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Top 5 Highest Paying IT Certifications and How to Get Them

By Leah Zitter | Reviewed by Kuntal ChakrabortyCheckmark
Published: September 23, 2021
Key Takeaways

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

Source: Flickr/401k

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 are five internationally recognized credentials that 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.

More Review Feedback : The hyperlinks found within the draft are okay. Regarding PMP Certification: It's a valuable project management certification that can be done for the IT or Non-IT industry. So, it's not recommended to specify it only as an IT certification. PMP can be replaced with other high valued IT certifications such as AWS certifications, Google Cloud certifications, Microsoft certifications like MCSE or Azure, etc. Reference websites:

PMP Certification Requirements

Professional project managers should have:

  • 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:

  • A high school diploma.

  • Five years of experience in project management.

  • 35 hours of instruction in project management.

  • 7,500 hours managing projects.

PMP 2021 Changes

The new PMP version has reduced the five domain focuses of previous versions to three - People, Process, and Business Environment. There are minor changes, too.

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

In 2021, he cost of the PMP exam is $405 for PMI members and $555 for non-members.

More Information

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) Certification

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

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 2021 Changes

Domain names and content have been modernized to reflect current best practices, cutting-edge technology and pertinent issues.

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

In 2021, the exam cost $699 depending on your location. There are added fees for rescheduling and cancelling.

CISSP 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 v. 4.

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

ITIL 2021 Changes

ITIL v. 4 focuses on the value produced by IT technology, rather than on the actual process. It sets out guiding principles and processes but advises organizations to do as “you think fit” within a framework of five stages.

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

In 2021, total fees which include test, training and materials, hover around $200.

ITIL 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 2021 Changes

Cisco revised their certifications (including the CCDA) in 2020 to reflect changing IT trends. The CCDA became the CCNA and included topics on development, automation, networking and security. It also integrated principles of programmability and automation. Now, you’ll need to complete only one exam to earn the CCNA certification.

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

In 2021, the ICND1 and ICND2 exams are $165 each. The combined CCNA costs $300.

CCNA 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 2021 certification attests that you know how to install, deploy and manage VMware’s vSphere and related technologies.

VCP Certification Requirements

There are no requirements, but to pass you’ll want some real-word experience.

VCP 2021 Changes

The VCP 2021 update - the VCP-Sec certification - certifies that you know VMware's security solutions and how to administer the security features and functions of NSX-T Data Center, Workspace ONE, and VMware Carbon Black Cloud.

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.

VCP resource

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

Which Certification 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 such as AWS certifications, Google Cloud certifications, Microsoft certifications like MCSE or Azure.

Each of these popular certificates opens 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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Written by Leah Zitter | Contributor

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Leah Zitter PhD writes across emerging innovation for high-level companies that include Google (and sub-division Google Cloud). Her Masters in Philosophy & Logic and PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience/ Psychology Research make her a whiz in the sci-fi topics of AI, ML, Big Data, VR and so forth. Hit her up at

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