Continual education, growth and certification are critical aspects of a career in IT. Certifications allow us to demonstrate our competency in the area of specialization we choose. We earn these certifications through class time, studying, test taking, and hard work. By working daily to expand our skills, grow our knowledge and earn our next certification, we prepare ourselves for the next adventure in an ever-changing field. If you’ve let your certification or skills lapse, then I encourage you to let this article serve as a guide to your next pursuit.
Certifications and skills can boost your salary, set you apart from the competition and help you land promotions in your current role. According to the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, the average IT professional in North America earns $109,985 per year, which is 27 percent higher than the average salary in the U.S.
Over 85 percent of IT professionals hold a certification and 66 percent say they plan to obtain a new certification this year, according to the report. The average IT salary increases with each certification earned. IT professionals with one certification earn an average salary of $106,780 per year, while those with six or more report an average of $117,212 per year. This year, cloud computing and security take center stage as some of the highest-earning certifications on the list.
The 15 most valuable certifications for 2020
Google Cloud Profesional (GCP) Cloud Architect
The Google Cloud Professional (GCP) Cloud Architect certification validates your ability to work with Google Cloud technologies in the enterprise and to design, develop, and manage scalable and secure business solutions in the cloud. The exam covers designing and planning, managing and provisioning and implementing cloud architecture. You’ll also be tested on your ability to analyze and optimize business processes, design with security and compliance in mind and ensure they work reliably. Unless otherwise stated, all Google Cloud certifications expire after two years from the date received and you will need to recertify to maintain your status.
Average salary: $152,129
AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification is for solutions architects with one or more years of hands-on experience designing “available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant and scalable distributed systems on AWS,” according to Amazon. The exam tests your knowledge of AWS application architecture and security, your ability to define a solution based on customer requirements and how well you understand the best practices of AWS application implementation. It’s recommended to have hands-on experience with AWS services, knowledge of the best practices for building reliable and secure applications on the AWS platform and an understanding of the AWS global infrastructure and related network technologies.
Average salary: $149,446
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
The ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification is designed to validate your skills and expertise in information security governance, program development and management and risk and incident management. The certification is designed for IT pros working with or managing IT security at an enterprise or organizational level. To qualify for the exam, you’ll need at least five years of previous work experience in information security within the past ten years. The CISM certification is valid for five years and must be maintained by earning continuing professional education (CPE) credits.
Average salary: $148,622
Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
The ISACA’s Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification is targeted at those who design, implement, monitor and maintain information security controls. The exam covers IT risk identification, risk assessment, risk response and mitigation and risk and control monitoring and reporting. To qualify for the CRISC exam, you’ll need at least three or more years of experience in IT risk management and information security control.
Average salary: $146,480
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is offered through the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, known as (ISC)². The certification is accredited under the ANSI standard and it has been approved by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as a requirement for certain IT roles. As a vendor-neutral certification, the CISSP exam certifies your ability to design, implement and manage a cybersecurity program.
Average salary: $141,452
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
The ISACA’s Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification is designed for those responsible for auditing, controlling, monitoring and assessing an organization’s IT and business systems. The exam covers your expertise in the information systems (IS) auditing process, your ability to report on compliance procedures and to access vulnerabilities. To qualify for the exam you need five or more years of experience in IS or IT auditing, control, assurance or security. To maintain your certification, you will need to need report at least 20 CPE hours annually; credentials expire after three years.
Average salary: $132,278
AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is a foundational-level certification that verifies your basic knowledge of AWS cloud, including its global infrastructure and architectural principles. The exam covers key services on the AWS platform, basic security and compliance questions, your ability to define billing, account management and pricing models and to describe the basic or core characteristics of running applications on the AWS cloud platform. It’s recommended to have at least six months of experience with AWS Cloud in any relevant role and a basic understanding of IT services and how they are used in AWS Cloud.
Average salary: $131,465
VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV)
The VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV) certification validates your ability to administer and troubleshoot vSphere V6 infrastructures to build stable virtualization environments for your company. The VCP-DCV 2020 certification is the most recent version of the exam and it tests your ability to implement, manage and troubleshoot a vSphere V6.7 infrastructure that can “accelerate the transformation to cloud computing,” according to VMware. In the past, VMware certifications expired after two years, but as of 2019 the company removed expirations on certifications, allowing IT professionals to revalidate their skills on their own timeline.
Average salary: $130,226
Project Management Professional (PMP)
The Project Management Institute offers the PMP Certification, which is aimed at advanced project management professionals. The certification exam tests your knowledge of project management fundamentals and the five main stages of a project’s life cycle. To qualify for the exam, you need to hold at least a four-year degree and have three years of experience in project management, 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education. For those with a secondary degree, you’ll need five years of experience, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.
Average salary: $143,493
The ITIL Foundation certification is an entry-level exam that certifies your knowledge in the ITIL framework. From the foundation level, you can move on to the ITIL 4 Managing Professional, ITIL 4 Strategic Leader and Master levels of certification. The Foundation exam covers the basics of ITIL 4 and is designed for those who want to gain a basic understanding of the IT service management framework. The certification will test your knowledge of the guiding principles of ITIL 4, key concepts from Lean, Agile, DevOps and Service Management and how ITIL 4 practices can be applied in service management and IT. If you want to prepare for the exam, Axelos offers ITIL sample exams on their website and you can order a copy of the ITIL 4 foundation book.
Average salary: $129,402
Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
The Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals certification is designed for IT professionals who want to validate their knowledge of cloud concepts and Azure. The exam covers cloud concepts, core Azure services, Azure pricing SLAs and lifecycles as well as the basics of security, privacy, compliance and trust. The Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals credentials don’t expire, so you’ll only have to get certified once.
Average salary: $126,653
Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
The Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate certification is a role-based certification designed for Azure administrators and engineers, system administrators and other IT professionals working with Azure. The exam covers Azure identities and governance, configuring and managing virtual networks and how to deploy, manage, monitor and back up Azure resources. It’s recommended to have at least six months of hands-on experience administering Azure and a knowledge of Azure services, Azure workloads, security and governance. You will also need experience using PowerShell, Azure CLI, Azure portal and Azure Resource Manager templates.
Average salary: $125,993
Citrix Certified Associate – Networking (CCA-N)
The Citrix Certified Associate Networking (CCA-N) certification is best suited for network and systems administrators and will test your ability to implement and manage Citrix ACD. The exam covers traffic management, load balancing, content switching and SSL offloading as well as how to manage remote desktop, applications and data access using Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway. It’s recommended to prepare for the exam by completing either the Essentials and Traffic Management or Essentials and Citrix Gateway courses first and review the exam prep guide offered through Citrix.
Average salary: $125,264
CCNP Enterprise Certification (Formerly CCNP Routing and Switching)
Formerly known as the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching certification, the newly named CCNP Enterprise certification covers all the skills and knowledge needed to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks. The Routing and Switching exam was replaced with the Enterprise exam in February 2020, however if you already completed the past exam before it expired, you will automatically hold the new credentials. It’s recommended to have at least three to five years of experience implementing enterprise networking solutions. Your certification will be valid for three years before you will need to be recertified.
Average salary: $119,178
Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V)
The Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V) certification is designed for IT professionals who manage and support complex environments using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops with Provisioning Services. You’ll need to earn your Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V) certification first before you can take the professional-level exam. It’s also recommended to prepare with the Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops 7 Advanced Administration training course and to review the exam prep guide offered through Citrix.
Average salary: $117,069