Just why do you pursue IT certifications? Bragging rights? So that the boss to believe you when you say you're well-versed in Microsoft solutions? Or for a bigger paycheck? While it's true that IT certifications can really pull your salary up, not all certifications are created equal; while some really help you bring home the bacon, others do little more than add an additional line to your resume.

Show me the money you say? According to GlobalKnowledge.com, these are some of the highest-paying certifications in 2012. And we'll tell you what it takes to get them. (Certifications aren't everything though. Read How I Got an IT Job Without a Tech Background.)

1. Project Management Professional (PMP)

This certification is offered by the Project Management Institute, and it's one of the most sought-after certifications for both project managers and IT professionals. And rightly so. Not only is being a project manager one of the most highly paid jobs out there, but the PMP certification helps those managers earn even more. According to the Project Management Institute, 71 percent of project managers received a raise in 2011. And PMP certification holders earn about 16 percent more on the average than those without certification.

How to get PMP Certification:

PMP certification requires education and the experience in leading and managing projects. Only experienced project managers who are competent in directing and leading teams should pursue PMP. To be eligible you need:

  • A four-year degree
  • A minimum of three years of experience in project management
  • 35 hours of education specific to project management
  • 4,500 hours spent in directing and leading projects
Or

  • A high school diploma
  • Five years of experience in project management
  • 35 hours of education specific to project management
  • 7,500 hours spent in directing and leading projects

2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Security managers and other IT professionals who create policies and develop procedures in information security should pursue the Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification. The CISSP certification arose from the need for a standard, vendor-neutral way to demonstrate competence among security professionals.

What makes the CISSP more attractive is that it is a requisite for many jobs in the military, government and even enterprise security positions.

How to Get CISSP Certification:

Pursuing CISSP certification requires at least five years of experience in full-time security work in two or more of these 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
Those with a bachelor's degree, a master's degree focused on information security, or other certifications would only need four years of experience instead of five.

On top of these educational requirements and necessary work experience, those who aspire to CISSP certification must subscribe to the CISSP code of ethics, may not have a criminal record and must be endorsed by a CISSP.

3. Information Technology Infrastructure Library Expert Level (ITILv3)

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library Expert level is a higher-lever certification provided by ITIL. IT professionals who have superior knowledge and understanding of ITIL's processes can pursue this credential.

ITIL is a set of best practices that aligns IT services with a business's needs. Therefore, the ITIL certifications prove that an IT professional knows how to best serve any organization at any stage of IT service management.

How to Get ITIL Expert Level Certification:

ITIL certifications are divided into modules, so an IT professional is free to choose from the different modules that focus on different areas of the IT service management life cycle. That means that you can customize your ITIL certifications according to the actual work you do or according to your personal preferences.

To get ITIL Expert level credentials requires an ITIL Foundation certificate as well as at least 17 credits from modules in the Foundation and Intermediate levels. The 17 credit points are necessary to take the Managing Across the Lifecycle module, which provides the last five points required to meet the 22 credits needed to become an ITIL Expert.

If you have invested in earlier ITIL certifications such as those under ITIL v1 and v2, you can use these to gain this higher-level certification.

4. Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)

The Cisco Certified Design Associate credential certifies that an IT professional has all the necessary skills to design a routed or switched network infrastructure for businesses and organizations. This includes a thorough knowledge of services that touch on WAN, LAN and broadband.

How to Get CCDA Certification:

This is actually a foundation-level exam and therefore does not have any prerequisites. However, Cisco recommends that candidates have Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) designations, as these will provide the background knowledge required to pass the CCDA exam.

Cisco also recommends its own training program called the Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions to better prepare for the CCDA certification exam.

5. VMware Certified Professional (VCP)

With the rise of cloud computing and virtualization, there is now a big need for IT professionals who are skilled in virtualization. VMware is just one of the many virtualization solutions providers, and the VMware Certified Professional certification is VMware-centric, but it's still one of the most valued ways to prove your skill set, expertise and knowledge in virtualized infrastructure. (Learn more about virtualization's potential in Virtualization: A Move Toward Efficiency.)

How to Get VCP Certification:

Getting VCP credentials proves that you know how to install, deploy and manage VMware’s vSphere. It involves completing a VMware-authorized training course as well as gaining six months of on-the-job experience with VMware infrastructure technologies.

Which Certification Will Boost Your Paycheck?

These certifications have proved their worth by consistently helping IT pros achieve a six-figure paycheck. Part of the reason for this is that they're in high demand, which is an added perk in and of itself. Whether you're looking for more money or more opportunity, these certifications might just give you the boost you need. For more options, check out the full list of high-paying certifications at globlalknowledge.com.