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Top 10 Highest Paying IT Certifications and How to Get Them

KEY TAKEAWAYS

These IT certifications have proved their worth by consistently helping IT pros achieve a six-figure paycheck.

Earning a credible IT-related certificate from a well-known vendor hoists you above the pack. It showcases your expertise and could make you an attractive hire in what often feels like a saturated industry.

Credentials from companies like VMWare or ITIL open networking opportunities for you (when you join their groups), expose you to best-paying jobs, open the door to promotions and establish your credibility, among other advantages.

The following ten internationally recognized credentials will help ensure your spot on the ladder of IT success:

1. Project Management Professional Certification (PMP)

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), is the gold standard for project managers (there is also a non-IT specific option available) and was recently updated with minor variations. According to a PMI survey, PMP-certified project managers earn 20% more than non-PMP certified professionals.

Professional project managers requirements include:

  • A four-year degree in project management.

  • At least three years work experience in project management.

  • 35 hours of instruction in project management.

  • 4,500 hours managing projects.

Non-accredited candidates should have the following:

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  • A high school diploma.

  • Five years of experience in project management.

  • 35 hours of instruction in project management.

  • 7,500 hours managing projects.

PMP Exam Process: You’re given four hours to pass the test that’s composed of 200 multiple choice questions, 175 of which are graded. To update your credentials, you need to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three years. (PDUs are one-hour blocks of time that you spend learning, teaching, or volunteering in a project management-related job).

PMP Cost: $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members.

Study Resource: PMBOK Guide and Standards by PMI covers all you need to know for the test. Its paperback version is free for PMI members.

2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

CISSP is the most globally recognized certificate for cybersecurity experts. This cybersecurity certification is administered by the Cybersecurity and IT Security Certifications and Training (ISC)². It is approved by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the UK National Recognition Information Center gave it the equivalent of a Masters degree.

CISSP certification requirements

You’ll need at least five years of full-time security experience in at least two of the following domains:

  • Access control
  • Disaster recovery planning and business continuity
  • Information security governance
  • Network and telecommunications security
  • Physical security
  • Regulations, legal, investigations and compliance
  • Security in software development
  • Security design and architecture
  • Security operations
  • Cryptography

Candidates with an IT-related degree only need four years of full-time work experience in cybersecurity to apply.

Candidates must also subscribe to the CISSP code of ethics, come endorsed by a CISSP-certified professional and have a clean criminal record.

CISSP Exam Process: The exam lasts three hours with 100-150 questions. Non-English speaking applicants have six hours, with 250 questions. There’s a passing score of 70%.

CISSP Certification Cost: The CISSP certification fee comes with the following costs:

  • Training courses: $300 -$3200
  • Exam fees: $699

Study Resource: Test your skills with this free CISSP Practice Test.

3. Information Technology Infrastructure Library Expert Level (ITILv4)

A certification in ITILv.4, administered by Axelos, indicates you’ve mastered IT best-business requirements and are ready to help companies provide top value to their customers.

ITILv.4 Certification Requirements

To become a certified ITIL practitioner, you’ll be expected to master four different levels:

  • ITIL Foundation – Entry level. This is where you acquire the Fundamentals and basic terminology of IT service management.
  • ITIL Managing Professional – The logistics on managing IT projects, teams and workflows
  • ITIL Strategic Leader – Oriented for IT professionals who want the fundamentals on how IT underlies and directs business strategy.
  • ITIL Master – the final level that helps ITILv.3 experts transition to ITIL v4.

Graduates transfer from one level to the next through a combination of work/ and or study credits.

ITIL Exam Process: All Axelos Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs) offer the exam. Training lasts two to three days, followed immediately by the exam. Some ATOs give exam vouchers that allow you to take the exam at your convenience. There are 40 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 60 minutes. A passing score is 26 out of 40.

ITIL Certification Cost: The ITIL Foundation exam fee for US candidates is currently US $383.

Study Resource: The Axelos-published book: ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 (kindle or paperback).

4. Cisco Certified Network Associate v1.0 (CCNA)

A Cisco Certified Network Associate v1.0 (formerly the CCDA) certifies that you know how to design routed or switched network infrastructures, with all their intricacies including WAN, LAN and broadband. The CCNA certification program and exam covers the design of basic voice, campus, security, data center and wireless networks.

CCNA Certification Requirements: While there are no requirements, Cisco recommends you’ve at least one year’s work experience with Cisco solutions, understand general IP addressing and know networking basics.

CCNA Exam Process: To get CCNA certification, you need a passing grade of 80% on either:

  • ICDN1 (100-101) or the ICDN2 (200-101) exams.
  • Combined CCNA (200-120) Exam.

Register for these exams through Cisco or one of their testing partners (like Pearson Vue). Exams are 90 minutes each with 65 questions. Certificates have to be renewed every three years by re-taking the CCNA exam.

CCNA Certification Cost: The ICND1 and ICND2 exams are $165 each. The combined CCNA costs $300.

Study Resource: Book published by Cisco: Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions Desgn Foundation Learning Guide (3rd edition)

5. VMWare Certified Professional (VCP)

The rise of cloud computing and virtualization makes this VCP certification by VMWare an attractive choice. The VCP-DCV 2022 certification attests that you know how to implement, manage, and troubleshoot a vSphere infrastructure in an agile and effective manner.

VCP Certification Requirements: There are no requirements, but to pass you’ll want some real-world experience.

VCP Exam Process: The process involves completing a VMware-authorized training course, one or more exams, and six months on-the-job experience with VMware infrastructure technologies. You need to take the vSphere Foundations/ Introductory level and exam before progressing to higher levels. VCP certifications have a 2-year expiration date.

VCP Certification Cost:

  • The Introductory level with its online exam costs $125.
  • The Intermediate level with VMWare training and two exams cost $250 per exam (including the course).
  • The Top level with its one exam and training costs $450.

Study Resource: The Complete Guide to VMware VCP Certification with its Simple Guide to VMware Certification abridged copy.

6. CompTIA

The CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+) is your recommended certificate if you’re uncertain whether or not to enter the IT workforce. If you already have some technical knowledge and need credentials for entry-level IT jobs, like technical support specialist and help desk technician, check out the CompTIA A+. It’s the industry-standard certificate.

Certification Requirements: To be certified for the ITF+, you must pass its exam. The A+ requires passing two exams.

Exam Process: CompTIA offers instructor-led options, as well as self-study options like the CompTIA CertMaster products, which is a suite of online IT training solutions that include the following:

  • CompTIA CertMaster Learn helps you with the fundamentals. (It’s good for the ITF+)

  • CompTIA CertMaster Practice reinforces your knowledge and helps you advance with personalized feedback. (It suits the A+).

  • CompTIA Labs helps you practice solving real-world problems in a simulated environment of live servers in a data center.

  • CertMaster Learn + Labs instructs you on one platform and helps you practice that education on another, with activities on real virtual machines and software. The package includes an exam voucher and a free exam retake.

Certification Cost: Prices range from $130 to $480. (Check current CompTIA exam prices here). CompTIA offers exam voucher discounts to cover the cost.

Study Resource: CompTIA Training

7. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

This is the perfect credential for individuals who lack prior IT or cloud experience or for who have on-premises IT experience but want basic AWS Cloud fluency. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner provides the fundamentals of AWS Cloud concepts, services, and terminology.

Certification Requirements: You need to pass the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam with its multiple choice and multiple response questions.

Exam Process: It takes around 90 minutes to complete the exam that is administered in testing centers or in an online proctored environment. The test comes in various languages.

Certification Cost : Cost: $100. Visit Exam pricing for additional cost information.

Study Resource: AWS offers free resources that include exam guide, sample questions, practice and digital training.

8. Google Professional Cloud Architect

A highly recognized certificate, GC Professional Cloud Architect gives you the advanced skills for implementing cloud architecture and Google Cloud. For more introductory credentials see its Foundational and Associate certificates.

Certification Requirements: Google recommends that you have at least three years of industry experience with at least one year designing and managing solutions that use Google Cloud.

Exam Process: It’s a two-hour exam in Japanese or English with 50-60 multiple choice questions. Two fictitious case studies, which assess your ability to apply your knowledge to a realistic business situation, make up 20-30% of the test. Exams can be taken online or at local testing centers.

Certification Cost: $200 (plus tax where applicable)

Study Resource: Professional Cloud Architect: Certification exam guide

9. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

ISACA’s Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification indicates expertise in information security governance, program development and management, incident management and risk management. The certificate is for individuals with technical expertise and experience in IS/IT security and control who want to make the move from team player to manager.

Certification Requirements: To receive this certificate, you’ll need to:

  • Pass the CISM Exam within the last 5 years.
  • Have the relevant full-time work experience in the CISM exam content outline.
  • Submit the CISM Certification Application including the application processing fee ($50).

Exam Process: The exam is available either online with remote proctoring or in-person at a testing center. Visit the Exam Candidate Guides resource page for all the information you need on exam registration, scheduling, preparation, rules, administration, scoring, retake policy, proctoring and more.

Certification Cost: The CISM test could cost up to $760 for qualifying applicants. ISACA members pay $575.

Study Resource: ISACA has a phalanx of Exam Prep Materials adjusted to your schedule and preparation needs. Some resources come with live, expert instruction.

10. AWS Certified Solutions Architect

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certifies your knowledge and skills in AWS technology across a wide range of AWS services. It could be useful for promotion in your IT-related job.

Certification Requirements: You don’t need deep hands-on coding experience, although familiarity with basic programming concepts helps. To earn this certificate, you’ll need to take and pass the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam.

Exam Process: The exam, which comes in various languages, takes 130 minutes to complete. There are 65 multiple choice/ multiple response questions, and the exam is delivered either in testing centers or as an online proctored test.

Certification Cost: $150. Visit Exam pricing for further cost information.

Study Resource: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate: Exam Guide

What Other Certifications Will Boost Your Paycheck?

To further augment your knowledge (and pay rate!) there are a ton of other industry and platform-specific certifications that are definitely worth investigating, particularly high valued IT certifications from Tier 1 vendors. Check out these certifications from:

There’s no doubt that certificates open the door to higher pay and greater opportunity in the IT world. They’re the gold standards of today’s industry.

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Leah Zitter
Contributor

Dr. Leah Zitter is a recognized FinTech writer and researcher with more than 10 years experience writing for media outlets, small-scale businesses, ICOs, non-government organizations, multinational corporations and governments.After having received practicum training in journalism from The Center for Near East Policy Research, Leah gained her Bachelors in Liberal Arts, her Masters in Philosophy/ Advanced Logic and her Ph.D. in Psychology/Scientific Research (focus: Behavioral Neuroscience). She is also ExpertRating-certified in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and has Yeda School of High-Tech accreditation in Technical Writing.Leah innovated the "Deep Web Method" to help job-seekers find hidden online…