18 IT and Business Certifications Worth Having

By in anakyst on January 10, 2020
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A certification is more than a gold star. It’s more than a pat on the back or a “job well done.”

Obtaining a professional certification is an indication that you’re an expert. It’s proof to employers, peers and even yourself that you speak and think in a specific language. It comes with the expectation that co-workers and decision-makers will call on you for advice and insight. Your experience and expertise will be key to a business’ growth in the face of internal and external changes.

Basically, a certification is confirmation that you provide value. And in a competitive and crowded industry like IT, it’s not easy to stand out.

This is your chance.

With hundreds of certifications to choose from, how do you know which one is the best fit for you? Which ones are popular? Which ones have staying power?

In terms of standing out, just one certification may not be enough. Globally, 85% of IT professionals hold at least one certification, while 66% are already pursuing their next one or plan to at some point this year. Now that’s some competition.

Whether you’re wading into the waters with a foundational credential or pulling all-night study sessions to prep for your three-hour CISSP exam, a lot of time and energy goes into certification.

Here are 18 options, in no particular order, that are worth your effort based on site searches, feedback from subject matter experts and data in the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report.


18 IT and Business Certifications Worth Having

  1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
  2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  3. PMP® — Project Management Professional
  4. Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  5. CCNA Routing and Switching
  6. ITIL® Foundation
  7. CompTIA Security+
  8. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
  9. Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
  10. VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6.5-DCV)
  11. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  12. CompTIA Network+
  13. AWS Certified Developer – Associate
  14. Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V)
  15. Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)
  16. Palo Alto Certified Networks Security Engineer (PCNSE)
  17. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  18. CCNA Security

1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate has been the standard bearer for cloud professionals, especially as many organizations have fully invested in AWS cloud services. In the IT Skills and Salary Report, it’s the fourth highest-paying certification in the United States and Canada ($130,883) and the ninth highest in the world ($110,429).

This associate-level certification is a perfect fit for IT pros looking to fill the cloud hiring void. According to our report, 34% of decision-makers are struggling to hire cloud professionals. With cloud standing firm as a top tech interest area worldwide, that skills shortage isn’t likely to drop on its own.

One out of every three global cloud professionals has earned this credential.

AWS Architect Associate is ideal for individuals who design cloud infrastructures and reference architectures, or those who deploy systems and applications.

Take a deeper dive into this certification with our prep guide, “How to Become an AWS Certified Architect.”

How to prep for the exam:

2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Completing the CISSP certification is like earning your master’s degree in IT security. This (ISC)2 certification is so essential that it’s often a security staff requirement by organizations.

The average salary for professionals holding this certification is $123,815, which is the 10th highest in North America. Worldwide, CISSP-certified pros have an average salary of $116,573, which is ranks it at No. 3.

Released in 1994, CISSP has staying power. CISSPs are responsible for defining the architecture, design, management and controls that ensure a secure organization.

To fully achieve the certification, you must have five cumulative years of paid, relevant work experience in two or more of the CISSP topical domains. Attaining this credential is validation of your years of security experience. Experienced security professionals are needed to protect valuable information, and CISSPs are often viewed as the best people to handle the job.

Learn more about CISSP and the eight domains it covers in our article, “Why is CISSP a Top-Paying IT Certification?

How to prep for the exam:

3. PMP® — Project Management Professional

If you want to talk about staying power, PMP® has been in the mix since 1984 and is as prevalent as ever. This certification is one of the most prestigious. Even after 35 years, it still means a lot.

Aside from its staying power, PMP® is a great credential to have if you’re trying to move from a technical to a managerial track. Thus, PMP®-certified professionals have higher-than-normal salaries. They rank seventh in North American salary ($129,457) and worldwide salary ($111,196) this year. Over half of the project managers who took part in our IT Skills and Salary Report hold this credential.

Another reason PMP® is so widely-respected is its exam—it’s one of the toughest tests in the industry. The exam tests five areas relating to a project’s life cycle and it’s not specialized to any particular industry. Requirements include a four-year degree and at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading projects and 35 hours of project management education. This certification certainly requires a motivated professional who is up to the challenge.

Take a deeper dive into this certification with our prep guide, “How to Become a Certified Project Management Professional.”

How to prep for the exam:

4. Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

Microsoft Azure owns a 16.5% share of the worldwide cloud market, trailing just AWS, and has experienced a 75.9% annual growth . For companies that are migrating to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, this certification is intended for individuals taking on the role of Azure cloud administrator.

This role-based certification validates the ability to manage Azure subscriptions and resources, implement and manage storage, configure and manage virtual networks, and more.

Candidates for this certification require a deep understanding of each service across the full IT lifecycle, and will take requests for infrastructure services, applications, and environments. They will need to be equipped to make recommendations on services used for optimal performance and scale, as well as provision, size, monitor, and adjust resources as appropriate.

Unlike some of the technology-based certifications, the Azure Administrator Associate requires that candidates pass two exams to become certified. One exam features topics around infrastructure and deployment, and the other around integration and security.

Take a deeper dive into this certification with our prep guide, “How to Become a Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate.”

How to prep for the exam:

5. CCNA Routing and Switching

Of the 12,000-plus respondents to our IT Skills and Salary Survey, 11% own a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching credential, making it the most popular Cisco certification. It’s a foundational dive into the skills needed to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot complex network solutions.

This certification’s popularity can be linked to the cloud and changing technologies, like quality of service (QoS) elements and wireless controllers, that have put an emphasis on networking importance.

In fact, network engineer is the most popular job role amongst non-management IT staff. With mobile devices multiplying and the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), the skills required of these individuals are constantly evolving. This certification fills the skills gaps that occur when technology outpaces training.

While it’s the most popular Cisco certification, more respondents in our IT Skills and Salary Report plan to pursue their Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching credential this year. Presumably, those holding their CCNA are taking the next logical step in the professional development by going after their CCNP.

CCNP Routing and Switching is the 18th highest-paying certification in North America at $108,646.

How to prep for the exam:

6. ITIL® Foundation

This entry-level certification got an upgrade in the past year, as ITIL v3 made way for ITIL 4. This newest version of the industry standard for service management specifically addresses the emerging technologies and best practices that accompany digital transformation.

The ITIL Foundation certification remains a win-win for individuals and organizations since ITIL-certified professionals are paid well and are better prepared to align business needs with the IT department.

ITIL Foundation helps you understand the IT lifecycle. Certified professionals are in the driver’s seat when it comes to supporting business outcomes and managing risk. Often, ITIL-certified professionals are at the forefront when an organization changes the way it does business.

Aside from its business benefits, ITIL Foundation has the 15th-highest salary in North America with an average annual salary of $113,588. It’s also the most popular certification in the world according to the IT Skills and Salary Report, held by 16% of worldwide IT professionals.

How to prep for the exam:

Already certified in ITIL v3? Our ITIL 4 Foundation Bridge course will help you understand the changes in ITIL 4 and prepare for the certification exam.

7. CompTIA Security+

Many organizations consider Security+ to be the minimum level of certification for all IT positions beyond entry-level, not just security-related jobs. With the critical need for qualified security experts, all IT professionals, regardless of specialty, could benefit from this vendor-neutral certification.

Candidates pursuing their Security+ credential are required to have at least two years of experience as an IT administrator with a focus on security and have day-to-day information security experience. A CompTIA Network+ certification is also recommended.

Cybersecurity and CompTIA are the two most popular certification categories in this year’s IT Skills and Salary Report, so it’s no surprise that Security+ is the most sought-after CompTIA credential this year.

With the addition of cloud and an increase in the complexity and frequency of data breaches, organizations are more concerned with security than ever before. This certification provides the knowledge necessary to anticipate, react to and guard against cyberattacks.

How to prep for the exam:

8. Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

The Google Cloud Architect certification demonstrates an ability to design and plan cloud architectures within the GCP environment. It’s recommended that candidates have three or more years of industry experience and a year or more using GCP.

GCP Cloud Architect made a huge splash in our annual IT Skills and Salary Report this year. After making our “New and Emerging” list in 2018, GCP Cloud Architect landed in the 2019 report with impressive associated salaries. IT professionals with this certification have the highest average salaries in North America ($152,129) and EMEA ($103,448), and the second highest worldwide ($118,756).

And cloud architects aren’t the only IT professionals pursuing this certification. Cloud engineers, DevOps engineers, solutions architects, sales engineers and program managers are popular job roles amongst the individuals who have earned their GCP Cloud Architect certification.

Take a deeper dive into this certification with our prep guide, “How to Become a Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect.”

How to prep for the exam:

9. Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

Azure solutions architects advise stakeholders and translates business requirements into secure, scalable, and reliable solutions. This expert-level, role-based certification will validate your mastery of the skills needed to design solutions that run on Azure, as well as your expertise in compute, storage and security.

According to the 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, solutions architects in the United States and Canada have an average annual salary of $128,508. And 24% of these individuals already have at least one Microsoft certification.

The Azure Solutions Architect Expert credential is designed for IT professionals with advanced experience. Those pursuing this certification requires knowledge across various aspects of IT operations, including networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data management, budgeting, and governance. This role requires management of how decisions in each area affect an overall solution. Candidates must be proficient in Azure administration, Azure development, and DevOps, and have expert-level skills in at least one of those domains.

Take a deeper dive into this certification with our prep guide, “How to Become a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert.”

How to prep for the exam:

10. VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6.5-DCV)

Demand for VCP6.5-DCV is growing as organizations increasingly virtualize their data center and infrastructure. Data center managers are scrambling to hire specialized IT professionals to fill all of the needed roles. Getting certified in VCP6.5-DCV is a great chance to stand out as a virtual infrastructure specialist.

VMware-certified professionals make over $113,000 in the U.S. and Canada.

VCP6.5-DCV validates the ability to implement, manage, and troubleshoot a vSphere V6.5 infrastructure. It’s recommended that candidates have six months of experience with vSphere 6.5 before pursuing this certification.

How to prep for the exam:

11. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

CISM is designed for information security management professionals, focusing on security strategy and assessing the systems and policies in place. To take the exam, you’re required to have at least five years of experience in IS, with at least three as a security manager.

It’s now common that many government agencies require their IS and IT professionals to have a CISM certification.

In terms of associated salaries, CISM-certified professionals have some of the highest paychecks in the world. CISM ranks second in North America ($132,919), 10th in EMEA ($83,193) and 17th worldwide ($99,778). It’s also one of the five most popular cybersecurity certifications among our survey respondents around the globe.

In general, ISACA certifications are highly-valued and are linked with high salaries. Eleven percent of IT professionals in North America are ISACA-certified and their salaries are 12% above the norm. Learn more about the 5 Highest-Paying ISACA Certifications.

Take a deeper dive into this certification in our complete guide, How to Become a Certified Information Security Manager.

How to prep for the exam:

12. CompTIA Network+

CompTIA Network+ proves a technician’s competency in managing, maintaining, troubleshooting, installing and configuring basic network infrastructure. Since its launch in 1999, more than 235,000 professionals have become certified. It can also be a stepping stone for vendor-specific certifications, such as Cisco CCNA and Microsoft MCSA. In fact, 43% of IT professionals with their Network+ also have at least one Microsoft certification, while 34% own a Cisco credential.

Network+ has a North American average salary of $95,052. In terms of IT professionals who at least one CompTIA certification, 44% have their Network+.

It’s recommended that candidates for this credential are also certified in CompTIA A+ and have at least nine months of experience in network support, administration or education.

Learn more about all CompTIA certifications in our article, “CompTIA Certifications Are Building Blocks For IT Careers.”

How to prep for the exam:

13. AWS Certified Developer – Associate

AWS Developer Associate is the second most commonly held AWS certification. It validates technical expertise in developing and maintaining applications on the AWS platform.

Candidates for this certification should have a strong grasp on choosing the right AWS services for the application, can write code that optimizes performances and have a strong understanding of code-level application security.

The earning potential of AWS certifications is high and this credential is no different. AWS Developer Associate has the sixth highest associated salary in North America ($130,272), seventh highest in EMEA ($86,457) and eighth highest among worldwide IT professionals ($111,178).

Learn more about the potential of AWS certifications in our article, “How To Earn a Top-Paying AWS Certification & Salary.”

How to prep for the exam:

14. Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V)

More than half of Citrix professionals have earned their CCA-V, making it by far the most popular Citrix certification. It validates the skills that IT operators and administrators need to manage, maintain, monitor and troubleshoot XenDesktop solutions.

For IT professionals who have earned their CCA-V, the most common job roles are systems administrators, systems engineers, systems architects, solutions engineers and software architects.

Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V) and Citrix Certified Expert – Virtualization (CCE-V) are the next natural steps after achieving CCA-V. Both are designed for more experienced IT professionals and are associated with higher-than average salaries. CCE-V salaries in North America equate to $125,870, while CCP-V has a $112,973 average.

Learning more about the highest-paying Citrix certifications.

How to prep for the exam:

15. Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA)

Certified System Administrator is the most popular Red Hat certification, owned by one in three Red Hat-certified professionals. The average salary for those individuals is $91,655, slightly above the worldwide standard.

RHCSA validates the core system administration skills required in a Red Hat Enterprise Linux® environment. It is an entry-level certification designed for system administrators and those in related roles, like database administrators, developers and support technicians. According to the IT Skills and Salary Report, 31% of respondents with their RHSCA work in cybersecurity, often as a security engineer or analyst.

The RHSCA exam is performance-based, so individuals must complete tasks on a live system. Bundling the exam with a hands-on training course is advised.

How to prep for the exam:

16. Palo Alto Certified Networks Security Engineer (PCNSE)

The PCNSE certification recognizes individuals with in-depth knowledge and abilities to design, install, configure, maintain and troubleshoot a majority of implementations based on the Palo Alto Networks platform. Palo Alto Networks Certified Network Security Administrator (PCNSA) is a prerequisite for the PCNSE. Aside from security engineers, this credential is also useful for network and security administrators, as well as penetration testers.

According to our IT Skills and Salary Report, respondents who have already earned their PCNSE are pursuing a number of cyber certifications this year, including CISSP, CCNP Cyber Ops, CCNP Security and ISACA’s Certified in Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT).

How to prep for the exam:

17. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

This advanced security certification puts you in the mind of a hacker. It’s your best opportunity to gain access to frequently-used hacking tools so you’ll possess the skills to spot vulnerabilities in your own network.

The most acclaimed of EC-Council’s certifications, CEH is vendor-neutral and is modeled for any IT professional who is concerned with the integrity of network infrastructure. It also covers threats to the cloud, which is a growing challenge.

The CEH exam puts your hacker skills to work by grading the test-taker’s ability to find weaknesses and holes in an organization’s network defense.

This year, CEH has an average salary of $117,052 in North America.

To defend against hackers, you have to think like a hacker. CEH puts you in the best position to do so.

How to prep for the exam:

18. CCNA Security

Looking to combat and mitigate security threats in a Cisco network? Then this is the certification for you. CCNA Security validates your skills in developing an infrastructure and recognizing vulnerabilities in your network.

CCNA Security is a necessary requirement when working toward a CCNP Security credential. Popular job roles for individuals holding this certification are security engineer, security analyst, security architect, network engineer and system administrator.

North American IT professionals with this certification earn $101,411 a year.

Just like all Cisco certifications, this credential is valid for three years. A CCENT certification or ICND1 v3.0 – Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices, Part 1 is recommended before pursuing your CCNA Security certification.

Learn about all of the top-paying and most popular Cisco certifications.

How to prep for the exam:


Know your goals before selecting your next certification

If you want to drive change, make sure you train with a goal in mind. Don’t just randomly select a certification from this list. Training for the sake of training isn’t enough. Map out your objectives and work toward them.

Just because a certification is popular doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. These 18 certifications are tried and true, but do they match your desired career path? Will they help you provide immediate value and drive change in your business?

According to our IT Skills and Salary Report, 85% of all IT professionals hold at least one certification and more than half earned their most recent certification in the past 12 months. 47% of respondents said they train specifically to prepare for certification. The value of certifications is no longer questioned. The only question is which one is right for you?


We can help you deliver results

This list is a good place to start, be sure to peruse our entire certification training portfolio to start mapping out your pathway today.

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