfoSec professionals seeking to practice as white-hat hackers. The course and exam are designed to validate your ability to perform vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and other security testing techniques.

Cost: There’s a $100 application fee and a requirement of at least two years of work experience in the InfoSec domain.

Perks: The average salary for a CEH is $109,468. It’s also worth noting that the CEH qualification goes a long way toward getting a client to trust you to test their systems.

Level: Beginner

29. Linux Professional Institute (LPIC-1)

The Linux Professional Institute (LPIC-1) certification is the first in a series of specializations that validates your skills as a Linux system administrator. LPIC-1 is broken into two parts and covers the basics, from system architecture to GNU and Unix commands to networking and security.

Cost: The LPIC-1 certification exam fee is $200.

Perks: The average salary of an LPIC-1 holder is $86,000.

Level: Intermediate

30. CompTIA Security+

The CompTIA Security+ certification exam covers cybersecurity fundamentals needed in an IT environment. This certification also qualifies you for DoD 8570 compliance.

Cost: The exam fee for the CompTIA Security+ Certification is $392.

Perks: The average salary of a CompTIA Security+ holder is $84,000.

Level: Beginner

What is an IT certification?

An IT certification is a document that verifies the competency of an IT professional with a specific skill or technology. Reputable vendors within the IT industry often administer IT certifications upon assessment or course completion. Popular IT certification-issuing vendors include Amazon, Cisco, CompTIA, IASCA, Google, and Microsoft.

If you want to demonstrate core competency in a particular technology, that vendor likely offers a certification. An IT professional holding a popular IT certification can expect to earn 5% to 10% more than their peers.

Do you need an IT certification?

You may not need an IT certification to practice, but they certainly help you win projects. IT certifications allow you to demonstrate competency in certain technologies or IT roles and stand out from the competition. Depending on the program, they also provide opportunities to increase your skills and knowledge to help you grow as a professional.

A professional can benefit from an IT certification in three ways: skill building, personal branding, and higher pay. Finding data on how IT certifications affect independent contractors’ hourly rates or fixed-price contracts is difficult, but salary information is widely reported and can provide a good idea of how valuable a certification might be to your profile. ‍

Which IT certification pays the most?

We noticed a few trends among the highest-paying certifications on this list.

Cloud certifications

Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect pays an average salary of $160,961, while Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect (Associate) pays $149,446. Cloud infrastructure is closely tied to an organization’s success, and it makes sense that certifications from the two largest cloud providers would rank highly on this list.

Cybersecurity certifications

Cybersecurity expertise and certifications have a significant presence on our top 30 list. ISACA’s CISM ($148,622) and CRISC ($146,480) both made the list. The growing number of cybersecurity threats, such as ransomware attacks, have likely encouraged companies to increase investment in InfoSec talent.

Project management certifications

Certifications have always been important to project managers. With the growing demand for Agile leaders who can pivot in times of uncertainty, a little extra trust can go a long way. Certified Scrum Master pays an average of $121,228, while PMI’s PMP certification has an average salary of $123,000.

Virtualization certifications

Virtualization certifications also hit the list—Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) has an average salary of $130,327, and VMware’s VCP 2023-DCV also made the list at $102,000. Both containers and virtual machines help businesses build the massively scalable and automated IT architectures needed to grow and compete in an increasingly data-driven market landscape.

How we chose the top IT certifications

We primarily relied on the Global Knowledge Skills and Salary Report to obtain salary information from the best IT certifications. When those numbers weren’t available, we turned to sites like Payscale (which also provides data based on salary), ZipRecruiter, and the certification vendors themselves.

We also expanded the list to include the highest-paying certifications from different fields within IT, including big data processing and DevOps.

We hope this in-depth look at the top IT certifications can help you grow and advance in your career.

Prices and salaries are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on each service’s offerings. Salaries are based on averages for the United States and North American markets, and may change by location.

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